Kathmandu, December 2
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s acceptance of the $100,000 ‘Leadership and Good Governance Award’ from the controversial Universal Peace Federation at the end of the two-day Asia Pacific Summit here today, has raised ethical questions.
Receiving the award from UPF Co-founder Hak Ja Han Moon, Oli said he took the award as recognition of his government’s sincere effort towards ensuring good governance in the country, and the people’s long struggle and achievements. He pledged to donate the amount to a government fund meant for youths and children.
However, civil society members said the government got into a ‘moral crisis’ due to its association with a controversial INGO and by accepting the award.
Former chief secretary Bimal Koirala said if the award was given just because Nepal hosted the event without transparent selection process, it was wrong on the part of Oli to receive it. “If it is the case, it is not an award but financial assistance,” he said.
Announcing the award, UPF-Nepal Chief Ek Nath Dhakal did not elaborate on the selection process or the jury, but only said the award was presented to ‘those manifesting excellence and practical wisdom with moral and spiritual principles’, adding that candidates from all fields and realms of governance are considered, including leaders from government, civil society organisations, corporations and educational institutions. ‘The past recipients include former and current heads of state/government from across the world.’
Koirala said the government should not have associated with a controversial INGO for an event whose objectives were not clear. “There’s a moral crisis. On what grounds will the government say no if an NGO of similar nature requests to host a similar programme in the country?” he asked.
The UPF has landed in controversy in Nepal for promoting Christianity, and the government’s decision to support the event has been widely criticised, even by leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), since its announcement.
The government also invited criticism for the huge amount being spent on hosting the controversial event, imposition of the odd-even number plate system (revoked after severe criticism) and traffic blockade to make way for visitors’ motorcade putting commuters at the receiving end.
Civil society members said the government’s association with a notorious INGO whose only objective was to promote Christianity, and not world peace or tackle climate change, was a betrayal of the country. “What do you make of a religious leader giving her blessings to Nepali families, saying that Jesus would bring prosperity to them?” asked Dr Sundar Mani Dixit. He added that political leaders, civil society members and journalists who attended retreats in foreign countries under UPF sponsorship had made a case for hosting the event in Nepal. “It is disheartening that our leaders compromised our religion and culture by gobbling up dollars,” he said. “It is a ploy to destabilise Nepal through proselytisation. This is going to jeopardise our relations with both our neighbours.”
Nepali Congress leaders, who were also invited, never showed up. The party’s Central Working Committee today condemned the government for its ‘association with the event and for misusing state resources’.
A version of this article appears in print on December 03, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.