Sunday, June 22, 2008

A national museum bereft of all valuables?

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, June 22 [2008]

The 240-year Shah dynasty will vanish from the pages of history if the government fails to conserve artefacts and documents in a museum.

Historians do not know what kind of museum the Narayanhiti Palace will turn out to be if it cannot display historic objects, medals, trophies and personal belongings of rich kings of Nepal, one of the poorest countries.

When the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly announced that the palace will be turned into a national museum, the intellectuals appreciated the move. But they got distressed when they came to know that the palace hardly had anything valuable left in its bosom.

Members of the commission formed to gather details of palace property have started grumbling in low voice that the deposed king left in the palace those items that could not either be carried in loaders or the items that he did not like.

"Most of the artefacts and historic documents have gone missing from the palace," says a member, adding that the crown and the sceptre were left only because of pressure from the media.

From the very beginning, commission members were acting suspiciously. They were not ready to meet the press. It seems that commission members were shocked when they did not find valuable objects during their first visit to the palace, but were subjected to pressure from "unseen" quarters not to disclose the reality.

Beside all royal events, the palace was the centre of all conspiracies, popular propagandas, coups and infamous decisions. The proposed museum can indeed tell unwritten history of the Shah dynasty, provided it has the priceless items.

A palace staffer said the ministers might have let the former king take away everything.

"We know what kind of people go to the government in Nepal. The king might have promised to award the ministers if he is allowed to take away the valuables," he said.

The staffer said the palace staffers will one day come up with a detailed list of valuables the palace used to posses if the government-formed commission fails to unearth artefacts and historic documents.

Culture expert Satya Mohan Joshi is hopeful that the property and documents will be returned. "If the king has indeed taken the valuables, the government knows how to get them back," he said.

However, experts are yet to believe that the Palace will get rebirth as a museum.

"Making a museum is no joke. What kind of museum are you expecting out of tatters left behind by the king?" said Jala Krishna Shrestha, chairman of the International Commission of Museums, Nepal Chapter. He said though the decision of the Constituent Assembly to turn the palace into a museum was appreciable, the government failed to implement it.

"You cannot buy things for A museum in a supermarket. What on earth are you going to display after letting the former king take away everything he wanted?" he said, adding that the government has not even understood what a world-class museum means.

He said government ministers would be held responsible if objects needed for the museum are not found. "Just like deeds of former king Gyanedra, deeds of this government will be recorded in history books," said.

Keshav Raj Jha, former ambassador to France and residential representative of the UNESCO, "Most of major palaces of former kingdoms have been turned into world-class museums. But looking at the preparation of the government, there will be some old photographs, ordinary furniture and some replica to demonstrate how simply the Shah kings used to live in the palace. We all know that every valuable item has been carted off," he said.

Jha said that the former king took all valuables either with a hope of coming back to power after some turmoil or he did not believe that the government has the expertise to preserve the legacy.

He called on the government to seek technical and other assistance from recognised organisations like UNESCO.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No historic documents found in palace

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 18[2008]:

An investigation panel formed to come up with details of royal property and unearth historic documents kept at the Narayanhiti Palace said it found none of such documents.

A member of the panel said the former king did not return historic documents in possession of the palace.

The Archives Preservation Act 1989 states that the government offices shall transfer official documents that are at least 25 years old to the National Archives.

The official documents include hand-written manuscripts, books, reports, financial statements, treaties and agreements, newspapers and magazines, letters, deeds, drawings, photos, maps, plans, charts, files and case files.

But neither the ministers nor other government officials raised questions on the possession of such documents. As a result, documents of national importance have been either taken away by the former king or have been destroyed.

The committee member said no such documents of historic importance were found in the palace. "We asked in writing about the existence of historic documents, but there was no response from the palace," said the member.

He said the Nepali and foreign historians had made mention of Lal Baksa and other cases, which contained historical documents, but nothing was found. The panel member said a search should have been carried out right after the decision to depose the king.

The National Archives does not have copies of Nepal-India Sugauli Treaty, Nepal India Treaty of 1950 and other documents related with the changes of 1951, 1960 and 1990.
"We have plenty of religious, cultural and literary documents here, but do not have important documents related with great political changes," said Bhim Prasad Nepal, chief of the National Archives.

Joint-secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jala Krishna Shrestha said no one is bothering to follow the Archives Preservation Act. "The present government will be held responsible if documents of historic importance are lost from the palace," he said.

Panel misses deadline:
KATHMANDU: The committee formed to collect details of property at the palace failed to submit its report on Wednesday. "We could not submit report today due to technical reasons," Dr Govinda Kusum, secretary at the Ministry of General Administration and convener of the committee, said. Kusum did not disclose anything about the property details at the palace. Source said the committee could not submit its report as it could not fix an appoint with PM Girija Prasad Koirala. —HNS

[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 19, 2008, Ashadh 05, 2065]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Budhi Gandaki project fails to attract investors

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 11:

Thanks to unclear government policies, investors are showing reluctance to investment in the hydroelectricity sector.

No one has sent Request for Proposal (RFP) for building the storage-type 600 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydro Electricity Project, though the Department of Electricity Development (DoED) had invited the RFP for the project in January. The dateline for invitations has been extended two times. A total of 28 parties —18 Indian, 5 Nepali, 2 Chinese and one each from the US, Iceland and Russia — have purchased the RFP documents.

As per the cabinet decision of December 30, 2007, the DoED invited detailed proposals from firms or joint ventures as bidders for developing Budhi Gandaki Hydroelectric Project on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model under Hydropower Development Policy, 2001.

“The fact that nobody has shown interest to invest in the Budhi Gandaki project is worrisome,” said an official at the Ministry of Water Resources. He said, “Nepal can generate thousands of megawatt of hydropower, but theoretical and practical obstacles have prevented national and international developers from generating power.”

According to him, political instability, changing opinions of leaders and policy makers, emergence of a federal identity, uncertainty of market and ritual protests are the reasons developers are not willing to invest in the hydropower sector.

“Many bidders do not want to be involved in the evacuation process and on top of it, the developers are still not convinced of the political leaders’ commitment,” he said.
Deputy director general of the DoED Dibya Narayan Manandhar, however, said the bidders might be waiting for an appropriate time to file their RFP documents.

“We cannot say the situation is hopeless. Yes, the bidders in this project are not showing interest, but it may not reflect the scenario of the whole country,” he said.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

NWSC reeling under human resource crunch

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 3:

The state-owned Nepal Water Supply Corporation, entrusted with supplying drinking water to 23 cities of the country, is facing a dire situation due to lack of human resources.
After the government carved semi-government institutions out of NWSC — Kathmandu Valley Water Management Board, Upatyaka Khanepali Limited and Nepal Water Tariff Fixation Commission — on February 13, almost half of the its staffers joined these institutions.
District-based staffers previously working for NWSC are now posted in the capital. “The season of water-borne disease has not ended but most of our branches lack technical staffers. Who will be responsible if diseases like cholera outbreak?” questioned an NWSC staffer on condition of anonymity.

Following the outbreak of cholera two weeks ago, nine persons had died in Makawanpur and one in Siraha and over 80 were hospitalised.

Some NWSC branches out of 22 even lack office chiefs and are being run by ad hoc chiefs for three months, since the government announced voluntary retirement schemes. Only 15 chiefs are running 23 offices in districts, leaving many important works pending, he added.

For instance a chief in Butwal has to head three cities — Krishna Nagar, Bhairahawa and Taulihawa. While some branch offices lack engineers, others have been facing shortage of overseers.

“In search of handsome salary and with a hope to live in the capital, some NWSC staffers might have joined KUKL,” he said.

NWSC manager Ram Kumar Yadav admitted that the corporation has been facing crunch of technical officers. “We are short of technical staffers in district branches. Though the workload has been lessened after the formation of KUKL, some NWSC district branches are unable to operate due to staff shortage,” he said.

NWSC general manager Gautam Bahadur Amatya, however, said the corporation is holding talks with its management board to appoint technical staffers on the vacant posts.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Palace lacks items to stock museum?

Himalayan News Service
Kathmandu, June 1[2008]:

A scholar said today that valuables stored in the Narayanhiti palace may have vanished and it may not be possible to turn the palace into a museum as desired by the Constituent Assembly.

“The decision to turn Narayanhiti into a museum is a welcome one, but I do not think the palace has objects to bring to light the grandeur of the Shah dynasty,” said Jala Krishna Shrestha, chairman of the Nepal Chapter of International Commission of Museums. The palace, built in 1846 by Rana Prime Minister Ranodip Kunwar, has undergone modifications. The palace got its European look in 1963.

According to newspaper reports, eight truck-loads of objects were ferried away from the palace on Thursday night. The reports said ex-officers of the palace have burnt historic documents.

Shrestha said everything related to the Shah dynasty should be accommodated in the museum. “The building, the garden, showpieces, ornaments, souvenirs, furniture, utensils, dresses and documents are all valuable for the museum,” he said.

But he does not believe that these things will be part of the proposed museum. “After reading newspapers, I hardly believe that there will be anything left except used clothes and something that the former king could not either sell or give away to his dear ones,” he said.

“The standard of the museum will depend on what all is left there. I hope Gyanendra will at least leave the crown and the scripture,” he said.

Dr Dinesh Chandra Regmi, an expert on Shah dynasty and architecture, said the museum might pave the way for in-depth study of the Shah dynasty.

“Every object and document related to monarchy and history as a whole belongs to the nation. The government should be watchful and save the objects and documents for future generations,” he said, adding that the government will be held responsible if any document or object belonging to the palace is lost.

Historian Dr Tri Ratna Manandhar said only serious talks with former king will help retrieve objects of historic importance.
[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 02, 2008, Jestha 20, 2065]