If you scratch under the surface, NRNA is under the direct influence of Nepal’s partisan politics. Sadly, panels are created along Nepal’s major political parties’ lines during elections. Candidates choose to stand in the election under a party’s flag. This is an open secret that no-one even bothers to hide.
One of the first things prospective candidates do is to go knock on the leaders of political parties. Candidates lobby with the parties and vice-versa. Similar to how the electoral constituencies are distributed in Nepali elections, the political parties distribute “tickets” to prospective candidates of the NRNA elections. Your chance of winning the NRNA election is poor if you are not endorsed by a Nepali political party.
Leading up to the 2021 ICC election, candidates were selected on the basis of decisions made by the representatives of Nepali political parties based overseas and the party leaders in Kathmandu. Senior ministers, members of parliament, and party leaders in Kathmandu directly and openly intervened. Nepali political parties and their leaders endorsed the NRNA candidates. The parties officially issued directives, publishing it in their letterheads, to their overseas based sister organizations to campaign and to vote for the candidates of the party’s choice. All this happened in the broad daylight and with an open invitation from the aspiring candidates.
Many see NRNA as an exclusive club of businessmen with narrow agenda and vested interests. The institution of NRNA seems to be held hostage by a limited number of businessmen–from top at the ICC to the NCC levels. We can see leaders of NRNA get direct access to the highest level of the political echelons in Nepal. They have direct access to even the prime minister of Nepal. Easy and direct access to media comes with the prize of being an NRNA leader. Isn’t it dishonesty to pursue vested political and business interests under the disguise of serving the global diaspora of a social organization?
We must go back to our core spirit before it is too late. Once reunited with the collective cause, our actions will gradually come back on track.
The organizational credibility and the institutional strength of the NRNA has been misused by businessmen to pursue their own vested interests in the name of the diaspora. “International Nepali Chamber of Commerce”’ is probably a more suitable name on the basis of the agenda being pursued and how NRNA is functioning today. Sad part of this is that NRNA is a social organization established to act in the best interest and to work for the welfare of the global Nepali diaspora. The mandate of global representation is eroding rapidly. NRNA, as an organization, has significantly deviated from its core spirit a long time ago.
Measures to correct the course
If the course is not corrected immediately, we are heading towards a disaster. NRNA, as an institution representing the voice of our global diaspora, will lose its relevance if reforms measures are not implemented soon.
If we look at the numbers, only a small proportion of the total diaspora population are members of the NRNA. The second generation (children born overseas to Nepali parents) has hardly any interest in the affairs of the NRNA. Their reason is simply, “there is nothing for us”. Malpractices such as that seen during the recently concluded ICC election puts people off, further disenfranchising the diaspora.
Change would have to come from the leadership. Bending the rules during elections in the name of sahamti must stop. Despite living for decades in countries with exemplary good governance, and fervently praising them, we seem to have failed to learn from such examples. Everyone must abide by the constitution of the NRNA, and follow the democratic process. All party politics must stop right away at all levels, as outlined in the preamble of the constitution of the NRNA.
Leaders must aspire to be role models. They have to set an example by doing the right thing. Our leaders must walk the talk instead of preaching one thing before the election and doing exactly the opposite when it comes to seeking positions during elections. How fair is it if those of us in the NCCs have to defend our ICC leaders’ inappropriate actions? Here we are promoting the NRNA among authorities in our country of residence, and what do we see from our leadership?
NRNA members throughout the world deserve an apology for what happened during the recently completed ICC election. Someone should take the responsibility and be held accountable. Or else we will be perpetuating the culture of one being able to do whatever one wants without any consequences.
At the grass-root level, all 85 NCCs and general members have to speak up. If you don’t make yourself heard, you don’t exist. Simply paying your membership fee, ignoring everything and then venting your anger on Facebook when things go wrong will not get you any positive results. You have to call out the culprits, whoever they are.
If the course is not corrected immediately, we are heading towards a disaster. NRNA will lose its relevance if reform measures are not implemented soon.
This article is my contribution in calling out about the deep-rooted and chronic discontents within the wider institution and its culture. This is an attempt in holding our people accountable to their actions. In addition to this article, I have written to the NRNA New Zealand seeking an answer about the recently concluded ICC election. In my written request, I have asked to refund the ICC levy component of my membership fee. I have also advised to seek avenues to severe association of the NCC New Zealand with the ICC. If my request to the New Zealand NCC doesn’t yield any concrete action, I have got plans to gradually escalate it. I intend to ask questions until I get an answer. We will have to wait and see how it goes. I may face backlash or even expulsion for blowing the whistle like this but I am willing to face the consequences. It is not about me. Rather, I am speaking for thousands of members who have chosen to remain silent for whatever reasons. What is at stake here is the credibility of the organization and the dignity of its tens of thousands of members. You can’t block the sun with your palm. Not any longer.
Leaders must aspire to be role models. They have to set an example by doing the right thing. Our leaders must walk the talk instead of preaching one thing before the election and doing exactly the opposite when it comes to seeking positions during elections.
It is time for change. Change happens only when people choose to speak up. When people revolt, the leaders must listen or face oblivion. There is no other option. We have seen this time and again. That is what history teaches us. To correct its course, tinkering on the edges is not going to work. We have to restart the system. We must go back to our core spirit before it is too late. Once reunited with the collective cause, our actions will gradually come back on track.
To preserve and to advance its spirit; to have a more credible voice of the diaspora in Nepal (such as in the case of the recently adopted amendments to the Citizenship Bill that has paved the way for dual citizenship); to acknowledge the many good deeds carried out by the NRNA; to protect the tens of thousands of members’ self-respect and dignity; and to strengthen our position on the global stage, difficult it may be, it is high time we ask questions to ourselves and to our leaders. We will get the answers only if we ask the questions.
Raj Maharjan is based in Auckland, New Zealand. Urban Planner by profession, he is an advisor to the NRNA New Zealand.