New frontier

The Cabinet on Sunday annulled, with immediate effect, all ‘political’ appointments made by the governments formed after the royal takeover of October 4, 2004. As a result, twelve people have lost their ambassadorships, including those accredited to India, China, the US and the UN; and so have more than 100 ‘political’ appointees to various corporations and semi-government agencies. While these are decisions in the right direction, the process should not stop with these changes or with an additional reshuffle of responsibilities of some in the bureaucracy. Indeed, in the past, too, every new government had tended to replace old ‘political’ appointees with new ones, as well as secretaries, chiefs of key government departments, CDOs, and some of the important police officials. The royal government had virtually changed the entire set.

Judged, therefore, in the light of past practice, the government’s decision does not seem so much radical as natural. What is, however, entirely new is the one-stroke revocation of all the ‘political’ appointments. But the government’s most important test will come with respect to the security forces. True, it has constituted a five-member commission under retired Supreme Court judge Krishnajung Rayamajhi to investigate excesses committed against the pro-democracy crusaders during the 19-day Jana Andolan, but many people seem to have some misgivings that the public stature and track record of most of its members may impinge on the quality of the report, therefore putting an extra onus on the members to remove these doubts. Anyway, it will take some time for the report to arrive as the commission has yet to start work. But this should not prevent the government from suspending people obviously seen to have committed excesses pending the panel’s report.

The chiefs of various bodies, including the security agencies, who fully backed regression or supinely carried out the previous regime’s orders, would do well to resign on moral grounds, all the more so in deference to the feelings expressed through the historic mass movement. Or else, it is the duty of this government installed and this parliament revived by people power to see to it. While such resignations and dismissals are urgently called for, it is also highly important to ensure that persons with loyalty to people power, who are competent, and have financial and moral integrity should be promoted or appointed to the vacant posts, rather than those with mere party affiliation, who could contribute funds, or who have family or other connections to those in power, as often happened in the past. This government also owes a special responsiblity: that of starting the process of adopting good practices. In this case, it would be doing a huge service to good governance by introducing the system of vetting appointees in terms of competence, qualifications, probity and public acceptability before allowing them to assume any key office.