EDITORIAL: Begin thorough probe

The government should start a thorough investigation, and there must be no attempt by the state to influence the outcome

The conclusion by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that a high-level cadre of the outlawed Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal was killed extra-judicially by the police in Sarlahi in June is a serious violation of human rights in the country and must be condemned strongly. The NHRC’s investigation has shown that Kumar Paudel, Sarlahi in-charge of the party, was shot nine times after he was taken under control following an encounter in Lalbandi, Sarlahi in south-east Nepal on June 20. The police all along have been claiming that Paudel had died when the police opened fire in self-defence against four communist party cadres, on two motorbikes, who fired on a

police patrol in the Lalbandi forests. Both the police and the Home Minister had asserted that Paudel had died in the ‘encounter’, but his family members and eyewitnesses have being disputing the claim. The family members question how someone who was killed in a shootout could have possibly broken his arm at several places.

Following the investigation, the NHRC has recommended the suspension of three police officials directed involved in the incident – Inspector Krishna Dev Prasad Sah and two constables - and file criminal charges against them. An investigation of the officers issuing the orders to take action has also been demanded while serving a reprimand to some others closed related to the incident. With the release of the NHRC’s report, it is now only right that the government should start a thorough investigation into the incident. The police must cooperate with the investigation of the incident without taking sides, and there must be no attempt by the state to influence the investigation to protect those who are guilty. The investigation must be fair in the eyes of the public to be credible. Should it be established that the accused had been a party to the extra-judicial killing, impunity should not be granted to them.

For too long, politicians, military and police personnel in the country, especially during and after the decade-long insurgency, have been exempted from punishment for carrying out even the most heinous crimes. More than a decade after the end of the insurgency, those involved in extra-judicial killings or engaged in forced disappearances, both from the state or the Maoist side, have yet to be tried and punished. This has bred a culture of impunity, with rights violators walking the streets without fear of anyone. But all this must come to an end if the rule of law and peace are to prevail in the country. Regardless of who commits a crime, the state, influential party cadres or ordinary people, they must answer for their actions. Let the Lalbandi investigation be a turning point in bringing the guilty to book. Otherwise, violence will only breed more violence, with no end to it. As recommended by the NHRC, Chand’s communist party should also stop its violent activities and enter mainstream politics. The series of bomb blasts targeting infrastructure, communications facilities and extortion are not only illegal but also acts of terrorism. It cannot expect the state to stay a mute spectator to the ongoing acts of sheer wanton destruction.

Tunnel road

PM KP Sharma Oli on Monday laid the foundation stone of the 2.68-km-long Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road, which is expected to reduce traffic jam on the Naubise-Nagdhunga section of the Tribhuvan Rajpath. This is going to be the first ever tunnel road in the country. After initiating the tunnel road, PM Oli said Nepal had entered the era of tunnel roads, and also urged the Japanese contractor, Hazma Ando, to complete the project within 42 months.

JICA is providing a soft loan of $141.41 million to Nepal for the construction of the tunnel. The project cost stands at around $188.19 million. The remaining cost will be borne by the Nepal government, which will be used to provide compensation for land acquisition. Once the tunnel is built, it is expected to cut the travel time from one hour to just 15 minutes to cover the 14-km distance while also saving a lot of fuel. Recently, the government has identified as many as 15 tunnel roads across the country with a view to easing traffic movement on the major highways. Tunnel roads are very expensive compared to surface roads. In a mountainous country like Nepal, tunnel roads, however, can become a game changer as they are durable and cut short the travel distance.