Giri should go because he must

Ram Pradhan

The pressure is mounting on Dr Tulsi Giri, the first vice chairman of the controversial lame duck administration, to quit office for having conveniently postponed repayment of loan taken from the Nepal Bank Limited (NBL), some 20 years ago. Yes, he has not been formally charged, but the alleged appearance of his ‘illustrious’ name in the blacklist of wilful defaulters makes a hell of a reading for the general public for reasons, strange and not so strange. Not to lag behind, his one-time vibrant and vivacious consort too has caught up in the 100-metre dash to, God only knows, which destination.

When the media asked the 79-year-old returnee if he would resign over the unexpected disclosure of misdemeanour on his part, the dapper panchayat purist dismissed the insinuation with an arrogant “why should I?” For records, let it be stated here that in the partyless era, Dr Giri resigned from the top dogship twice, announcing that he had had policy differences, first with King Mahendra and later with King Birendra. It seems there is no policy divergence between him and the present monarch to trigger a similar separation but the case for quitting on moral grounds is just too strong to be brushed aside. The ‘hardliner’ will do himself a Sagarmatha of good if he quits now, and if he can, stage a ‘triumphant’ return, so to speak, like his colleague Kirtinidhi Bista and Dr Ram Saran Mahat in May 1979 and October 1996 respectively.

Very rarely, if at all, politicians of Nepal have bothered to resign on moral grounds however serious and far-reaching the allegations or the nature of the scandal may be. To Bista’s credit goes his prompt and independent decision to forego the prime ministerial chair, accepting moral responsibility, in July 1973 in the wake of gigantic fire that completely gutted the Singha Durbar. Finance minister Mahat did the same thing, on moral grounds, in July 1996 when his ‘illegal’ dollar account in a New York bank was revealed. The most interesting feature of the melodrama was Bista and Mahat were somehow exonerated and allowed to reclaim power — the former after four years and the latter after three months.

The first vice chairman is losing his cool and is making one mistake after another. In his maiden and perhaps the only tête-à-tête with the Kathmandu-based heads of diplomatic missions so far, Giri is alleged to have sermonised unprovoked: “I don’t believe in democracy, the King does.’’ A man who is capable of making a statement of this kind can only erode further the country’s already fractured international credibility. His contention that the NBL has not informed him about his belated entry into the sanctuary of distinguished defaulters will be remembered as one of the most ridiculous conundrums that adorn the political landscape of Nepal.

Giri has to go because he must. When you borrow public money, you have to pay (with interest) irrespective of whether you are as-ked to do so or not. As he departs he should nonetheless remember, for his future reference, this absolute truth about peace he claims he is working towards but at the cost of freedom: You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has freedom.