Nepal | October 22, 2019

Nepali Army issues gag order to its employees

Jagdishor Panday

Chief of Army Staff Purna Chandra Thapa addressing army officials on the first day of ‘Military Code of Conduct Week-2076’ at Army Headquarters, in Kathmandu, on April 19, 2019. Photo: Nepal Army

Kathmandu, April 19

Nepali Army has issued a gag order to its incumbent and retired employees, barring them from sharing any confidential information and operation details related to the organisation.

The Code of Conduct-2019, unveiled by the Chief of Army Staff Purna Chandra Thapa today, states that army personnel should not reveal sensitive information related to Nepali Army to the public while in office and after their retirement.

“If army personnel fail to follow the code of conduct, action will be taken as per the provisions in the Military Act,” Thapa said.

The act states that employees who disclose confidential information can be imprisoned for two to 10 years. However, provisions of the act do not apply to army personnel who have been retired for more than six months.

“Despite this, we can take action against all retired army personnel because a steering committee formed under defence minister had issued a directive in May 2016 stating action would be taken against all incumbent and retired personnel who disclose classified information and put national integrity and sovereignty at stake,” said NA Spokesperson Bigyan Dev Pandey.

Lately, Nepali Army has been tightening the noose around its former employees who express views on politics and security issues. It recently issued a warning letter to retired brigadier general Prem Singh Basnyat for making “controversial” comments on political and security issues.

“We hope the code of conduct will make the organisation more professional,” said CoAS Thapa.

The code was issued after former chiefs of army staff started publishing biographies disclosing information deemed sensitive by Nepali Army. So far, Rookmangud Katawal and Chhatra Man Singh Gurung have published autobiographies, ‘An Autobiography by Rookmangud Katawal’ and ‘Janatako Chhora: Maharthi Chhatra Man Singh Gurung’.

Former lieutenant general Kul Bahadur Khadka was all set to publish his autobiography. But he was prevented from doing so after Nepali Army issued a letter to all the personnel who were planning to publish such books.

“Public disclosure of sensitive information was tarnishing Nepali Army’s image,” said retired major general and security expert Binoj Basnyat. “So, introduction of the code is a step towards restoring the image of the institution.”

The code bars army personnel from meeting politicians and diplomats without taking prior permission. It also asks army personnel to be careful while commenting on social media or sharing social media posts.

“The introduction of the code will help NA introduce reforms,” said security expert Geja Sharma Wagle. “In the past, army personnel were found visiting residences of political leaders to get a promotion. Hopefully, this trend will end.”

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A version of this article appears in print on April 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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