National Resuscitation – A Priority Based Protocol
By Prof Dr Brian Cobb
Nepal is in critical condition. There is tiny disagreement on the diagnosis except in particular small and nearly psychotic circles. But as to the prescribed treatment, there are many opinions. First, explain my background: I am an emergency and critical care medicine specialist. We care for unstable, severely ill or injured persons with all kinds of problems. We often have to act quickly to stabilize the patient before we have time to assess all details or attend to less urgent issues fully, so we use priority-based protocols, doing the most important things first. We are also realists; we must be accurate, pragmatic and flexible. This perspective also informs my thinking about Nepal’s crisis; instead, the situation needs to be stabilized, and other problems should be addressed.
The most critical problems are the ongoing violence and the failure of governance. These two are inseparably linked. One cannot have democracy, which requires free and fair all-party elections, without a bilateral ceasefire and non-interference on all sides. Nor can one have peace without an agreement between the armed factions, Monarch-Military and Maoist.
The American plan, which calls for the renunciation of the 12-point agreement, fails to accept an admirable attempt at a resolution recognizing the importance of making peace with the Maoists and bringing them into the mainstream. Instead, it returns to a royally appointed party government with the ongoing war. Its justification focuses on Maoist atrocities and dishonesty while ignoring the same offences in the government; it is special pleading. The 12-point agreement, because it insists on republicanism and a constituent assembly, is unfortunately doomed to rejection by the King. And, of course, a Maoist-King pact without party involvement would be undemocratic. Only a tri-factional agreement can succeed, which none of these schemes can bring about.
The nexus between peace and democracy is transparent but no strategy, no matter how logically compelling or desirable, is possible unless it is acceptable to all three factions. Continued intransigence brings continued war with its horrendous toll of death, destruction, disability and dictatorship. Therefore, all sections must start with the principles: of enduring peace, justice, equality, development, human rights and democratic governance with fair elections. Then they have to consider goals: ending the war, reinstating true democracy, and healing the nation’s wounds. Next, they have to agree on the strategies where the impasse arises.
Nepal’s 1990 constitution is a badly flawed document with loopholes big enough to drive a Rolls Royce—or an armoured military vehicle—through. His Majesty and his retainers are happy with it, but the parties and Maoists are calling for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. As desirable as this is, it’s clear that the palace will never accept it because of the likelihood that it will prepare a republican charter. Therefore, no solution requiring a constituent assembly will be taken by the heavily armed and determined royal faction.
The parties and Maoists will not accept a monarchy controlling a military force because of the risk to democracy. It seems an insoluble problem, but it is not. History tells us that until 2001 Nepal was effectively demilitarized; the army was small, weak and poorly armed, existing only to guard the palace and provide pomp on state occasions. Given the massive militaries of Nepal’s only two neighbours, the RNA would be useless in the unlikely event of an attack. For a developing nation, military spending takes away severely needed funds from social programs and discharging 100,000 RNA personnel, and tens of thousands of Maoist troops will aggravate unemployment and crime. Better to use them for development by building infrastructure, improving health care and education, and otherwise striking at the roots of the insurgency: poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity, unemployment, illiteracy and poor health.
His Majesty wishes to be an active monarch, not a purely ceremonial one, but the 12-point agreement envisions no monarchy. It seems irresolvable, but it isn’t. The monarchy in its present form is what the parties and Maoists find unacceptable. It should be accepted if its condition changes from an actual or potential autocracy into something positive. The solution is obvious: disarm the RNA and Maoists, place security responsibilities under a better trained and more accountable police force, and put the troops to work solving the country’s problems under the King. The monarchy will have been re-invented as a progressive, socially beneficial and non-threatening institution. As things stand, the monarchy is in a vicious cycle of brutality and repression, resulting in more opposition and provoking more brutality. This cyclone of injustice and rage now threatens Narayanhiti Palace and the nation and rapidly reduces His Majesty to King of the Kathmandu Valley.
Peace and democracy can restore in nine steps: (1) bilateral ceasefire, (2) agreement on the plan’s terms, including future constitutional amendments, (3) reinstatement of the dissolved House and appointment of an all-party Council of Ministers with Maoist representation, (4) placement of the RNA under UN commanders as a peacekeeping force, (5) voluntary disarmament of the Maoists, (6) all party (Maoists included) parliamentary elections, (7) disarmament of the RNA, incorporation of former Maoist cadres, and transformation into a national development corps under royal supervision, (8) formation of the elected parliament and democratic governance under the current constitution, and (9) passage of the previously agreed constitutional amendments or, better yet, a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution whose terms would be negotiated by the parliament and the palace.
This plan will rapidly stabilize the political situation, end the war, promote sustainability and reconstruction, and return the country to democracy. By putting principles first, with flexibility as to strategies and doing the right thing for the people of Nepal, the factions will also act in their own best interests. Their current rigidity and divisiveness only prolong the nation’s agony and diminish their support base.
Several years ago, Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot solve at the same level of thinking that created them.” Nepal’s dying condition is a result of corruption, callousness, incompetence, brutality and arrogance on the part of the government and cruelty and impatience on the part of the Maoists, and reversing those pathologies is the only way to cure it.
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