Nepali Times
Editorial
Federalism by any other name



BIKRAM RAI

There is a feeling of déjà vu as we approach the 27 May midnight deadline for the mandate of the Constituent Assembly to expire. It seems like it has all happened before, and it has. Four times in the past two years, in fact.

Like last time six months ago, and the time before that, the top leaders are again blowing hot and cold over the prospects of integration, and finishing the new constitution in time. Torn between the need to assuage a completely skeptical and disillusioned public, and talking tough to improve their bargaining position in negotiations, leaders' statements still swing between wild optimism and reckless pessimism. Some tell their cadre in Kathmandu there is no way the constitution will be written in time, and the same afternoon publicly announce in Biratnagar that the CA term will not be extended.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai exudes confidence these days about meeting the 27 May deadline, but the crony he hand-picked to be the Attorney General challenges the Supreme Court's authority to over-ride parliament. He told us in an interview last week that a "democratic" constitution was not possible, and insinuated that people don't have the right to private property. If this is a moderate speaking, imagine what the hardcore sound like.

Despite this, for the first time in a long time there is a sense that the political parties are finally focusing their minds on the urgency of peace and constitution. PM Bhattarai has played a catalytic behind-the-scenes role in this. He got his party to give in on the insistence from the NC and UML on peace-first-constitution-later by showing flexibility on integration. The breakthrough was possible when Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal finally saw he couldn't play it both ways, and be a spoiler anymore.

With the cantonments and weapons containers being handed over to the army before the new year, there is now a real chance that the remaining issues on the constitution can be sorted out. This time, it may have to be the NC and UML who will have to give in on state structure and form of government while safeguarding pluralism, press freedom and an independent judiciary.

After coming all this way, and in a hurry to meet the May deadline, we shouldn't adopt an authoritarian constitution. We are not being paranoid. Even so-called moderate Maoists are still talking about "state capture", unleashing a "revolt", and calling anyone who disagrees with them "a people's enemy".

What is important is not that we have a directly elected presidential, parliamentary or mixed system, but whether or not democratic fundamentals are protected, and accountability ensured. We do not want a president who aspires to be a Nepali version of Vladimir Putin, or worse, Kim Il Sung.

The other dispute is over the kind of federalism we should have, how many provinces there should be and how to carve out their boundaries. This is more complicated, and care has to be taken to balance local self-governance without the country disintegrating. But even here, cooler heads have prevailed and there is an emerging consensus on just six provinces (plus Kathmandu) that balance and safeguard the ethnic and linguistic diversity within them. Whether or not these provinces are named after a particular ethnic group is not as important as whether all ethnicities within that province are treated equally. Name it 'federalism' or anything else, the crux is that political power and economic-decision-making should be devolved to elected local units.

If there is a deadlock on federalism, there can be an agreement on the broad outlines of the new constitution for now, with the details to be ironed out later. In the final analysis, words have no meaning if there is no political will to implement them.

Read also:
Cleaning out the closet, ANURAG ACHARYA
The Maoists, Nepal Army and Police have to face the victims and tell them what really happened during the war



1. sudha
"We do not want a president who aspires to be a Nepali version of Vladimir Putin, or worse, Kim Il Sung."  KundaJi:  I agree with you, but don't be selective and target Prachand only.  Watch out for Delhi's cronies too, who are ready to sell/trade anything -- water, borders, trade favors, political parties, national security, Nepal army, passport system, citizenship, and Nepali language, and our right to do business with whoever-we-want.  Some leaders are so weak and timid, they may even be "ready" to sell our sovereignty.   As for Putin, I prefer him over Deuba, Mayawati or Lallu Yadav or VP Jha.   



2. Mahabir Magar
For once, the comment made by Sudha ( # 1 ), hits home. Its a bulls eye. Kunda Ji, you must keep the conversation front and centre when it come to the evil design of the Indians and their traitor Nepali cronies. Nepal has a right to do business with any one, but the bullying Indians prevent that from happening. Make no mistake, the Indians are drafting the Constitution of Nepal. What a shame for Nepal. Dahal will never become a President of Nepal. Nepalis should chase the corrupted comuunists like Dahal and BRB to India. Its just so anazing that we do not have 1 man that can fight for us and our rights. Are all Nepali leaders, I mean all, servants of India. As a red blooded Nepali, I despise the Indians.   

3. nepali cheli
week in and week out there are trolls who put up the exact same "india is our biggest problem" comments. i suspect that this is the work of one or two brainless people hiding behind random names. as i have said before, these comments do not contribute anything worthwhile to the debate and i don't understand why NT even accepts such nonsense. 

as for Mr. Mahabir and gang - if you really are red blooded Nepalis who care about the country stop being cowards and using random names. come out in the open, reveal your true identities and then have a fearless discussions.cha himmat?  


4. gorkhali cheli

I think the point to drive home is that Nepalis are fed up with bullying from India with th exception of ( nepali cheli ).  Our spineless and corrupted leader's betrayel has a lot to do with this. We have criminals for leaders and there is no one to challange of dispose them. Please do not deny the intimidating and over reaching arn of India. We need to have a serious conversation about the Indian domination. I can see why Nepalis want to bash India, they are frustrated. Keep up the good work Kunda Ji.        



5. Deepak Magar

nepali cheli prides himself/herself on being an a very smart person, full ideas and brain power, comments under a pseudo name and has the gall to call out others to reveal their identity. this is a typical nepali behaviour trait. nepali cheli can do no harm, but the rest of us are good for nothing. listen nepali cheli or indian agent or a maosit supporter, whoever you are, discussion will not lead to anything. be patient, you will see the action of true nepalis in the coming days. i guess you will be watching and learning, you are the coward not people standing up for Nepal.     



6. Milan Pande
You are a  pseudo nepali that is also writing under a fake and fasle name mr. or mrs. or miss. nepali cheli. Funny that a kettle is calling a pot black. You have no shame. Also what is your problem man or woman, if NT wants to publish, who the hell are you to oppose, you only expose your self as a low life by such thinking and behaviour. 

7. suman
Hey,Holier than thou Nepal Cheli:  Let's stick to the argument.  What Kunda is trying say is this: "if Prachand comes to power, he will be like Putin ot Kim Il".  This is a flawed argument. Just think about it before calling names...  Mahabir is not out of line at all. 


8. Nepali Chelo
Here is an editorial that is about how the Maoist internal strife is hurting the peace process and delaying the constituton and, of course, some see India's grand design in that too. This is why we will never move ahead as long as we looking around for someone else to blame and play victim all the time. Let's grow up.

9. nepali cheli
thank you Nepali chelo, that is the point I have been trying to make all this while. why don't we talk about what the article says? why do we have to bring in india's grand design in EVERYTHING.  if Mahabir and gang had their way they will go around saying India is 100% preventing the creation of truth, reconciliation and disappearances committee (read the other articles from this week), India is 100% responsible for the filth in the Bagmati, India is 100% to be blamed if there is a transportation strike in far-west Nepal.

i am not saying India is a saint or India is not involved  - yes it is, at times very heavily. (please read my previous comments under Nepali Cheli - unlike you I don't change my fake name like a chameleon). but then what is your solution? if we keep seeing a neighboring country as the root of our problems ALL THE TIME, where does this leave the agency of our politicians? and what can we do to improve our predicament? it leaves nothing in our hands.  

and if i was a RAW agent or an Indian I would give a rat's a** about what Nepalis have to say about my country that too on something silly as an online forum. It would not affect me even a little. 


10. nepali cheli
"Make no mistake, the Indians are drafting the Constitution of Nepal" - since you say this with so much confidence and conviction, can you please point me towards a realiable source of information that supports this argument - any newspaper articles? interviews? anything? 

can we stop being so cynical? for a lot of Nepalis who have been systematically marginalised, the new constitution is a source of hope for a better future. we don't know how much people will change in terms of their actions, but the new constitution is a symbol of naya Nepal. let's not rob ouselves of all hopes.  


11. Krshna S
Some moron pops up the "I" word on a completely unrelated piece of article and all the hell breaks loose, then there are twenty seven replies. What are you guys? Six year old ? Please grow up!



12. Soni
" If there is a deadlock on federalism, there can be an agreement on the broad outlines of the new constitution for now, with the details to be ironed out later. In the final analysis, words have no meaning if there is no poltical will to implement them."

So, let me get this straight, all this killing, murdering, chaos, war and destruction just so you can endorse a half baked document which has no meaning just so that this bunch of loud mouths can continue in power?

I can see your reasoning behind it, because if they are not in power then they will raise hell. But that would be the case even if a constitution, no matter how empty and meaningless, is made. No matter who comes to power, the rest will make it impossible to govern until they get a share of the loot.

If you look carefully at the economy, and the real condition of the country, barring remittances, foreign aid and INGO flows, there is no activity. Very few businesses survive. That situation is not likely to change even if the constitution comes.

What I am trying to say is that the problem with Nepal is not the constitution, survival of democracy, or the parties or the country's sovereign existence. The problem is the conversation, the dominant theme of concerns that we express.

The country has been held hostage by an elite, masquerading as intellectuals barfing hot gas about useless drivel.

Take federalism for example. Nobody would really care about if the politicians did not believe that that's the easiest way to get a handle on popular opinion. Without this debate they will have to engage in substantive debate about administrative reforms, service delivery mechanism, and efficient allocation of resources.

Another example is what we have done over the past six years. Regardless of what propaganda there is, you have to accept that this regime has been at the helm of affairs not for four but six years. 

In this time, Nepal has actually spent a total of ~360600000 (3.6 billion) merely on the members of the resurrected parl and CA. We cannot add the expense of election because they are supposed to be held.

Then, 600,000,000 on Maoist Militia. And the list of expenses keeps climbing up the more you add.

All of this is even more acute when you realise that the demand, the most sincere demand, is to come up with just any document. No proper constitution, just anything that will pass off as a constitution. No debate, no following the process. Just hit the print key, get your so called CA reps, who could be substituted for by auto-bots to say aye and that's it.


13. Soni
" There is a feeling of déjà vu as we approach the 27 May midnight deadline for the mandate of the Constituent Assembly to expire. It seems like it has all happened before, and it has. Four times in the past two years, in fact."

It must be a tough job being a journalist, and hence prone to bouts of laziness. I do not really blame you. You see I could have seen the editorials in the editions before the near expiry of the last four near expiry dates and found confirmation that this article and the demands and expectations in it are mere variations of the articles and demands and expectations before.

The point here is that you are taking a short term perspective, step back a little and wonder what would happen if the parties failed to produce a constitution? The answer is, nothing. Absolutely nothing of consequence. Sure there would be headline like, " Civil society expresses concern", " Women take out rally demanding new constitution", " Criticism of Nepal's parties" and of course, "PM/President/Speaker confirm that there is nothing to worry about" etc etc. But essentially nothing of consequence would happen and ultimately Nepal will get a constitution of one variety or another.

However, if you took a longer term perspective, you would wonder about more substantive issues.

For instance, why exactly did they saw of that journalists head, for a constitution that has not been produced in six years, when actually they could have just shot him in the head if he was such a dangerous enemy of the people??? 

Or, why did it take people so long to admit that it there was electoral fraud, extortion, threats, murder and violence involved in winning the election which undermines the legitimacy of the very assembly that is now supposed to decide the fate of an an ancient culture?

There are many more questions, but I share your belief that laziness is good, pointlessness is good, meaninglessness is good, and I am going to stop for just this moment.


14. Soni
Amazing stuff, but the numbers above in my comment are extremely low, the expense would be a total of over 10 billion, spent on absolutely nothing. 

15. who cares
"....  crony he hand-picked to be the Attorney General challenges the Supreme Court's authority to over-ride parliament. He told us in an interview last week that a "democratic" constitution was not possible, and insinuated that people don't have the right to private property...."


everyone should remember that dog barks much much louder than the owner. 




and also remember, this bhatterai is an empty vessel making a lot of noise. 



16. BInu
The fear of authoritarian constitution is a meaning less propaganda as   Maoists already  turned into a newer UML. Look at the arithmetic of constitutional  assembly, Maoists are never going to get what they urge for. So Mr. Dixit has no point to worry about.The probability of authoritarian constitution does not exist, but the major problem is of revival of 047 constitution.You should have written about it, unfortunately you didn't.  As Sudha rightly points out, you need not to be selective and attack Prachanda only. A person can not be a dictator because of his/her innate quality.


17. sudha
DixitJi also needs to give credit where it belongs and not be so Kanjoos.  I am not a big fan of the outdated communist ideology. Although there are many other factors, but let's look at the accomplishment under BRB.  Be critical, but also acknowledge some good things... especially when they are so rare..

1) PLA integration
2) Cantonment evacuation.
3) Firing of the two corrupt minsters
4) Jailing of the two corrupt ministers and a police chief.. (I don't remember anything like this under NC or UML or Panchayat)
5) West Seti  (as opposed to Arun Fiasco)
6) Bilateral business treaty with India
7) Banki Moon's visit...( hopefully)

Next tasks:  sensible federalism, new constitution, and dismantling YCL thugs.
 


18. Sudhir Bhatta
The question to ask is what will happen after 27th of May, 2012.  You know, the Maiost are coming apart at the seams. Dahal is no longer a communist, but a die hard capitalist. Talk about a 360.  The Maoist are rapidly becoming a spent force. The UML and NC are getting ready for the kill. Gyanendra wants to use religion to revive the Shah dynasty. Kamal Thapa may have a few tricks up his sleeves.  There are many different players in the game. What will the people do. The ' I " word also needs to be taken into consideration. I would disolve the CA, put all the head honchos of differnt colors and try them for treason. If the Nepali Army had any guts, it would take over. Nepalis only understand the language of a dandi or a lathi. Lets get the show on the road.

19. Vija

Reply to Sudha.

Nothing you have listed as 1,2,5,6,7,next tasks etc are implemented in real life,we need minimum 35 years to reap the results,specially with floated fraud articles in our Nepali newspapers about West Seti and the calculation problems our members had 25%+14+=39+51% to China as the Himalayan Times had other numbers 75% to China as it was originally signed of by Energy Minister.Getting rid of corrupt Ministers and a Police chief,no surprise here,that's the way any leadership in Nepal acts to show the muscles and get rid of people who may be a disturbence in future or some needs these positions to bring in new right handed people.The question here is,who helped Dahal and Bhattarai and why it was in someone's interests?Will the next Chief of Police be one of Dahal's picked handyman .

This is just another bone for the public to chew on while behind the scenes the new project is being cooked .

My question here is why no one newspaper has even tried to print or explain to the people ,what kind of Federalism we actually would have if we chose this or that.Kathmandu is at the moment the centre ,or better say the strongest from all of the the other 6 imaginary states presented and that tells a lot,or will it shift to Lumbini?

Will that be The U.S. version of Constitution that establishes a government based on "federalism," or the sharing of power between the national, and state (and local) governments. Or will it be the centralized governments, such as those in England and France, under which national government maintains total power.

An example:50 states in USA has its own constitution, all provisions of state constitutions must comply with the U.S. Constitution. For example, a state constitution cannot deny accused criminals the right to a trial by jury, as assured by the U.S. Constitution's 6th Amendment.

Under the U.S. Constitution, both the national and state governments are granted certain exclusive powers and share other powers.

Well,I guess ,if we would have to take this option we would need another hundred years to complete as in Nepal we cannot complete even one constitution.

So here are our choices or we choose the combination of both and what that would mean to us.

 Exclusive Powers of the National Government

Under the Constitution, powers reserved to the national government include:

Print money (bills and coins)
Declare war
Establish an army and navy
Enter into treaties with foreign governments
Regulate commerce between states and international trade
Establish post offices and issue postage
Make laws necessary to enforce the Constitution

Exclusive Powers of State Governments

Powers reserved to state governments include:

Establish local governments
Issue licenses (driver, hunting, marriage, etc.)
Regulate intrastate (within the state) commerce
Conduct elections
Ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution
Provide for public health and safety
Exercise powers neither delegated to the national government or prohibited from the states by the U.S. Constitution (For example, setting legal drinking and smoking ages.)

Powers Shared by National and State Government

Shared, or "concurrent" powers include:

Setting up courts
Creating and collecting taxes
Building highways
Borrowing money
Making and enforcing laws
Chartering banks and corporations
Spending money for the betterment of the general welfare
Taking (condemning) private property with just compensation


20. suman
"The UML and NC are getting ready for the kill."  LOL.  


21. sudha
# 19:   "Getting rid of corrupt Ministers and a Police chief,no surprise here,that's the way any leadership in Nepal acts to show the muscles..."

"No surprise here?"  Wow! What a pervert interpretation...

"Getting rid" is not the same as "sending them to slammer"...  (what a nonsense, don't misscharacterize, try to be honest).  Show me one example under Girija or Deuba or Panchayat, where they send someone --anyone-- to jail for corruption?


22. Vija

to Sudha,

Name me one government in Nepali history that came to rule that didn't get rid of Ministers ,'corrupt Ministers',or better say to give positions to own party cadres,in the same Bhattarai's led government,so not to go far away as your memory seems to skip.You surely are right in one,getting rid of is worse than going to jail,at least for sitting in jail you have paid your dues to the country,walking on the streets and pretending I am a good guy,like Mr.Dahal or Mr. Bhattarai pretends is lying every citizen of the country and telling the attroucious acts we did were worth.So do not use the word 'honesty' you do not know the real meaning of it.



23. who cares
now some are giving credit to that bhatterai for court sending corrupts to jail.. hum



now i should too thank that bhatterai for yesterday's rail. 

doodles, that bhatterai can get credit for protecting killers, looters, corrupts not for punishing corrupts. use yr head


and dont forget that yr bhatterai opposes and wants to destroy the same court that has begun to punish corrupts. 


24. sudha
To Vija:

You are right.   There are many examples of "getting rid of ministers."  During Panchayat, King got rid of PM every six months.  Post 1990:  they got rid of each other 10 times in 10 years.  Girija got rid of Bhattarai;  Lokendra got rid of Girija; Surya B. Thapa got rid of Lokendra..  Girija got rid of both... Deuba got rid of all the local bodies... Gyanendra got rid of Deuba....   etc etc etc .. 

I still ask you, can you give me one single example of a sitting minister (or ex) heading to jail or a single police chief spending time in a slammer?  (from Panchayat or post 1990)?  

Don't dodge the question by confusing it with the government changes or talking about how bad Prachand is. (yes he is bad, but that's not the question)  You do not need to explain to us which is a better punishment: letting them roam the streets, changing one minister with another, or locking them behind bars. 

But if you think that punishing (sending to jail) Ministers and Police chiefs is not a "big deal" then You Win!!!  Why bother!  We should ask Anna Hazare and his millions of young followers to cancel their campaign. 




25. Vija

Like I said ,you have a short memory problem or you were not present ,or out of time or connected with the time when Minister Wagle was around ,but you are forgiven as we say 'out of sight and out of mind' and I would prefer and request you not to use your offensive slang language,seems your mind is little unbalanced.Take care of yourself.

And oh ,yes,I still repeat to you once again,when people like you right articles and doesn't know simple meaning of the word 'honesty' need to be thought what are duties,rights and  the responsibilities of a human beings before country prints of The Constitution according to the highest standards of human rights as from what I have learnt through the articles you have written you would do bizness with whoever you want.Question about values and morale!Yes,even for that one needs values. Seems  life has been tough on you as you have not  had a choice,you dealt with everyone without choice.I hope you learn from Anna Hazare,kindness not the anger,not destruction ,but work ,accepting mistakes,being humble ,taking responsibility and lets understand one more thing.People have consequences for the actions they take,not the punishment is correcting people,and if you really are passionate about Anna Hazare and his life's experience,do not boast,be humble and do your job with creativity and the best way you can, but with kindness and love.



26. Soni
1) PLA integration - 

What and who was preventing it over all these years and why are they continuing to blackmail the rest of the country?

Is it to credit of the PM if he used his position as a bargaining tool to have his way? What about the timing? Why is it that they waited till the very end and when the SC clearly stated that there would be no further extensions to the CA that they are moving towards an integration, only reluctantly and refuse to divulge the full details of all conditions.

MK Nepal's achievement was great in getting the PLA cantonments handed over by using pressure tactics. Won't you agree.

2) Cantonment evacuation

Same problem with this too, MK Nepal forced the Maoists to make concessions, they gave themselves the concessions when a Maoist was the PM. Under what Principal, by whose sanction and which type of legality were all the payments made - an interim arrangement. The relief package was more generous than needed, and the Maoist party extorted from its own? Did that have the PM's sanction, how come he remained silent throughout the crisis?

3) Firing of the two corrupt minsters

Wrong, firing of a minister who has been jailed, a Minister who opposed corruption (her claim), and a minister who talked about separating a portion of the country whilst retaining a member in your close circles who is not only accused but convicted of murder, does not balance well.

Note also that the cases under which JP Gupta was jailed were filed and framed during the Kings rule, as were other cases which have been ignored. 

4) Jailing of the two corrupt ministers and a police chief.. (I don't remember anything like this under NC or UML or Panchayat)

That is a fault of your memory and a result of your bias. The number of incidents and the magnitude of corruption was far more limited than this anarchy. Of course you would deny that, but then you praise a mass murderer of good deeds that were not his doing. Not much can be expected, but an appeal to honesty can be made to such a person. And I do that to you.

5) West Seti  (as opposed to Arun Fiasco)

Why did they oppose it and destroy it in the first place, just because they received a tonnage of kickbacks and immense diplomatic pressure suddenly all their objections evaporated?? Secondly, why was the tender not contested, why have the terms not been released? What suddenly, out of the blue, changed? Was the UML energy minister not far better?
 
6) Bilateral business treaty with India
Pure hypocrisy, what was the basis of the revolution if not this. Suddenly when the PM comes to power its alright to make long term deals on the sly???

7) Banki Moon's visit...( hopefully)

What about it?? and how is that a governments achievement?????

On the other hand - what is wrong with peace? How is it that 7 items of good are worth 16000 dead bodies? How is it that previous set of governments were evil when they were doing exactly the same things - better and not just saying it?

Forget the past, how is it that Maoist unions continue to be completely out of control losing tremendous amounts of money? How is it that street violence within the PM's own party, among its own members invites no penal action.

I am sorry but I could just keep going on and on and on ,....


27. suman
The original issue in the editorial was about Prachand turning into Putin or Kim Ill.  Really?  I thought, you all brought him and Girija from Delhi in a chariot to fight an evil King and save the country.  


28. vija
The main question here is ,what and who do we vote for when it will be the time to choose the President,PM and do we still want Parlament members to be the same faces we have had for a generation or do we intrust the younger generation,eventhough who have had bounty of mistakes because of being young or imatture,irresponsible ,but having proved with the devotion,loyalty to the the country and it's citizens ,intrust them with the future leadership.We can not move ahead just having our elderly control,we need to trust to the loyal ,devoted and mature people who have proved with their work, devotion to development and in thirst for knowledge and its implementation for Nepal's interests and its citizens.Do you have such people in your mind.Maybe we should make a tentative list and shorty reason why yes,no.I do.Let's stop this constant blaming process,Mr.Suman,The point of the article is about future ideas and what and who we choose to trust and work with.

29. suman
The blame game began with the editorial followed by may others, as if there was no blame to go around.  This selective memory is the problem.  So, if we need to blame, we then need to put everyone on the table: Gyanendra, Deuba, and Girija.  Then there is big daddy of all: India. Prachand, and his company will be there too. Without analyzing all the players, we cannot move forward. 

Remember, Girija shook hands with the Maoists and told us to trust his judgment about mainstreaming the rebels. We accepted it.

Now, about the person leading the country, the editorial made a mistake by focusing on the person rather than the institution. Instead of preparing a list of people, we should focus on designing necessary institutions.  This also includes a strong investigative body that is not afraid to send a corrupt to jail.

If we go for the Presidentship, we need to make sure that there is a term limit. If we go for the parliamentary system, we need to make sure that the government does not change in a whim. (remember, Girija ran the post 1990 era for 9 years in total even though it changed hands 10 times.)

So the debate in Nepal is not about Prachand or BRB or Deuba or Ram Chandra... NC or CPN(M) The debate needs to be about Nepal and its people and the future.




30. Krishna S.
Well, Isn't that the price we pay for democracy in a poor country. Elected leaders can only be the reflection of the society they come from. Look around you. We don't see many sophisticated citizens like you who are likely to sit behind their computers writing these kind of comments when we look around, do we? (They have all migrated to more civilized countries by the way)  So, why should we act surprised when we see  behavior and appearance of some of our elected CA members? And I would not be surprised if Prachand is elected again, this time as a president with a great majority whenever there will be a directly elected race for the big offfice.


31. chaite
i want a directly elected head of government. how long do we vote for kingmakers and not the kings themselves. the people must relieve the legislature of its regime forming duties. b coz that is all that will preoccupy our neurotic leaders forever.

32. Gole
End of the story

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