In the Lalita Niwas case, it's catch some, spare someThe ruling party is making a mockery of the rule of law, but the opposition's actions deserve rebuke too.
The recent handling of the Lalita Niwas land scam by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the response to it from political parties has shown how entrenched the notions of corruption, nepotism and cronyism are in the country. The anti-corruption watchdog was initially hailed for charging 175 individuals in the massive criminal case. But it seems that the CIAA, envisioned as an independent body to check the executive branch’s dealings, was influenced by the current government in its investigations. What else can explain the implication of some individuals but the exoneration of others, seemingly divided by party lines?
The opposition, Nepali Congress, apparently saw the bias too. While Congress party member Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, who was minister for physical infrastructure and works when the fraud took place, was implicated and charged, then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal—a member of the ruling party—was not. While the watchdog said the prime minister’s exoneration comes due to its mandate not covering decisions taken by the Council of Ministers, Gachhadar, a minister then, was still somehow charged.
Similar biases seem to apply to Nepal Communist Party General Secretary Bishnu Poudel and his son Nabin Poudel, even as the younger Poudel bought a piece of land that was previously part of Lalita Niwas. It does seem suspect that particular individuals attached to the ruling party, and allegedly part of the graft, have eluded any indictment. This whole situation is embarrassing.
The ruling party is making an open mockery of the rule of law and fairness. It is taking advantage of its absolute majority and revelling in the impunity that its current strength affords. But the Nepal Communist Party would do well to remember that its actions are being recorded in history; the popular protests surrounding controversial actions, such as the curbing of freedom of speech or the Guthi Bill, should have shown the ruling party that the people will only tolerate so much. Yet, while the ruling party deserves rebuke for its part in embracing vested interests over justice, the actions of the opposition should also be reprimanded.
The current opposition is weak, its own party members and lawmakers have accepted this. But to have such a myopic view of the current matter—to scold the CIAA for playing favourites in the Lalita Niwas case but not condemning the corruption itself—shows how far it has fallen. It seems held bent on protecting Gachhadar, never mind taking up a strong position against the scam itself. Further, instead of taking to the streets or raising the issues in Parliament like the check on the government that it is supposed to be, the Congress has been obstructing the proceedings of the House. This is a flawed and damaging way of effecting change in the system.
For years, the political parties warred and banded together, alternately, while letting cronyism and nepotism trump over meritocracy and the rule of law. The cases of seat-sharing between parties in the transitional justice bodies and in the executive of public universities are just the tip of the iceberg. But it is lamentable that political culture has eroded to a point where even a massive public investigation by the anti-corruption watchdog has a factional bias to it. The government must make amends, lest the people hold it accountable in the next elections. The opposition too must do its part in fairness, lest it becomes even more irrelevant in the public eye than it already is.
What do you think?
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