Kathmandu, May 16: ‘Chase away corrupt persons: Protect democracy’, ‘Where does taxpayers’ money go? Into corrupt officials’ pockets’, ‘Salute to your courage: Beware of faltering’, ‘Who bought you a bungalow worth millions of rupees?’.
These are the slogans sported on placards in the anti-corruption protests staged by civil society persons in the federal capital, Kathmandu, and other cities in the wake of the fake Bhutanese refugee scam. The slogans clearly indicate that democracy is being threatened by corrupt persons- politicos and bureaucrats in cahoots with cabals and brokers. The tax citizens pay is not for citizen’s service and good governance but for individual benefit. Similarly, the demonstrators have both thanked government, especially the Home Ministry, for nabbing high profile politico and equally warned of not faltering the move taken against corrupt practices.
After former Home Minister and influential leader of Nepali Congress, Balkrishna Khand, was arrested from Maijubahal, Kathmandu on charge of involvement in fake Bhutanese refugee scam, even a rung of youth leaders of Nepali Congress, including Gururaj Ghimire and others, met with Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shretha and thanked him for the anti-corruption initiative. They also wished that he forwarded fair investigation into the scam not by cowering before undue influence and unjust pressure.
Needless to say, it is probably ‘highest profile scam’ in Nepal where the victims are blaming and naming significant leaders of various political parties having their involvement. The sitting secretary of government, Tek Narayan Pande, was arrested in this connection, while the absconding former Deputy Prime Minister, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, was arrested from his friend’s residence at Budhanilakantha, Kathmandu on Sunday evening. He was arrested after 11 days of issuance of arrest warrant against him. His son was already arrested by the police in this connection.
Also the Secretary of CPN UML, Rayamajhi, has however been suspended by the party after issuance of arrest warrant. It is learnt that meeting of the Nepali Congress vehemently debated whether to suspend leader Khand from the party. But, argument that- he cooperated with police investigation into the scam and he was not yet convicted of crime- prevailed and no action was taken.
Preparing every document fake and making them legal with sheer misuse of highest power- the authority from Home Ministry and sending Nepali people as Bhutanese refugee to the US is not an ordinary corruption but an organized crime, human trafficking crime, and even crime against State, as the legal and security experts have said. Rendering Nepalis stateless with fake document in the guise of Bhutanese refugee is a crime against state. It is the observation made by the security experts in this scam.
The scam and involvement of gangsters which are near political parties and have the capacity to easily influence important leaders and top government officials shows how our politics and bureaucracy are rotting on top, to the core. Cabals and brokers have taken politics and authority in their hands! Isn’t it high time our political parties mulled their role and relevance, trust and service? How to trust the bureaucrats who enter service through ‘lok sewa’ (public service) and devote to ‘personal sewa’ during professional career?
As the media have reported and leaders of different parties made public their views on it, the scam evolved over multiple years where the governments changed and so were Home Ministers and Home Secretaries. One after another, the gangsters were able to exert pressure on the Home Ministers and Secretaries. In case then Home Secretary, Joint Secretary and other bureaucrats had questioned the conspiracy being hatched, would the Home Ministers hesitate to involve? Who was/were above Home Minister to instruct him to continue such evil business? Are political leaders obliged to do what bureaucrats say or vice versa?
Moreover, even the anti-grant body, CIAA was fully aware of such wrongdoing, but did not take any initiative to address it. As per media reports, the victims who gave money to the brokers and middlemen complained at the CIAA that they neither sent them to US nor returned their money. But, CIAA hushed the complaint, the media stories added. It further exposes institutional erosion.
These unfolding incidents on the scam substantiate the argument that we are plagued by corruption-friendly politics and governance.
The scam has now been an international disgrace to Nepal, for it has duped not only Nepalis, but also those stateless Bhutanese refugees and botched up their resettlement bid to foreign country. It is appalling how the foreign countries and development partners evaluate Nepal where political leaders never tire of committing to good governance but involve and promote such ill efforts- human trafficking, organized crime, and crime against the state.
It is time to see how the government, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha take confidence of other parties and leaders and advance fair and rigorous investigation and bring culprits to book. As different party leaders have involvement, it is a multi-party crime.
An independent lawmaker Amaresh Singh has been saying for some weeks that corruption and scam are brewed by ‘multi-party consensus’ in Nepal.
So, it needs cooperation from various sides to break the nexus of such multi-party corruption. Constant vigilance from media and civil society is also important at this moment so that the case would not be watered down. If those, irrespective of party and posts, involved in this high level policy corruption are meted out justice, it will undoubtedly set an exemplary precedent in country’s anti-corruption bid.