KATHMANDU: Kumar Pant, Germany based Nepali entrepreneur has been elected global president for Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA).
The elections held in the course of the 9th NRNA Global Conference in the capital concluded today. However, the final results are yet to be announced.
According to the organisation’s election commission, the majority of the elected members including Pant belong to the left-wing.
Pant, who had been the global vice-president for the NRNA for the past two years had competed against Kul Prasad Acharya to become the global president.
Meanwhile, Hikmat Thapa, Dr Badri KC, Arjun Kumar Shrestha, Man KC, Sonam Lama have been elected the vice-presidents while Rabina Thapa has been elected as woman vice- president.
Similarly, Dr Hemraj Sharma has been elected as the general secretary, Govindaraj Joshi as secretary, Mahesh Shrestha as treasurer and Lok Dahal as joint treasurer.
It has been estimated that as many as 2,500 voters took part in the election.
KATHMANDU: President Bidya Devi Bhandari, who is presently on a state-visit to Myanmar from October 16 to 20, will leave for Tokyo after the end of Myanmar visit.
According to a press statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), President Bhandari accompanied by Minister for Home Affairs, Ram Bahadur Thapa, and other high ranking officials from the Office of the President and MoFA will pay an official visit to Japan from October 20 to 22 in order to attend the Ceremony of the Enthronement of the Emperor of Japan.
The Ceremony of the Enthronement will be held on October 22, 2019.
President Bhandari will attend the Court Banquet to be hosted by Emperor Naruhito, following the end of the ceremony.
She will also hold talks with the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind and the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe during her visit.
The President is also scheduled to attend the welcome reception hosted in her honour by the Ambassador of Nepal to Japan and the welcome programme organised by Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), Japan.
President Bhandari and the delegation will return back home on October 23.
Khalanga, October 17
Mugu-based Rara Lake which is situated at an altitude of 2,972 metres from sea level has become a hub for many tourists these days.
The number of tourists coming here to enjoy the incredible beauty of the lake has abruptly gone up.
The length of the lake stretches to over 10 km from Mugu headquarters Gamgadi and is three kilometres in breadth and 167 metres deep.
The number of people visiting Rara Lake has swiftly increased, especially following the celebration of Dashain. Locals said the number of tourist vehicles at Rara this season had increased.
The mosaic Rara changes its colour three times a day. Sometimes it is blue in colour, sometimes brown and the colour changes to purple and crimson. The view becomes magnificent when the colourful Rara mixes with the shade of Sinje and Kanjirowa Mountains. With the mixing of colours Rara appears like a nymph of heaven.
The scenic beauty of the moment captivates tourists. Dr Ashok Mahaseth who came visiting Rara for the first time experienced similar feeling.
As many as 5,000 people had visited Rara and Sinja since Dashain celebrations, informed the police post Gothijewla.
Entrepreneurs also marked the increasing flow of tourists in the Sinja area, Nagma bazaar located along the border of Jumla and Kalikot and Rara Lake and Khalanga of Jumla this season.
DHANGADHI: Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal said the reshuffling of the Cabinet would not happen anytime soon.
In a press meet organised in Dhangadhi, NCP (NCP) Co-chair Dahal also former prime minister said the reshuffling of the cabinet was just a rumour and denied that no such thing was discussed in the cabinet meeting.
He also asserted that although he held the position of Co-chairperson for the ruling NCP (NCP), the reshuffling of the cabinet fully depended on the decision made by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
However, Dahal said the far-west would be prioritised if the cabinet was reshuffled, and added that the PM would consult with him before making the decision of reshuffling the cabinet.
NCP Co-chair Dahal reached Dhangadhi on Friday to inaugurate the training session being held for the local representatives in far western Nepal.
The post Cabinet reshuffle not likely anytime soon: NCP Co-chair Dahal appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
CHITWAN: Chitwan-XI advanced to the semi-finals of the Tuborg Jaycees Bikash Running Shield Football Tournament here on Thursday.
Chitwan-XI registered a 3-2 victory over Makawanpur-XI in the opening match at the Campa Chaur. Rumesh Bartaula scored a brace and Anish Shrestha added one for Chitwan, while Ravi Bhandari and Krishna Rumbase netted one goal each for Makawanpur.
Rumesh Bartaula of Chitwan was named the man of the match and he received Rs 10,000.
On Friday, Nepal Police Club will take on Saraswoti Youth Club.
A total of 10 clubs are taking part in the event. Top two sides will receive Rs 666,666 and Rs 333,333 respectively.
Chitwan, October 17
Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal today revealed that no one but degenerate communist leaders might pose a danger to the change country has accomplished.
Addressing a programme organised by Nepal Communist Party Chitwan in Bharatpur to exchange greetings on the occasion of festivals, Dahal expressed concern that communists had deviated from their ideals and had become self-centred.
Dahal commented that communists had the tendency to distance themselves from people after riding to the corridors of power. He recalled the examples of downfall of communism in the Soviet Union and Europe to alert cadres and leaders to be with the people.
“We have got the disease of forgetting people and deviating from communist principles as we have become individualistic and power-centred,” he stated.
Dahal said that it was the responsibility of parties to institutionalise changes brought from 70 years’ struggle. “If we lose the track and distance ourselves from people, we will see the downfall of communism in Nepal like in the Soviet Union,” he warned. Are we not too self-centred? Are we not careless and negligent? He questioned.
At the programme, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa said that enemies were working to stop them from reaching the goal of socialism. He held that cooperation and unity among the parties was a must to take the country to a new height of development and prosperity.
Former finance minister Surendra Pandey said that the Communist party had championed revolutionary causes and should lead in nation building.
KATHMANDU: Taking a pioneering initiative to provide professional grooming to the next generation of aspiring bankers, Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB) has launched ‘RBB Empowerment Academy’ that aims to deliver an extensive and immersive crash course about the banking profession.
RBB has collaborated with Jobs Dynamics, its official job placement partner, to create the course structure and the overall process for the academy right from the selection procedure to the final recruitment, as per a press release.
The RBB Empowerment Academy will be conducting a three-day training session headed by some of the most prominent names in Nepal’s banking sector.
The first episode of this training session will be held in Province 3 and is targeted towards Bachelors and Masters Degree students who want to pursue a career in banking. It is intended to give the participants a detailed know-how about the internal working of a bank, the latest innovations in this sector and also a grooming session on how to prepare for the job interview.
The training is slated to be held in the second week of November at RBB’s Training Academy located at Durbarmarg. The application process will last till November 1. The application forms can be filled up online for free and the details of RBB Empowerment Academy selection criteria can be found on Rastriya Banijya Bank’s official website.
BIRGUNJ: District Court, Parsa has sent the main culprits who carried out an acid attack on Muskan Khatun of Birgunj Metropolitan City to a juvenile correction home in Birta.
A single bench of chief judge Prakash Kharel decided to send Shamshad Aalam and Majid Miya of Chhapkaiya in Birgunj-2 — who carried out the acid attack on Khatun, 15, on September 6 — to the juvenile correction home instead of prison as their ages could not be determined for sure.
It has been reported that Parsa District Police Office, after collection of evidence, pointed out that the age of Aalam and Miya were 18 and 19 respectively. However, as per the medical report submitted by Birgunj-based Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital to the police, the age of Aalam is between 16 to 18 years while Miya’s age is between 18 to 20 years.
But families of the perpetrators provided their birth certificates to the court, which says that Aalam was born in 2064 BS making him 12 years old whereas Miya’s certificate says that he was born in 2062 BS, making him 14 years of age.
Though Aalam and Miya were found guilty as per the evidence, non-confirmation of their ages has led to the decision of sending them to a correction centre instead of prison, as per the Child Protection Act, 2075, said Chief Judge Kharel.
Kharel further informed that after going through the evidence provided by police and the medical reports, minimum ages (on the basis of these reports) were considered for legal purposes, thereby, determining their ages at 16 and 18 years. This led to the decision of sending them to the correction home as per the rights of a juvenile.
Kharel also stated that the investigation is going on to determine their actual ages.
According to Parsa District Police Office (DPO), the culprits had thrown acid on Muskan Khatun at Ganeshman Chok in Birgunj, early in the morning of September 6, critically injuring her. Subsequently, police arrested the culprits.
The acid attack survivor — who suffered critical burns on her face, chest, and hands — was rushed to local Narayani Hospital from where she was referred to Kirtipur Hospital in Kathmandu.
Khatun is a ninth-grader at local Tribhuvan Hanuman Secondary School in Birgunj. The girl was on her way to school when the attack took place. According to her maternal aunt, those involved in carrying out the acid attack were acquainted neighbours.
The post Muskan Khatun’s attackers sent to juvenile correction home appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
WASHINGTON: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday defended the social media platform’s refusal to take down content it considers newsworthy “even if it goes against our standards.” But while he promoted free expression, limitations were place on coverage of his remarks at Georgetown University.
Reporters were not allowed to ask questions — only students were given that chance, filtered by a moderator. Facebook and Georgetown barred news organizations from filming. Instead organizers provided a livestream on Georgetown’s social media site and made available video shot by Facebook.
“It’s quite ironic,” said Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute and a former state prosecutor. More generally, she said of Facebook, “The key to free expression is to not have one company control the flow of speech to more than 2 billion people, using algorithms that amplify disinformation in order to maximize profits.”
Facebook, Google, Twitter and other companies are trying to oversee internet content while also avoiding infringing on First Amendment rights. The pendulum has swung recently toward restricting hateful speech that could spawn violence. The shift follows mass shootings in which the suspects have posted racist screeds online or otherwise expressed hateful views or streamed images of attacks.
Facebook also has come under criticism for not doing enough to filter out phoney political ads.
“Right now, we’re doing a very good job at getting everyone mad at us,” Zuckerberg told the packed hall at Georgetown.
He said serious threats to expression are coming from places such as China, where social media platforms used by protesters are censored, and from court decisions restricting the location of internet users’ data in certain countries.
“I’m here today because I believe that we must continue to stand for free expression,” he said. People of varied political beliefs are trying to define expansive speech as dangerous because it could bring results they don’t accept, Zuckerberg said. “I personally believe this is more dangerous to democracy in the long term than almost any speech.”
Taking note of mounting criticism of the market dominance of Facebook and other tech giants, Zuckerberg acknowledged the companies’ centralized power but said it’s also “decentralized by putting it directly into people’s hands. … Giving people a voice and broader inclusion go hand in hand.”
John Stanton, a former fellow at Georgetown who heads a group called the “Save Journalism Project,” called the CEO’s appearance “a joke.”
Zuckerberg “is the antithesis of free expression,” Stanton said in a statement. “He’s thrown free speech, public education and democracy to the wayside in his thirst for power and profit.”
The social media giant, with nearly 2.5 billion users around the globe, is under heavy scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators following a series of data privacy scandals, including lapses in opening the personal data of millions of users to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Facebook and other social media platforms have drawn accusations from President Donald Trump and his allies that their platforms are steeped in anti-conservative bias.
Zuckerberg recently fell into a tiff with Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, who ran a fake political ad on Facebook taking aim at the CEO. Warren has proposed breaking up big tech companies. With the phoney ad, she was protesting Facebook’s policy of not fact-checking politicians’ speech or ads in the same way it enlists outside parties to fact-check news stories and other posts.
“We think people should be able to see for themselves,” Zuckerberg responded Thursday on the fact-checking issue. “If content is newsworthy, we don’t take it down even if it goes against our standards.”
The social media network also rebuffed requests that it remove a misleading video ad from Trump’s re-election campaign targeting Democrat Joe Biden.
A spokesman for Biden said Zuckerberg’s speech was an effort “to cloak Facebook’s policy in a feigned concern for free expression.”
“Facebook has chosen to sell Americans’ personal data to politicians looking to target them with disproven lies and conspiracy theories, crowding out the voices of working Americans,” campaign spokesman Bill Russo said in a statement.
Several of the students’ questions to Zuckerberg at Georgetown pointed up the conflict. One asked, if Facebook supports free speech, “why is conservative content disproportionately censored?” But another asserted that the policy of not fact-checking political ads is pro-conservative.
“I think it would be hard to be biased against both sides,” Zuckerberg replied, smiling.
Asked about the handling of questions, Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhjara said, “They were submitted by students as they walked into the room. And they’re being picked at random by Georgetown.”
The post Facebook CEO defends refusal to take down some content appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
Baglung, October 17
People from Galkot, who have spread across the country and abroad, formed the International Galkot Society under the coordination of Belu Thapa in Kathmandu, recently.
Megh KC has been elected member secretary of the Society. The president of the Society which is based in eight places of the country and in 18 foreign countries are the ex-officio members of International Galkot Society.
Galkot Society Baglung was constituted in 2002 as the mother society. The first Galkot Society abroad was formed in Japan in 2006. The Society has now expanded to Australia, United Kingdom, among other countries. People from Galkot of Baglung who are living and working in various places within the country and abroad are members of the Society which is active in development and humanitarian services.
KAWASOTI: Police arrested two cadres of Netra Bikram Chand (Biplav)-led Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) in Nawalpur, on Thursday night.
The arrested have been identified as Ganesh BK, alias ‘Guransh’ and Govinda BK.
According to Nawalpur District Police Office, the CPN cadres were arrested from Simalghari in Madhyabindu Municipality-10 in the district, at around 8:00 pm yesterday. They were arrested on suspicion of carrying out illegal activities.
Further details of the arrest of CPN cadres and ongoing investigation would be informed later, police informed.
Meanwhile, the arrestees have been taken in custody at the DPO for further investigation, police said.
Prior to this, the CPN had discharged Ganesh and taken action against him for his bad conduct.
Kathmandu, October 17
Milan Pandey was elected chairman of Bibeksheel Nepali Dal by its national convention, which was held in Janakpur yesterday.
Pandey had defeated his opponent Shiva Thapa by 98 votes, of the total 432 votes counted. Pandey had received 254 votes while Thapa had received 156 votes. Of the total 444 votes that were cast, 12 votes were invalid while 22 voters had cast ‘no vote.’
Bibeksheel Nepali had allowed a system to cast ‘no vote’ giving voters the right not to choose any leader. Bibeksheel Nepali has also been demanding ‘no vote’ in the national voting system.
The party had also allowed online voting from other parts of the country as well as from abroad. The party, however, did not want to disclose how many votes were cast through online system. Bibeksheel has also been demanding that the government introduce a system allowing Nepalis residing abroad to cast their votes during national elections.
After emerging victorious, Pandey said youths in the country had power to change politics as they had imagined for years. “Data shows that above 83 per cent of country’s population comprised the age group below 45-years. So definitely, youths have decisive power in shaping the country’s future,” he said, adding, “Our move will be to address the demands of the youths in the coming elections,” Pandey said.
He added the party will continue its anti-corruption campaigns and campaigns against all forms of violence. “Our campaigns will now be result-oriented and we will run various programmes to make people aware about the major five national policies; security policy, education policy, good governance policy, health policy and heritage policy of our party.”
Bibeksheel Nepali Dal had made its entry into Nepali politics by filling its candidates in the second constitutional election in 2013. In July 2017, Ujwal Thapa-led Bibeksheel Nepali Dal and Rabindra Mishra-led Sajha Party had merged into Bibeksheel Sajha Party. However, seventeen months later the party suffered a split in January 2019.
LOS ANGELES: The vast catalogue of storied Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli is heading to the new HBO Max streaming service.
Films such as “Princess Mononoke,” ″My Neighbor Totoro” and Oscar-winner “Spirited Away” will be among the titles available to stream when HBO Max launches in spring 2020.
The deal — the first time the studio’s library will be available on a streaming platform — was announced Thursday for unspecified terms.
Studio Ghibli has a passionate fan base of its richly animated epic films from directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
HBO Max is owned by WarnerMedia, which is assembling streaming content from its networks that include TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros studio.
“Spirited Away,” about an abandoned village that’s a getaway for spirits and demons, won the best animated Oscar in 2002.
The post ‘Spirited Away,’ other Studio Ghibli films head to HBO Max appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
Kathmandu, October 17
The government has failed to bring registered firms under its flagship programme, Social Security Scheme, within the stipulated timeframe, with only 0.88 per cent of firms registered at Social Security Fund (SSF).
As per the SSF, 8,139 employers and 91,855 employees have been registered for the contribution-based social security scheme for the formal sector firms so far.
The number falls far short of the 923,000 firms registered at the Office of Company Registrar and hints at the possibility of thousands of formal sector employees being left out of the scheme, as the deadline given to companies to submit their details and that of their staff ended today.
Kapilmani Gyawali, executive director at SSF, informed that many firms submitted their details at the office till late evening today. “The number of firms registered at SSF could rise to nearly 9,000 with details of around 110,000 employees being registered.”
Earlier, the government had set the final deadline for firms to register their details by end of fiscal year 2018-19. However, owing to the lukewarm response, the government had extended the deadline for registration by three months to October 17.
As per Gyawali, though the registration deadline ended today, the fund has not officially closed the registration process. He added that the final decision regarding the registration process will be taken after a few days.
Since Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security, Gokarna Bista, who is the line minister of the fund, and chairperson of the fund and Secretary of the ministry, Binod KC, are abroad at present, a meeting could not be held today.
“The SSF board meeting will decide whether to stop or give continuity to the registration process,” Gyawali said.
Meanwhile, the government has not yet announced how the companies that are not registered at SSF will be penalised.
“Sooner or later all firms will have to join the scheme. So, those that get registered and start making regular deposits to the fund will get benefits sooner,” Gyawali said.
The government had launched the scheme on November 26. Under it, the employer would contribute 20 per cent of the basic salary of the employees and the latter would contribute 11 per cent to the fund. Of the contributed amount, 3.22 per cent will be utilised for medical, health and maternity benefits; 4.52 per cent for accidental and disability benefits; 0.87 per cent for dependent family members and 91.39 per cent for old-age security.
The government plans to extend the scheme for workers in informal sector soon.
RAJBIRAJ: A group of fishermen found a crocodile in a public pond in Kankalini Municipality-8 of Saptari district.
Local fishermen informed the police immediately after they hooked up the crocodile weighing around six to seven kilograms in the net while fishing at a public pond in Hanumangar.
A police team deployed from Area Police Office Hanumannagar handed over the crocodile to the District Forest Division Office.
Kathmandu, October 17
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota claimed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Nepal was a ‘historic success.’
Speaking at a press conference organised in Singha Durbar to disclose the decisions made by today’s Cabinet meeting, he said the visit of Chinese president after 23 years was expected to elevate the bilateral relations to a new level, opening up new areas of cooperation between the two neighbours.
“Announcement by the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world to promote Nepal from a landlocked to land-linked country is a huge motivation for Nepal on its march towards prosperity. Now Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s long-cherished dream of making Nepal a land-linked country will materialise.
The 20-point memorandum of understanding signed between Nepal and China carries a multi-dynamic significance,” he said.
Minister Baskota also said President’s Xi’s visit had projected a good image of Nepal in the international arena. “President Xi’s visit to Nepal had grabbed media attention globally,” he said.
During the press conference, Minister Baskota disclosed a decision of the Cabinet.
As per the decisions, the government has approved an institutional framework to create an environment for the operation of business activities.
A 15-member talks team was formed, led by a joint secretary for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies to participate in the fourth meeting of the Nepal-Bangladesh Commerce Joint Secretary Level Technical Committee, scheduled for October 22 and 23, in Kathmandu.
The government has decided to provide relief amount of one million rupees to Jayalal Sharma Arjel, father of Adhiraj Kumar Sharma of Banke district. Sharma was killed in an anti-government protest.
As per the Cabinet decision, the term of the recommendation committee, headed by Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, formed to appoint the executive chief of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority has been expanded.
The term of a probe panel led by the Central Investigation Bureau to investigate into land grab cases was also extended until December 14.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been authorised to sign a memorandum of understanding with its French counterpart for the establishment of a bilateral consultation mechanism. The government has granted permission to Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel to sign the ‘China Provision of Military Assistance Grant to Nepal.’
SEOUL: South Korea were happy to have made it back from Pyongyang in one piece after Tuesday’s brutal 2022 World Cup qualifier, with a Korean FA official describing the physical encounter as being “like war”.
The game, the first between the two teams on North Korean soil in 30 years, ended in a 0-0 draw and was played out in front of empty stands. There was no broadcast of the game after the North refused to screen it live.
Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Last year saw a flurry of sports diplomacy between the two but ties have since cooled over stalled negotiations over the North’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min said it had been a bad-tempered match.
“To be honest, the game was so tough that I think we were very lucky already to be back with no one injured,” he told reporters on Thursday upon arrival at Incheon airport via Beijing.
“We could even hear many of very offensive curses from the other side.”
Choi Young-il, vice-president of the South’s Korea Football Association (KFA), said the North Korean players had been overly aggressive.
“It was like war,” he said.
“They would use everything from elbows to hands to knees to fend off our players. It was really difficult.”
Each side received two yellow cards.
“North Koreans wouldn’t even make eye contact when I talked to them, not to mention respond,” Choi said.
Choi said the KFA planned to discuss whether it will raise a complaint with world governing body FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation about North Korea’s handling of the game.
In a video shared on Twitter by the Swedish ambassador to North Korea Joachim Bergstrom, Son appeared to be trying to play peacemaker as players from the sides confronted each other.
“Emotions run high,” Bergstrom wrote in a tweet. He was among only a handful of spectators allowed at the match along with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
The North provided a recording of the match on DVD but South Korean public broadcaster KBS cancelled plans to air it on Thursday due to the poor quality of the footage.
South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul in charge of inter-Korean affairs said on Thursday it was “very disappointing” that the North did not allow the live broadcast of the match.
The post ‘It was like war,’ says South Korea after Pyongyang match appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
Kathmandu, October 17
Minister of Women, Children and Senior Citizens Tham Maya Thapa said the government was committed to ensuring that women enjoyed their rights guaranteed by the constitution.
Inaugurating a national consultative meeting organised here today to review the implementation status of the fourth world women conference, Thapa said the government was working to formulate comprehensive policies with the objective of enabling women to enjoy their rights.
She urged the rights activists to ensure representation of women by 50 per cent in all state mechanisms. She said the rights activists also needed to focus on enhancing women’s competence for leadership.
“Our long struggle for equality has ensured 33 per cent representation of women in the Parliament and 41 per cent representation in the local levels, but this is not enough,” she added. Stating that participation of women was significant in all three organs of the state, Minister Thapa said women’s participation in some of the key positions of the government in the federal system was major success for them. Executive Director of Women, Law and Development Sabin Shrestha said there was need for reviewing the implementation status of the declaration and work plans adopted by the fourth world women conference.
Fourth world women conference was organised in Beijing in 1995, with the objective of achieving women empowerment. A national network has been created to review the implementation status of the fourth world women conference. The fourth world women conference had identified 12 areas of concerns.
They included women and education, women and poverty, women and health, domestic violence, women and conflict, women and economy, women and environment, institutional structures for women’s empowerment, women and human rights, power structure and women’s participation in the decision making bodies, and women and communications.
The next world women conference is scheduled to be held in China next year.
Women rights activist Chandani Joshi said women’s national network needed to come up with a conclusion as to what the country had achieved after the fourth world women conference and what challenges the country was yet to overcome in terms of empowering Nepali women.
The post Government committed to women empowerment, says Minister Tham Maya Thapa appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in Beirut early Friday after they tried to push through security barriers around the government headquarters amid some of the largest demonstrations the country has seen in years. The riots left two people dead and dozens wounded.
The protests erupted over the government’s plan to impose new taxes during a severe economic crisis, with people taking their anger out on politicians they accuse of corruption and decades of mismanagement.
The protests started with a few dozen people gathering in central Beirut over the imposition of a 20-cent daily fee on messaging applications, including WhatsApp. They quickly escalated into some of the biggest demonstrations since an uprising over a garbage crisis in 2015, with thousands of people taking part.
People gathered near the government headquarters and parliament building where riot police were deployed, chanting: “Revolution!” and “Thieves!” — the latter a reference to widespread corruption in a country that has one of the highest debt loads in the world.
Some protesters threw stones, shoes and water bottles at security forces and scuffled with police. Security forces said at least 60 of its members were injured in the clashes. Protesters were also injured.
State-run National News Agency said two foreign workers choked to death when fire was set in a building where they were sleeping in downtown Beirut. George Kittaneh, the head of the Lebanese Red Cross, said 22 people fainted and were taken to a hospital while 70 were treated on the spot.
Police showed restraint as they were pelted with stones for several hours, firing volleys of tear gas only after protesters broke through the first security barrier near the government house. Police chased protesters through the streets of Beirut’s commercial district through the night.
The protests could plunge Lebanon into a political crisis with unpredictable repercussions for the economy which has been in steady decline. Some of the protesters said they would stay in the streets until the government resigns.
“The government is trying to help Lebanese citizens avoid a collapse,” Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan, who ruled out the possibility of a Cabinet resignation, told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV. “If another government is formed it will take the same measures.”
Protesters closed major intersections with burning tires and garbage containers, causing traffic jams. As the protests escalated, the minister of education declared that public and private schools and universities would close Friday.
Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with the small Arab country. Lebanon has the third-highest debt level in the world, currently standing at about $86 billion, or 150% of its gross domestic product.
“We refuse what’s happening in Lebanon… The failure of our government to do at least the minimum … has given us no other choice than to take the streets,” said writer and director Lucien Bourjeily.
“They are putting more and more taxes on us even though we can’t take any more taxes,” he said.
When the motorcade of Education Minister Akram Chehayeb padded through downtown Beirut, protesters punched and kicked the cars. One bodyguard jumped out of an SUV and fired an automatic rifle into the air. Chehayeb rushed out of his car and pushed the guard away and prevented him from shooting again. No one was hurt in the incident.
Protesters also closed roads in other parts of Lebanon, including the northern city of Tripoli, Tyre in the south and Baalbek in the northeast.
The government is discussing the 2020 budget, and new taxes have been proposed, including on tobacco, gasoline and some social media telecommunication software such as WhatsApp.
Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair appeared on TV after the protests began and said Prime Minister Saad Hariri has asked him to drop the proposed tax on WhatsApp.
As protests continued, demonstrators clashed briefly with riot police outside the government headquarters, an Ottoman-era compound known as the Grand Serial.
“We have no jobs, we have money and we have no future,” one protester screamed.
International donors have been demanding that Lebanon implement economic changes in order to get loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris in April 2018. International donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but they sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.
Despite tens of billions of dollars spent since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon still has crumbling infrastructure including daily electricity cuts, trash piles in the streets and often sporadic, limited water supplies from the state-owned water company.
There are concerns over the country’s financial stability as well. Earlier this month, the local currency reached 1,650 Lebanese pounds to the dollar at exchange shops after it had been stable at 1,500 since 1997.
The post Protests spread across Lebanon over proposed new taxes appeared first on The Himalayan Times.
Kathmandu, October 17
With an aim to ease the traffic congestion in one of the country’s busiest road sections, the government is gearing up to expand the 96-kilometre-long Thankot to Mugling road section into four lanes.
The Department of Roads (DoR) is preparing to expand the section of Prithvi Highway from next year.
Arjun Jung Thapa, chief of Foreign Cooperation Branch at DoR, said that DoR is preparing to issue a tender for the project in January. “We plan to complete the loan agreement with the donor agency and finalise works related to awarding the contract by December.”
The department is preparing to sign a loan agreement with World Bank for the purpose and the bank has already agreed to invest around Rs 20 billion in the project.
As per Thapa, they plan to complete road expansion work within three years from inking the pact with the selected contractor. The department had prepared the detailed project report in August 2018 and environment impact assessment (EIA) was completed this year.
However, as the World Bank has revised the guidelines of EIA, the DoR is revisiting the earlier EIA report to make it compliant with the changes.
“We have already negotiated with the Work Bank to obtain a credit line to execute the project,” Thapa said.
At present, DoR is studying ‘rate of return’ in the project.
As per the DPR, sections of the highway that cannot be widened due to the difficult terrain will be left as it is. The project will build bypasses across the Trishuli River that flows alongside the highway to get around such bottlenecks.
“We will expand the road to four lanes wherever possible. In parts where it is not possible, we will build bypasses across Trishuli River. Also, two new bridges will be built to facilitate crossing the river,” Thapa said.
As per DPR, three to four bypasses with a combined length of 25 km will need to be built to overcome the bottlenecks.
Moreover, DoR is also planning to expand certain road sections in core city areas into six-lane and to build some overhead bridges.
“The existing bridges will also need to be replaced or repaired. As per a report of a consultant, a total of 24 existing as well as new bridges will have to be built in the Thankot-Mugling section.”
As per Thapa, the contractor will be accountable for repair works and maintenance of the road for five years after the project is handed over to the government. “The defect liability period will be included in the contract agreement.”
The Mugling-Narayanghat road has already been improved as per Asian Highway standard with financial assistance of World Bank last year.