Minister Bhattarai draws flak for VN 2020 promotion in Australia

  • Tourism minister was part of the procession that was stopped by Sydney cops

Kathmandu, January 7

Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai inadvertently dragged himself into another controversy today after organising the inauguration ceremony of Visit Nepal 2020 campaign in Sydney. Social media is flush with criticism of Minister Bhattarai’s decision to hold such an event while deadly bushfires rage across Australia.

The Nepali promotional team that reached the Opera House for the inauguration was stopped by the city police. It is learnt that the team comprising non-resident Nepalis, representatives from Nepali embassy and other stakeholders led by the minister was holding a rally carrying banners and flags for the campaign promotion.

“The minister and others were holding a promotional rally when the city police stopped the procession,” said Rohit Bista, an NRN from Australia. “Any organisation has to take permission from the city council of New South Wales, but the campaign team had not done so. They were carrying flags and banners which are banned in certain places in Australia.”

Bista added that the government should have realised that the Australian government had imposed emergency in certain areas hit by bushfires. It is an inappropriate time to be promoting the campaign when the entire nation is in grief, he said.

According to Reuters, more than 10.3 million hectares of land — an area the size of South Korea — has been razed by bushfires across the country in recent weeks. The two-month-long bushfires have claimed lives of 25 people and damaged thousands of houses, besides causing immeasurable loss to wildlife.

Tourism Minister Bhattarai’s secretariat later issued a press statement claiming that information regarding the inauguration of VN 2020 in Sydney being conveyed on social media sites was not genuine.

The press statement has mentioned that the team, including Minister Bhattarai, Jonathan O’Dea, speaker of the New South Wales’ Legislative Assembly, NRNA Australia President Keshav Kandel and other stakeholders completed the rally in a peaceful manner and made it to the Opera House for formal events.

“As the rally comprised more than 100 people carrying flags and banners, the city police stopped the procession and conducted a normal inquiry,” the statement reads, adding that after the police were informed about the campaign, the rally was allowed to continue. However, the participants were asked not to carry any banners or flags, the statement adds.

Bhattarai’s secretariat claimed that news doing the rounds on social media that the rally was halted was not factual.

Meanwhile, updating his status on Facebook, Bhattarai claimed that they had conducted a silent rally and the inauguration ceremony was a grand success.