During meeting with experts, Oli complains about criticism of the governmentDeuba demands investigation into controversial Omni deal.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday invited experts from various fields to Baluwatar to listen to their suggestions on how the government should deal with rising cases of Covid-19.
Though Oli listened to opposition leaders, economists, planners, medical doctors and public health professionals, he also took the gathering as an opportunity to vent his angst against criticism levelled against him. During the meeting, he said some media outlets, civil society members and even members of his party didn’t appreciate the work the government was doing despite the limited resources at its disposal.
According to the experts present during the meeting, Oli said some people and media outlets were always looking for opportunities to criticise the government. “The government has been doing its best to control the spread of Covid-19, and it has performed well despite limited resources. However, there is only negative coverage in the media,” Jagdish Chandra Pokharel, former vice-chairman at the National Planning Commission quoted Oli as saying.
Oli, according to Pokharel, said that as even developed and well-resourced countries are struggling to contain the pandemic, what Nepal was doing with its limited resources should have been appreciated.
Oli, on different occasions, has been attacking the media for criticising the government. In his May Day speech, he had said some media outlets and social media users were inviting instability by writing against the government.
According to Ram Saran Bajagain, media expert at the Prime Minister’s Office, Oli said some sections in the society were taking the crisis as an opportunity to attack the government. “The government was criticised for imposing a lockdown. Now it is facing attacks for easing it. The tendency to criticise whatever it does should be stopped,” he quoted Oli as saying.
During the meeting, Oli also criticised his fellow partymen alleging that some of his own colleagues were insensitive towards Covid-19. He said while the government has imposed a ban on gathering of more than 25 people, some of the party leaders were demanding a meeting of the central committee with around 450 members. He said controlling pandemics wasn’t just the job of the government.
Experts, who attended the meeting, presented a mix of suggestions regarding whether the government should enforce a lockdown again or not. While some suggested a complete lockdown, others were in favour of imposing some restrictions, but not a total lockdown.
“As the number of cases has been increasing rapidly, especially in Kathmandu, I suggested a complete lockdown in the Capital for two weeks,” said Pokharel. “I also urged the government to step up tests and contact tracing effectively.”
However, the dominant voice was for a regulated movement of people, but not a complete lockdown. Sameer Mani Dixit, director of research at Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, suggested that the government should opt for localised lockdowns instead of nationwide shutdowns. “However, there should be some restrictions as people have started behaving as if there’s no risk, after the lockdown was eased,” he told the Post.
Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was also present in the meeting, said the decision on enforcing the lockdown or easing it should be taken after evaluating the situation of virus spread in the community. He, however, strongly demanded an investigation into alleged irregularities and corruption in the procurement of medical kits and protective gear, according to experts present at the meeting.
The government’s decision in March to award the contract to procure medical kits and protective gear to Omni Business Corporate International courted controversy as the government didn’t comply with public procurement rules while awarding the contract. Questions were also raised over the quality of the equipment procured by Omni. However, the case hasn’t been investigated.
Deuba also demanded a fair assessment of the government’s weaknesses in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Making public the list of demands Deuba presented before Oli, party’s Chief Secretary Krishna Prasad Poudel said the main opposition has also demanded 100,000 polymerase chain reaction tests in each province and a complete halt to rapid diagnostic tests.
Deuba also alerted the government to make health equipment, essential medicines, enough isolation wards and ventilators ready as the threat of coronavirus rises.