Nepal: People celebrate their victory

Around the country late last week, people were celebrating the House of Representatives’ May 18 proclamation stripping King Gyanendra of his royal powers.

The legislature ended Gyanendra’s control over the army, made his income and assets taxable, took away his power to convene and adjourn the legislature, and declared that “all the provisions of the Constitution and laws that contradict this proclamation shall be deemed nullified ipso facto,” the e-Kantipur news agency said.

The proclamation said the legislature “is sovereign for the exercise of all the rights until another constitutional arrangement is made to take responsibility to move forward in the direction of full-fledged democracy and end the autocratic monarchy.”

Leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) — the second largest party in Parliament — said their party’s main goal is to establish a democratic republic. “We have only made the king powerless; the constituent assembly elections will decide whether to keep or remove the king,” said the party’s general secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal. “If we don’t go for a democratic republic, we will lose all the achievements we have now gained,” CPN-UML leader Bam Dev Gautam added.

Over the weekend, the Department of Information removed some 150 billboards with quotes from Gyanendra, put up after he assumed absolute power in February 2005.

Italy: Strike halts buses

A 24-hour public transit strike May 18 brought local public transportation virtually to a standstill throughout Italy, leaders of the FIT-CISL union said. “Buses have stopped in small and large cities and the average participation in the strike ranges between 90 and 95 percent in the north, center and south of Italy,” the union said.

“The undeniable success of the strike shows the determination with which all workers in the sector are following the negotiations for renewal of the contract,” said union leader Walter Baricevic.

Israel: Supreme court denies family reunification

The Israeli High Court of Justice voted narrowly May 14 to deny family reunification for Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.

“Thousands of couples are affected by this discriminatory law, which forces Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians to leave their country or to be separated from their families and children,” Amnesty International said in a statement last week.

Observers have noted that couples thus barred from living together in Israel can’t be reunited in the Occupied Territories either, since military law does not allow Israeli citizens to live there.

The Israeli Knesset is slated to review the ban on family reunification in July. It passed the ban in July 2003 after it had been introduced as an administrative decision by the interior minister.

Colombia: Gov’t attacks protesters

Colombian military forces attacked farmers and indigenous people participating in a May 15 nationwide protest against the government’s free trade pact with the U.S. and its repressive policies, and urging defeat of President Alvaro Uribe in the May 28 presidential elections, The Associated Press reported. One protester was killed and some 30 more injured, five of them seriously, at the village of Piendamo, over 200 miles southwest of the capital city, Bogota.

The National Agricultural Workers Union said the government is using violent repression against “permanent mobilizations” of thousands of farmers, indigenous Colombians and Afro-Colombians protesting the civil war and demanding human rights and agrarian reforms. The union called for an end to the government violence, and negotiations to resolve the crisis faced by rural communities.

Korea: U.S. mulling peace treaty

The Bush administration is reportedly considering the possibility of concluding a peace treaty with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), even as Washington continues to participate in six-party talks on nuclear issues.

Technically, the two states have been at war since 1950; the 1953 armistice only ended the fighting. About 30,000 U.S. troops still occupy the southern half of the Korean peninsula.

South Korea, formerly a staunch U.S. ally opposed to the DPRK, has been steadily drifting away from U.S. influence and starting to make its own policies regarding the DPRK. Former President Kim Dae-jung, who initiated increased contact and cooperation between the nation’s two halves in 1998, is scheduled for a return visit to the north at the end of June. The south’s current president, Roh Moo-hyun, said he would meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Il “anytime, anywhere” to discuss anything.

Some observers say the Bush administration’s move is an attempt to offset its growing political isolation in the region, although they warn that no one should be fooled into thinking that Washington is any less committed to bringing about “regime change” in the north.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer ( Marilyn Bechtel and Dan Margolis contributed.