A few weeks ago, we had an unfortunate incident in New Zealand within our Nepali community. A Nepali, unfortunately, lost his life while at work. His body was repatriated home to his family in Nepal with the help of the members of the Nepali community in New Zealand.
The Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) New Zealand played a crucial role in the repatriation. Within a matter of a few days from calling for donation by the NRNA New Zealand, a substantial amount was raised. The donation was utilized to meet the cost of flying the body home. Surplus amount would be handed over to the concerned family.
This is an example of the spirit of NRNA. Helping each other during good or bad times is the heart and soul of what NRNA is all about. Supporting Nepal during times of need is the legacy of NRNA since it was established in 2003. NRNA and the wider Nepali diaspora communities residing throughout the world have generously helped Nepal during difficult times. We saw the overwhelming support from diaspora pouring in during crises such as the global COVID-19 pandemic and the 2015 earthquake, to give a few examples.
To “protect the interest of Nepalis residing abroad…” is one of the primary objectives, as outlined in Section 6.1 of the constitution of the NRNA. It is simple. Yet, very powerful. It is the essence of being “once a Nepali, always a Nepali”. This is “Nepalipan” (being a Nepali).
Unfortunately, coming into 2023, where are we now? It is time for a deep soul searching.
Erosion of norms and values
By now, the above-mentioned spirit of NRNA is lost. We, it seems, have forgotten the very core norms and values of the organization. The widespread and strong feeling among diaspora who are in favor of a genuine NRNA is that the NRNA’s International Coordination Council (ICC) has lost its direction. ICC is the body of the NRNA that governs its global roles and functions. You might recall the NRNA International Convention in Kathmandu, held every two years at five star hotels, when the international office bearers are elected.
NRNA has country chapters, known as the National Coordination Council (NCC) in 85 countries. Majority of the NCCs are functioning well, making genuine effort to help and support Nepalis in their respective countries. The ICC, however, seems to have lost its way. It is sad that things are getting worse with time.
The discontent within the ICC hit a new low during the latest round of election conducted in 2021. Leading up to it and during the election, democratic norms and values were openly thrown out of the window. The democratic practices many diaspora populations are trying to instill in the organization, and as written in its constitution, were not only outright disrespected but also blatantly ignored.
To protect the interest of Nepalis residing abroad is one of the primary objectives of the NRNA. But now this spirit is lost.
The 2021 ICC Convention in Kathmandu ended up in selecting three different Presidents. To make the matter worse, in the aftermath, the NRNA is divided from the top to the bottom. The institution is on the verge of vertically splitting into two different organizations being led by two splinter groups.
Broken promises, compromised rules
Leading up to the 2021 ICC election, detailed personal information from the global NRNA members (delegates) were collected by the ICC to compile the supposed voter list. Phone number, photograph, copy of passport and copy of visa were collected through the newly launched “Mero NRNA” App. We were promised that, for the first time, the NCC members from around the world would be able to vote online from where they are in the ICC election.
We were all excited and keen to be able to vote to select our representatives. Tragically, towards the conclusion of the ICC convention, voters and members around the globe were kept in the dark about the election process. No communication, nothing. We resorted to online and social media to find out what was going on. Our NCCs had no clue about what was happening in Kathmandu.
Overnight, we learned from the online media that the NRNA elected three Presidents. To rub salt in the wound, we learned that this was done by changing the constitution overnight to accommodate this strange distribution of positions. Essentially, all candidates that stood in the election and a handful of top leaders had a “sahamati” (consensus) and declared everyone that stood in the election winners without any contest or voting. Apparently, people who did not even register themselves as candidates were elected too. It is only an example of how general members continue to be deceived and disrespected in the name of representing them. Once again, the 2021 election has sent a chilling message to the Nepali diaspora community that they don’t matter in the eyes of the leaders.
In the aftermath of the 2021 International Coordination Council (ICC) Convention in Kathmandu, the NRNA remains divided from the top to the bottom. The institution is on the verge of vertically splitting into two different organizations being led by two splinter groups.
What happens at the top of an institution flows to the grassroots. The negative message and impact of this kind of misuse of power is going to catch up with us soon enough. The ICC has set a precedent to legitimize that whoever stands in the NRNA election wins. If your constitution does not allow it, you can bend them overnight as you wish in the name of “sahamati”. Now, what kind of practice is that? Where will it lead us?
Raj Maharjan is based in Auckland, New Zealand. Urban Planner by profession, he is an advisor to the NRNA New Zealand.