What most people feel in this country is, they are proud to call themselves they are a Nepali. Specially, if you are born in this country, where life may be difficult but the environment is so beautiful, you will love this land even more. There may be poverty, pollution and difficult terrain, but if you have stayed in this country for many years, you never can forget this nation, no matter where you are in any part of the world. This author himself has heard of some individuals the woes of this country where they were born and grew up, but the majority of the people who have been compelled to go to foreign lands for study and better job opportunities, always remember Nepal fondly and they try their best to maintain their traditions and culture which they have been taught by practice and also by their own parents or elders.
So it was really heartening for old timers like this writer to hear our respected Prime Minister make a commitment that all Nepalis living in foreign lands can also vote in the elections in the future. There have been a lot of debates and also informal talks on whether Nepalis living abroad can vote in the elections held here or not. Till now, even with encouraging remarks from political leaders, the Nepali citizens living abroad have not been able to participate in the election for even the House of Representatives (HoR) and other high offices in the national capital or the provinces.
A Nepali, if he or she has the legal papers, is a Nepali no matter where he or she lives in. So they also have the right to participate in the electoral process in this country. Of course, we know about the complications in the official regulations and the intricacies involved in keeping an exact tag of actually how many Nepali citizens are living in which foreign country in a legal manner or in some other ways. But this is where our otherwise lethargic diplomatic offices abroad have to pull up their sleeves and get to work in keeping an exact record of any Nepali citizen on where he or she lives and how they can be contacted or how these people can connect themselves to our missions abroad.
This is the time when the facilities of the modern communication technology can be used to the hilt and take advantage in being informed about the conditions of the citizens of their country and also keeping them informed about the help, if required, they can provide to them in places which is far away from their own country. The authorities here must be serious about the message of the Prime Minister and make it clear to our missions abroad on preparing from now on instantly about how more Nepalis can participate in the electoral process and how our missions can be of help to not only the country’s citizens, but also in strengthening the promises made to the people by the political parties here.
We must never forget that we all are Nepalis, no matter where we live. More correctly, our government should not think that our own citizens living abroad for various reasons are not outsiders. This has been made clear by the Prime Minister and also the harsh fact that we are getting a lot of foreign currency just through the remittance sent by such hard working people working in menial jobs, in alien lands and in difficult conditions. But still, in spite of the nation’s poverty, though they may be working abroad, these people consider themselves as Nepali citizens and they can say this with their heads held high.
The political parties and the government as well should not forget such sentiments of their own citizens and they should be allowed to participate in their beliefs on who could do better to build a more prosperous Nepal where newer generations have better and greater opportunities for living with their families.
Yes, we all realise that Nepal is a poverty- stricken country and where there are few chances, especially to the marginalised communities to get any form of a stable job. Yes, we are also saddened by reports that thousands of our own people are leaving their homes to go to foreign lands for better study facilities and better income. The live reports of those leaving this country because they have been disheartened by unstable politics and lack of opportunities are definitely depressive, especially for those who have stuck to live in this nation.
But more saddening is the fact that these people who have not only contributed for the country’s economy, but also miss their homeland for financial problems, are not allowed to vote. This is a fundamental right of all Nepalis, no matter where they are staying. The political parties, which depend heavily on people, who cast their votes for them or one party or the other, should be more concerned about the huge number of the people who cannot vote just because they are living in a different land though they are real citizens of this country. This participation of thousands of our own people could make a huge difference to the political power balance and this must be taken seriously by political leaders and also the so called ‘experts’.
The authorities here must first change their attitude so that the commitments made by the leaders are fulfilled. There may be thousands of people, not of Nepali origin participating in all level of elections just because they are living here. But at the same time there are thousands of genuine Nepali citizens who have not been allowed to vote for the individual or party they like, just because they are living in some other country. This is not fair at all. That is why all should work sincerely so that no citizen is denied of the right to vote and this will not only help in the building a stronger economy of the nation but also in further strengthening democracy.
(Thapa is former chief editor of this dialy.)