MonitorsPublished on May 27, 2011
A constitutional crisis that was threatening to undo all the achievements of the popular struggle against the Nepalese monarchy and establishment of a republic was averted on Sunday.
Constitutional crisis averted, but road ahead full of traps
< class="heading1">Analysis

A constitutional crisis that was threatening to undo all the achievements of the popular struggle against the Nepalese monarchy and establishment of a republic was averted on Sunday. The three major parties, namely the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), managed to reach a five-point agreement after marathon discussions which continued till 4 in the morning to extend the term by three months, bringing back the system from a virtual precipice.

As a matter of fact, the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) which was supposed to have delivered a draft Constitution had technically expired when Speaker Subhash Nembang declared the official bill passed to extend the term of the CA by three more months at 5.20 A. M. and President Ram Baran Yadav put his seal of approval 40 minutes later.

The political brinkmanship and one-upmanship among over the two dozen parties in general and the three major parties in particular had brought the things to such an impasse that the three-year-old CA despite a one year extension failed to deliver the draft Constitution for the young republic.

Host of factors including persuasive efforts from India played an important role in making the rival parties see reason and agree on a five-point formula, which if sincerely followed, could take the young republic on paths of internal peace and economic development.

What lies ahead is buried in details of the five-point agreement reached with efforts which required lots of compromise by the three main political parties. The agreement was concluded after almost 15 hours of intra-party meetings, with NC, Maoists, UML and the Unified Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) engaged in hectic negotiations through Saturday.

The last minute deal apart from the resignation of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal to pave the way for a national unity government also includes an agreement on the extension of the term of the CA by three months, to conclude the peace process that incorporates handing over of Maoists arms and integration of the Maoist combatants and completing the first draft of the Constitution in the extended period.

While the last minute deal which avoided a looming constitutional crisis was being welcomed within and outside the country while differences on the meaning and interpretation of the agreement has begun to surface.

NC general secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula said his party’s understanding was that the Prime Minister would resign very soon, while Khanal said he would resign only when there was an alternative national unity framework in place.

It would be safe to say that different agreements and understanding reached among the political players in the past have resulted in different interpretations which in turn have complicated the political dynamics in Nepal.

Earlier, the NC and Maoists initially deliberated upon the details of the peace process, including the number of Maoist combatants to be integrated, modalities of integration, and end of dual security provided to Maoist leaders. The NC also proposed a limited term extension to finish the tasks related to the peace process and another extension, if necessary, to complete the Constitution.

In the negotiations with the Maoists, the UDMF asked for group recruitment of 10,000 Madhesis into Nepal Army, and the government’s immediate resignation as a pre-condition for supporting the term extension. The UDMF, however, stuck to its original stance, and was not party to the agreement. As a mark of protest, it did not participate in the House session.

Notwithstanding the different interpretations of the deal between the three main parties, there are serious hurdles ahead. If the political parties fail to complete the process of constitution writing and present the final draft for ratification, then there will be a question mark on their credibility.

The process cannot be extended beyond six months as the Supreme Court, in a major judgment, has already put a limit on the extension. Moreover, the people are also getting exasperated with political opportunism.

The recent Assembly election results of the West Bengal have apparently played a role in the conclusion of the last minute agreement. The defeat of the CPI-M led Left Front government must have been an eye opener to the two Communist parties. The lessons from West Bengal apparently sobered the Maoists and emboldened the NC in last 15 days.

The NC, one of the oldest parties, had held a rally in which the turn-out was beyond the expectations of its leaders. The NC had come out with a set of 10 demands which contributed to evolution of an understanding between the main political actors.

The split within the Madhesi front was another factor which weakened the efforts of the ruling UML and Maoists to bypass the NC. The two communist parties with the help of a section of the Madhesi front were trying their best to get the term of the CA extended by ensuring support of the two thirds of the CA members.

But then a section of the Madhesi front formed a separate party and this made the task of the Communist parties difficult.

Nepal is treading on a fragile political path and if political parties do not show maturity and work in the spirit of give and take in weeks and months ahead, then the Himalayan country is heading towards chaos.

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC puts six-month cap on CA extension

The Supreme Court has ruled out the extension of the Constituent Assembly’s term, except during a state of emergency or any other special circumstances as per the doctrine of necessity, for six months or less.

Issuing a monumental verdict, the apex court’s five-member Special Bench comprising Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi, and Justices Damodar Prasad Sharma, Ram Kumar Prasad Shah, KalyanShrestha and Tahir Ali Ansari declared that the CA term cannot be extended repeatedly for an indefinite period.

"Since the CA’s tenure cannot be extended for more than six months as per the restrictive clause of Article 64 of the Interim Constitution during state of emergency, it is wrong to extend the tenure for more than six months in normal situation," the bench ruled.

Article 64 of the Interim Constitution states: "Unless dissolved earlier pursuant to a resolution passed by the CA, the CA term shall be three years from the date of the first CA meeting."

While the restrictive clause adds: "Provided that if the making of constitution cannot be completed due to the proclamation of state of emergency in the country, the CA may, by a resolution to that effect, extend its term for an additional period not exceeding six months."

The Bench also said the amendment to extend the CA tenure would be against the spirit of the Constitution and the popular will expressed in the election. "This will always be a matter of judicial review therefore the CA must focus on completing its main task of drafting the new Constitution as per the spirit of the Interim Constitution and people’s expectation," it added.

The Bench also overruled November 4 verdict of another, three-member Special Bench comprising Justices Bala Ram KC, Girish Chandra Lal and PrakashOsti which had allowed extension of CA tenure until promulgation of constitution.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, May 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists fight ex-comrades

As fear and uncertainty gripped Nepal ahead of a dire constitutional breakdown, the ruling Maoists began grappling with a new opponent - their former comrades.

Former Maoist Forest Minister Matrika Prasad Yadav, who left the party alleging it had merely exploited the Terai plains to come to power, declared a nationwide general strike on Tuesday in his first open confrontation with his former peers.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the new party of dissidents, called the protest with the support of six ethnic groups. The ruling Maoists reacted quickly to the challenge, deploying security forces to arrest dissident leaders, including their spokesman, Bharat Dahal.

Pokhara city in central Nepal, a major tourist destination, and some districts in the southern Terai plains were badly affected. The strike also forced the ruling Maoists to call off a mass meeting announced in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
< class="text11verdana">Source: www., May 24, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists storm office of Indian joint-venture

The Nepal Maoists allegedly vandalised the office of an Indian joint-venture firm involved in the construction of a key hydropower project in the country’s western district.

A group of 40 Maoists attacked the office of the GMR, which is currently handling works for the construction of Upper Karnali hydropower project in Nepal, according to officials.

They allegedly burnt the project office, located some 700km west of Kathmandu, and severely beat up security guards and other staff. One of the security guards was seriously injured. Engineers of the project had to take shelter in the nearby army camp, sources close to GMR said.

Upper Karnali is a 300-MW project, but it could be expanded upto 900 MW. The GMR Group is involved in developing the project after completing works relating to DPR.
< class="text11verdana">Source: , May 22, 2011, The Indian Express, May 23, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mamata inspires democrats

The massive success of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress in the Indian State of West Bengal against the incumbent Left rulers appears to have given a new life to Nepal’s grand old party, Nepali Congress (NC). The NC held a massive show of strength in Kathmandu on Friday and demanded an end to the Maoist-Communist stranglehold over Nepali politics, invoking Mamata all the way.

The rejuvenation of NC under Sushil Koirala went virtually unnoticed until the Kathmandu rally that had a far larger turnout than the party had expected. Sources in Nepal said of late NC leaders have been holding surprisingly successful rallies in Maoist strongholds like Pokhara, Dang and Jhapa. The strength of the local turnout despite intimidation by Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL) showed a new trend: the Maoist fear factor has diminished considerably in rural Nepal.

Secondly, the NC leadership received an uncharacteristically sharp rebuke from Indian Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna during his recent visit. Giving the example of his Congress Party and how it had repositioned itself in Indian politics, Krishna reportedly told the NC leaders that they ran the risk of being their own worst enemy. This helped to bring about a rapprochement between arch-rivals Sushil Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba that was evident from the similar lines they took in the rally.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 22, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Withdrawal of criminal case against Minister criticised

In an open letter from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, Prime Minister of Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, has been criticised strongly for allowing the withdrawal of criminal cases, especially the case against cabinet minister Agni Sapkota, who has been accused of murder.

Officially it is Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s decision to withdraw the criminal cases that had provoked the open letter which reads as a stinging rebuke to the Nepali Government.

"...The police did not undertake a proper investigation into the case and the alleged perpetrator has been authorized to go scot-free and has been promoted within the Maoist hierarchy without facing any inquiry or trial. The victim’s widow and family have been denied justice continuously for the last six years and the nomination of the person who allegedly ordered the murder of their loved one has added insult to injury", the statement claims, referring to the case of school teacher ArjunBahadur Lama, who was abducted by three Maoists in 2005, recruited into the Maoists’ armed militia and a week after known to be handed over to cabinet minister Agni Sapkota for further investigation. According to the statement, Arjun’s family later learnt that Mr. Lama was killed and his body was found buried, allegedly under the instruction of Agni Sapkota.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bank funds power transmission

The World Bank has approved a US$38M assistance package for Nepal to help construct a transmission line and substations to evacuate power that will be generated in the Kabeli corridor in eastern Nepal, facilitating efforts by Nepali private hydropower developers to arrange financing for their projects

The Kabeli Transmission Project will construct a 132kV transmission line that will extend from Kabeli Bazaar in the north of Panchthar district to Damak in Jhapa district, both in eastern Nepal. Substations will be built in the vicinity of Kabeli Bazaar and at the towns of Phidim, Ilam and Damak. The project’s location is significant from the perspective of the strategic development of the Integrated Nepal Power System as it will open up the extreme east of Nepal for power sector development and will shorten the distance required to transmit electricity to the country’s main industrial center around Biratnagar.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chicago trial puts focus on ISI-Lashkar links

Testimonies of Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Headley, under trial for their alleged role as raconteurs for the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008 brought international attention to relations between ISI and different militant organizations active in Pakistan and geared against India and Afghanistan.

Headley and Rana are both US citizens of Pakistani origin and alumni of a military training school in Pakistan. While Rana is a businessman who runs an immigration service in Chicago, Headley is a former drugs trafficker who later worked as an informant for the US Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA), and is believed to have joined Lashkar-e-Tayeeba concurrently with his assignment with the DEA.

Rana is accused of aiding his friend in portraying himself as an executive of his company and has pleaded innocent. Headley, on the other hand, admitted to aiding terrorist groups in exchange for a reduced sentence, and became the prosecution’s main witness.

During his testimony, Rana revealed in graphic detail the planning of the Mumbai attack and the close interaction between the LeT and ISI. According to him, each major LeT commander was assigned a ISI official or a ’handler’ and that ’these groups operate under the umbrella of the ISI... They coordinate with each other.’ He directly implicated ISI with full knowledge and tactical direction of the Mumbai assault.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, May 24, 2011; The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2011-05-28

Note: Till the recent killing of Osama bin Laden in the vicinity of the Pakistan Military Academy, US policy elite remained sceptical of Headley’s account, and considered him as a convict desperate to avoid the lethal injection. The recent trial, however, is expected to increase US’ distrust of Pakistan and make it hard for Islamabad to counter charges of supporting militant groups by portraying itself as a victim of terrorist violence. Regionally, the latest development will further isolate Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s efforts of rapprochement with Pakistan and renew calls for more coercive means to force Pakistan to prosecute those involved in the Mumbai attacks and take a more proactive stand against groups like the LeT who remain dormant inside Pakistan and direct their attention towards India and Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">We can solve our own problems: President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that terrorism in a country began with the shooting down of truth, and added that even after the war the LTTE continued to target the truth and this had resulted in conspiracies and false reports against Sri Lanka and its war heroes.

"We do not hesitate to ensure the democratic and human rights of the citizens living in the North and East. But we will not heed the demands of separatists or terrorists. When people in this country do not accept their demands, they look for ways to make us bow down using foreign influence," he said.

Addressing the ’Victory Day’ celebrations at the Galle Face Green in Colombo, to mark the completion of two years after the victory against LTTE terrorism, President Rajapaksa said with the huge amount of money the terrorists have amassed they continue to spread rumors, conspire and spread false propaganda against Sri Lanka.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, May 27, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP, TNA protest leadership training

UNP and TNA lawmakers protested inside Parliament, holding placards in protest against the student leadership training programme conducted for the students who had been selected to the universities.

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa said that there was a case being heard before the Supreme Court regarding the same matter and sub judice matters could not be permitted to be debated in the House. As soon as the Speaker made his observation, Opposition MPs, including the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe got up from their seats and held up placards calling upon the Government to stop the leadership training programme.

Though the DNA MPs were inside the Chamber they did not take part in this protest. They remained in their seats watching the demonstration. The government rank MPs shouted against those who protested inside the Chamber.

Higher education Minister S. B. Dissanayake later told Parliament that the government wanted to liberate the university students from becoming cannon fodder of certain political elements and therefore they introduced the leadership training programmefor the undergraduates.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, May 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Air services pact with India

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Bilateral Air Services between the Governments of Sri Lanka and India was signed in New Delhi. Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam and Naseem Zaidi, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation of India signed yesterday the MOU on behalf of respective Governments.

This MOU is the outcome of discussions between Sri Lankan and Indian civil aviation authorities in April 2011, and in line with modern developments in aviation industry and rapid increase in air travel in the region, contains revisions to the original Bilateral Air Services Agreement that was signed between the two countries on 21 December 1948.

At present the Sri Lankan Airlines operates 98 weekly flights to various destinations in India and the Sri Lanka’s budget carrier Mihin Lanka Airlines operates seasonal flights to Varanasi and Gaya for the benefit of the Sri Lankan pilgrims visiting Buddhist sites in India. A number of Indian carriers too operate to Sri Lanka from various destinations in India.

With the signing of this MOU, both Sri Lankan and Indian carriers would be able to operate more flights between Indian destinations and Colombo enhancing connectivity between the two countries.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Asian Tribune, May 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban denies Mulla Omar’s killing

Taliban leader Mullah Omar is reported to have been killed by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI while being moved from Quetta to North Waziristan. This was revealed by Tolo News, an Afghan news channel, based on sources in National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country’s internal intelligence agency.

According to the report, Omar was accompanied by Gen Hamid Gul, the former chief of ISI and known Taliban sympathiser, when he was allegedly assassinated. A day later, NDS authorities publicly acknowledged that insurgent leader was indeed missing for close to a week, and did not rule out the possibility of his death.

On the other hand, the Afghan Taliban promptly rejected the news as ’propaganda’ and insisted that their leader was alive and based in Afghanistan. Western sources in Kabul have termed the report as ’speculative’.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, May 23, 2011l Dawn, May 23, 2011

Note: The killing of bin Laden on May 2 generated renewed hope that greater number of insurgents, both commanders and foot soldiers, could be weaned away from the violent movement and ’reconcile’ with the West-backed Karzai Government in Kabul. In this context, reports about Mullah Omar’s death were followed by calls for a ’political solution’ to the conflict. Irrespective of anxieties in Washington about the meandering nature of the military campaign and comparisons with Vietnam, Mullah Omar’s death, if confirmed, is unlikely to affect major changes, given the high levels of sophistication of the insurgency. In any case, days after the news was first published, its failure to gather momentum strongly suggests that it was either propaganda, as claimed by Taliban, or a case of false intelligence.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Germany mediating US-Taliban talks

Direct talks between the US and Taliban are being mediated by Germany, according to the German magazine Spiegel. The magazine reported that three round of talks have taken place between the belligerents in Qatar and Germany. The parlays involved US State Department officials and the CIA, and a relative of Mullah Omar. Germany’s special envoy to the region, Michael Steiner has played the role of interlocutor.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, May 23, 2011

Note: The report in a credible German magazine adds credence to the political opposition in Kabul, who have criticised the Government’s High Peace Council, labelling it as a facade for more substantive talks between US and the Taliban. Government officials, especially the incumbent Hamid Karzai, are sensitive to the issue to negotiations that circumvent them, since it hurts their legitimacy and also evokes emotive issues of sovereignty.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Financial Services Bill

Members of Parliament deliberated the proposed changes introduced by the Chairman of the Joint Committee to the Financial Services Bill. Although serious deliberations transpired in the house regarding divestment of financial institutions, the recommendations will remain unchanged and the adoption will be decided, based on a two-third majority voting.

The House remained divided on the issue of divestment of government-owned companies and role of foreign financial institutions. The ownership of foreign financial institutions according to the bill is to be in tandem with the foreign direct investment policy. The FDI policy offers up to 74 percent ownership to foreign companies.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuenselonline, May 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karnataka: Centre rejects Governor’s report

The Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Centre has rejected Karnataka Governor H. R. Bhardwaj’s report recommending dismissal of the Yeddyurappa-led BharatiyaJanata Party regime in that State. The Governor’s report had followed a Supreme Court order, reversing the Karnataka High Court’s decision of disqualifying 11 BJP rebel legislators and five independents, ahead of a trust vote in the Assembly.

The Centre however asked the Home Ministry to send an advisory to the Karnataka government, bringing to its notice the issues that had been mentioned by the Governor.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kalmadi named ’main accused’ in CBI charge sheet

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed its first charge sheet against sacked Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, citing him the "main accused’’ in a corruption case pertaining to irregularities in awarding a games-related contract to a Swiss firm.

Besides Kalmadi, the CBI has named two companies and eight persons including OC former Secretary-General Lalit Bhanot and former Director General V.K. Verma as accused and sought their prosecution under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Air India fuel crisis

State-run oil marketing companies ? the Indian Oil Corporation, the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation have put Air India on notice to get its daily fuel on cash-and-carry sales model. Faced with huge financial losses and mounting dues to the oil marketing companies, Air India will be left with no choice but to slash its daily flights if the cash-and-carry sales model comes into operation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NSG to consider India’s membership

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the world’s premier non-proliferation body, has decided to include India’s request for membership as a special agenda item when it holds its annual meeting in the third week of June. India must gain membership as early as possible because the NSG is said to be planning to tighten procedures for export of ENR (enrichment and reprocessing) technology which India needs.

India wants to join all the four international export control regimes ? NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Group.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Cabinet Secretary, IAF chief

Ajit Kumar Seth, a 1974 IAS officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, will be the next Cabinet Secretary. Mr. Seth, currently Secretary, Public Grievances and Coordination in the Cabinet Secretariat, will succeed K.M. Chandrashekhar who retires this June.

Air Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne will be the new Chief of the Air Staff. He will assume office on retirement of Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 21& 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IMF clears three-year funding

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given preliminary approval for a three-year economic programme in the Maldives, after the government agreed to "a package of policy reforms that will help stabilise and strengthen the Maldives’ economy."

The IMF team spent two weeks in the Maldives meeting with President Mohamed Nasheed, Minister of Finance and Treasury Ahmed Inaz, Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority Fazeel Najeeb, senior government officials, donors and the Majlis.

"The Maldives’ economy is growing robustly on the back of strong tourist arrivals, but it continues to suffer from large fiscal and external imbalances," the IMF observed in a statement. The IMF agreed to a "medium-term" policy from the Government to reduce its budget deficit "substantially", "both through additional revenue measures ? which would require the support and approval of the Majlis ? and through expenditure restraint.

The IMF observed that if approved by the IMF’s Executive Board, the Maldives’ subscription to the programme would likely encourage other key donors to contribute further financial support.

Speaking at a joint news conference held by the Finance Ministry and the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz acknowledged that previous concessions made by the government with the IMF ? such as reducing the public sector wage bill, "didn’t materialise because some of them were not politically possible in the country at the time. But given the current situation we are hopefully the proposed medium-term measures we are proposing will be possible when sessions resume."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, May 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Z-DRP seeks justicefor coup victims

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) staged a protest outside the Prosecutor-General’s Office, marched through the streets of Male’ demanding justice for the martyrs who died in the November 3 coup attempt in 1988.

The Z-DRP protesters set out from Artificial Beach carrying 19 wooden coffins wrapped in the Maldivian national flag, calling to arrest Former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and other senior officials in the government whom they alleged were involved in the incident.

On November 3, 1988, the Maldives was attacked by 80 armed mercenaries linked to the Sri Lankan militant group, the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). As then President,Gayoom requested Indian intervention and 1600 paratroopers were deployed. As many as 19 people were killed in the fighting, including several hostages.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, May 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border control system from Malaysia

The Cabinet has cleared the proposal for the Department of Immigration and Emigration to proceed with the planned border control system to be developed by Malaysia’s Nexbis Limited. Press Secretary at the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the Cabinet for the past two weeks discussed the agreement made with Nexbis and recommended the department that no act of corruption was involved in awarding the project.

Immigration Department had signed a 20-year build, operate, and transfer (BOT) concession contract with Malaysia’s Nexbis Limited on October 17, 2010, despite the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) informing the department to adjourn the signing ceremony after it received a "serious" public complaint.

President Mohamed Nasheed, on January 26, asked the department to halt the project, which the ACC said, was carried out in a way that could lead to corruption. ACC Deputy Commissioner Muawwiz Rasheed said today that the commission’s order to halt the project would only be invalidated by a court. The commission will take a decision regarding the party that proceeds with the project even if it is on Cabinet recommendations, he added.

Under the Rf 500-million project, an electronic border gate system would be established in Male International Airport. According to the bidding invitation announcement issued early last year, the electronic border gate system should be equipped with automated facial recognition technology and fingerprint technology to identify the immigrants and an integrated system should provide instant access to travel document records, passport, and visa and fingerprint database.

The Haveeru, however, learned from reliable sources that Nexbis’s system does not include key features including e-gate, automated facial recognition technology and passport production.The government should repay the initial investment of the system which would cost about US$39 million (Rf501 million) within 20 years. A US$2 fee is to be charged from every foreigner entering the country and US$15 has to be paid for work visa.Nexbis is required to pay five percent of its profit to the government as royalty.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, May 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tourism workers seek pay hike

The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) has urged the Government to implement a minimum wage, to address a growing gap between the rich and poor. TEAM believes that the most important thing to do in order to change the current situation of all persons working in the tourism industry is to implement a minimum wage,’ said the organisation’.

"A minimum wage is also important to avoid the potential bankruptcy of small and medium businesses and to eliminate the differentiation between the rich and poor." TEAM urged the government to conduct a fair survey and to determine an adequate minimum wages, "instead of only listening to few influential big businessmen."

TEAM claimed the minimum wage for those working in the tourism sector should be at least Rf5000 (US$325) per month. Vice-President of TEAM Maurrof Zakir said that Rf5000 for resort workers was determined after taking into considering the GDP of the country, salaries of civil servants and the amount of money tourism resorts make per month.

"Usually a tourism resort makes US$2-3 million every month," he said. "But only US$200, 000 at the most is the amount spent on wages. Our estimates do not show that the tourist resorts will suffer any loss by paying their staff a minimum wage of Rf 5000 per month.’’ He also wanted the Government set the minimum wage differently for each sectors.

In last week’s radio address, President Mohamed Nasheed promised that the Government would set a minimum wage this year to ensure a decent living.In January this year, a Bill governing the minimum wage of people employed in the Maldives was sent to Parliament by MDP Parliamentary Group Leader ’Reeko’ MoosaManik.

"It is important for everyone working in the Maldives to be certain of the minimum wage that can be given to them ? that is a right of every citizen. That’s why this bill is being drafted," Moosa said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, May 26, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal: Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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