Weekly meet cancelled to duck Mahara issue?

Kathmandu, October 3

The government today cancelled a regular weekly press conference to make public Cabinet decisions ‘to avoid questions’ related to rape allegations against Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who resigned as House speaker on Tuesday.

Minister of Communications and Information Technology and spokesperson for the government Gokul Prasad Baskota told THT that the press meet was cancelled because no Cabinet meeting took place in the past week and there was no Cabinet decision to make public.

However, observers said the fact that the government did not bother to hold a Cabinet meeting to review such a high-profile incident involving the head of a constitutional body suggested the government was not serious about the incident.

Freedom Forum Chief Executive Tara Nath Dahal said the government shying away from taking a position on the high-profile criminal case and making its position public suggested how insensitive it was. “Apparently the government just wants to let the issue fizzle out over time,” he told THT.

Moreover, the press briefing on Thursdays is not just to make public Cabinet decisions, but also an opportunity for mediapersons to seek the government’s opinion on developments in the past week. That is why secretaries and spokespersons for other ministries are also present along with Baskota to answer mediapersons’ queries on a wide variety of issues developing over the past week, besides Cabinet decisions.

Prof P Kharel, a renowned journalist, said cancellation of the press conference was purely because the government did not want to make its position clear on the Mahara episode.

“Either the government wants to dodge questions related to the Mahara scandal, or the government spokesperson does not know what the role of a spokesperson for a democratic government is,” said Kharel.

Neither the government nor the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has made public their position on the incident, except for the NCP’s decision on Tuesday to advise Mahara to resign from both his posts — speaker and  lawmaker.

Although Mahara tendered his resignation as House speaker — an ‘incomplete’ one on Tuesday and another one yesterday — he has not yet resigned as lawmaker. The ruling party expects him to ‘use his conscience’ while deciding whether to step down as lawmaker or not.

A staffer of the Parliament Secretariat had accused Mahara of raping her, and police said they were investigating the allegation.