Curtain up or down?

The row over Sitaram Prasain, a former chairman of a development bank accused of committing financial irregularities amounting to 280 million rupees, threatens to affect the relationship between Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the CPN-Maoist. The Young Communist League (YCL), the youth wing of the Maoists, had taken Prasain into custody on Sunday and made him public at the Open Air Theatre the next day, before handing him over to the Metropolitan Police at Hanuman Dhoka. The PM, responding to a complaint by an FNCCI delegation at Baluwatar on Monday, got into an angry mood and branded the YCL as “Young Criminal League” for its handling of Prasain, and declared, “I’ll spare nobody. Nobody is allowed to make a mockery of law and order”. But Krishna Bahadur Mahara, a Maoist minister and government spokesperson, yesterday replied by terming Koirala’s statements the result of a “criminal mindset”, and Sagar, chief of the YCL’s Valley Bureau, labelled Koirala as the PM of “a handful of corrupt and criminal people”, threatening to stage nationwide protests until he withdrew his comment.

But Prasain is not a person for Koirala and the Maoists to fight over. There is no doubt that Prasain’s case needs to be taken to its logical conclusion. But for that, the proceedings must be initiated. The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) was reported to have sent a letter nine months ago (on Bhadra 26, 2063 BS) to the police headquarters asking the latter to arrest Prasain. But the authorities did not act on it, and he was rather seen to be hobnobbing with senior police officials and political leaders. That led to public doubts that he enjoyed political and official protection. The extent of his offence can be determined only after the due process of law is completed, but his public image is far from glorious. That is why Koirala’s remarks might prove a liability to him, besides the fact that he has proved helpless in dealing with financial crimes.

Nobody except a competent authority has the right to sit in judgement and pronounce verdicts. But any member of the public can help the authorities by getting hold of the accused and handing him or her to the police, as such instances abound in the country. Besides, governments have promoted the slogan that every citizen is a policeman or policewoman without uniform. The PM’s charge against YCL puts him under an obligation either to withdraw his charge or to act against the YCL. In addition, it is the duty of the government to provide justice to the shareholders who had invested 700 million rupees in the ill-fated bank. Of course, the accused should receive a fair trial. Koirala would improve the government’s and his own reputation by seizing the initiative to crack down on financial corruption, an evil that has eaten so much into the body politic that the general people seem to despair of any good coming of any commitments of the political leaders. No government can create a new Nepal by showing helplessness in the face of financial scandals and irregularities.