Nepal's ambassador to the United States, Shankar Prasad Sharma, told a large University of Virginia audience Monday that his country is in no danger of falling prey to the type of popular uprising that toppled Tunisia's government and is imperiling the rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"I don't think we'll have that situation like in Cairo," he said. "We have already done that … 1990, 2006. … You can vote out the leader if you don't like him and the party if you don't like him," said Sharma, referring to large-scale political reforms that occurred in Nepal in those two years.
The Nepalese ambassador acknowledged that his country remains in political gridlock. In explaining the divide over drawing up the country's constitution, he said, "The Maoists are in favor of the presidential system. Most of the other parties are in favor of the parliamentary system. The reason why other parties are resistant to the presidential system is because if the Maoists somehow are able to elect a Maoist president, they can change a lot, so most of the parties do not want to do that."
In 2006, Maoist fighters ended a 10-year insurgency that had killed more than 16,000 people, and the political situation in the South Asian country has remained unstable ever since. The Constituent Assembly was formed after the fighting ended, and voted in 2008 to abolish Nepal's 240-year monarchy. However, it failed to write a new constitution by its May 2010 deadline and has set May 2011 as its new goal.
One major struggle has been the status of the 19,000-member Maoist fighting force. In a move hailed by the United Nations last month, Maoist political leaders gave up control of the fighters to a special government committee. Negotiators are discussing how the fighters will be returned to society or blended into Nepal's security forces.
"The special committee is now deciding how to integrate the fighters. This is a very important step. Now they are under the Nepali flag," Sharma said. "The modality is still being worked out."
The Nepalese ambassador spoke in the South Lawn Commons Building auditorium as part of the Ambassadors' Speakers Forum, hosted by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs. Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, speaks Feb. 9 at noon in the Rotunda's Dome Room.