EDITORIAL: Moral turpitude

Mahara’s bad conduct is a setback to the party and the political system, and a betrayal of those who had voted him to the high post

Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara stepped down from his post Tuesday afternoon under pressure from his party and the social media, following allegations of rape made by a woman working at the Parliament Secretariat. Mahara is also under pressure from his Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to step down as Member of Parliament, which means he will no longer be able to participate in the House proceedings. He is a lawmaker from constituency 3, Dang in mid-west Nepal. Following allegations of rape, which is a serious criminal offence involving violence, Mahara should now be treated like any commoner and taken into custody for further investigation. Separate laws cannot be applied for people committing the same crime. The least we expect from him now is to cooperate with the investigations to establish whether he actually committed the crime or not. He insists that he has been framed by the woman working on deputation at the Parliamentary Secretariat after he could not prevent her transfer from Kathmandu elsewhere. The victim, however, has a different story to tell and says she was raped by Mahara, under alcoholic influence, Sunday evening. There are bruises all over her body to show she had been violently attacked that night at her rented flat in Tinkune while trying to ward off the sexual assault.

The woman has so far refused to file an FIR (first information report) in writing although the police had asked her to do so, after being briefed about the incident that very evening. Regardless of whether the victim files an FIR or not, the government, as the plaintiff, will handle the case as rape is a serious criminal case. In a case like this, there is always that likelihood of the victim being intimidated into changing his or her story. So the state has the moral obligation to provide full protection to the woman so that there is no attack from any quarters or intimidation of any kind. Of late, cadres of the ruling NCP have been using intimidating tactics to silence opposition voices. Both the state and the ruling party must allow for a thorough, impartial investigation and not try to influence the legal proceedings. This is all the more important as the media and the people will be closely watching how things will move ahead.

Despite Mahara’s denial, evidences are stacking up against him. His bad conduct is a big setback to the party and the political system, and a betrayal of those who had voted him to the high post. Mahara was appointed to the post under the bhagbanda (post sharing) between the two big left parties that now make the NCP, and the party must be ruing its decision, especially given that he does not have a very dignified political past. He had been drawn into controversy on multiple occasions on matters involving big money. He was basically a politician who rose to prominence for negotiating the end of the Maoist insurgency, but he definitely was not the right person to lead the Parliament. Mahara has insisted that he has stepped down to allow a competent authority to decide the case, but regardless of the outcome, he knows that this is the end of his political career.

An ODF country

Nepal was declared the first open defecation free (ODF) country in South Asia on Monday after all the 753 local levels in 77 districts were declared ODF. The ODF campaign was first started in the schools in 2011, and it was launched at the national level to meet the target of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 for sanitation. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has stated that as many as 5,660,214 toilets have been built across the country since 2011.

However, the toilets do not meet the demands of the citizens. These toilets are not as per the population density, and most of them lack water supply. Timely maintenance of toilets and proper water supply to them also need to be taken into consideration. Although the government has declared the country as ODF, most of the urban centres and rural areas do not have adequate number of public toilets with facility of running water. Kathmandu Metropolitan City, for example, has only 57 public toilets, and most of them lack water supply. An area is declared an ODF zone when every household has built at least one private toilet and all the family members use it regularly. A major challenge for the government is to build functional public toilets in the market areas.