Pursuit of convenience

Holders of public office are supposed to maintain a high degree of personal integrity and ethical conduct. In a democracy, this quality is even more required, because everything is not stipulated in the Constitution and the laws. There is much that is guided by universal practices, accepted norms and plain common sense. But the Nepali body politic has always shown a deficiency of this trait, which did not improve after the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990, after the April Movement, 2006, or even after the implementation of republicanism, though political leaders have been talking big of building

a new Nepal. The inclusion of resigned Minister for Education and Sports Pradip Nepal, along with his wife, in Olympic contingent, has rightly raised an important issue of morality in public life. Several other officials have also flown to Beijing accompanied by their wives, and there are allegations of inclusion of non-playing relatives, too.

It could not have boosted the morale of the eight Nepali sportspersons participating in the Olympics when the Olympic squad had to be specially protected by the police, who had even to lathi-charge jeering crowds assembled there in an attempt to stop the ‘persons unrelated to the sports’ from flying to Beijing. As for Nepal, all the UML ministers had resigned on ‘moral grounds’ after the party’s poor showing in the CA election. There have been reports that some of the ministers are still enjoying the salaries and perks of office. Jhalanath Khanal, acting general secretary of the party, has, however, said that the party will take up the issue ‘seriously’, clarifying that the party’s decision on resignation remains valid, and that any involvement of the resigned ministers in ministerial work of any kind goes against the party decision.

The UML leadership seems to have responded to the incident only after intense public criticism. It should have been able to stop Nepal from flying. As Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala has to answer for this. All three sides directly relevant to the Nepal case have failed their test of morality and responsibility. To recall, the reason given by the government for choosing Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat to represent Nepal in the recent SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting in Colombo was that Sahana Pradhan, foreign minister from the CPN-UML, had resigned. But Nepal had resigned together with her. This double standard and pursuit of mere convenience has brought the reputation of the political parties and the entire body politic very low in the public eye. The Maoist ministers had also resigned. But the fact remains that the public does not know which of them still hold office and which do not. It is mainly the duty of the Prime Minister to clarify the matter, and also of the parties concerned. The Interim Constitution stipulates that ministers become relieved of their responsibility upon submission of their written resignation to the Prime Minister. In a country where transfer of power does not take place even four months after the election of the parliament, it is perhaps too much to ask our political leaders to demonstrate such desirable attributes.