Conflicting claims by ruling leaders complicate MCC ratificationConflicting views from Deuba and Dahal have raised a serious question—at least one person is lying.
Nepal’s major political parties have long been divided over the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a United States government programme under which Nepal is to receive $500 million.
Amid debates whether the MCC should be endorsed from Parliament, a letter, said to have been sent to the MCC headquarters, has added to the confusion.
According to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, he and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chair of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), have sent a joint letter assuring its passage through Parliament.
Dahal, however, has said no such promise has been made.
Dahal is Deuba’s key partner in the current ruling coalition.
Dahal has not refuted Deuba’s claim that a letter has been sent but he says they have sought more time for the US programme’s endorsement.
Conflicting views from two top leaders have raised a serious question—at least one person is lying.
The main opposition CPN-UML, which has not made its position clear on the MCC, has dared Deuba to make the letter public. It has also demanded to reveal the channel through which he and Dahal communicated to the MCC headquarters.
At least three officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Finance told the Post that their agencies were unaware of such a letter.
“We have not made any communication from our ministry regarding what you are asking,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official. “All correspondence regarding the MCC so far has been made through the Ministry of Finance.”
In the first week of September, the government had written to the MCC headquarters regarding some concerns that have been raised about the American grant.
The concerns were sent via the Finance Ministry, undersigned by Finance Minister Janardan Sharma.
A senior Finance Ministry official said he was not aware of any joint letter sent by Deuba and Dahal to the MCC headquarters.
“At least I am not aware of any letter sent through our ministry,” said the official. “We came to know about such a letter when the prime minister spoke about it.”
A secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office also denied that any letter had been sent to the MCC headquarters from the office.
Deuba on Thursday told reporters at the Tribhuvan International Airport, upon his return from the World Leaders Summit of COP26 in Glasgow, that he and Dahal had sent a letter to the MCC headquarters assuring the agreement’s parliamentary ratification.
“Prachanda [Dahal] ji and I have sent a letter [to the MCC headquarters] with the commitment that the MCC would be passed,” Deuba told journalists at the airport.
Deuba had also held a meeting with Alexia Latortue, deputy chief executive officer of the MCC, on the sidelines of the climate conference.
Latortue had asked Deuba about the MCC’s status and its parliamentary ratification. Deuba said that he told Latortue it would be ratified after consultation with the parties.
Even leaders of Deuba’s party, Nepali Congress, could not provide any concrete answer about the letter that Deuba claims to have sent.
“I am not aware of the letter but if the prime minister is saying he has sent a letter, there is no need to disbelieve him,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, joint general secretary of the Nepali Congress.
Deuba’s revelation that he, along with Dahal, has sent a letter to the MCC headquarters follows concerns from the US programme about the delay in its parliamentary ratification.
The MCC has become a hotly debated issue in Nepal with political parties, public intellectuals and experts sharply divided over its endorsement. Some argue that it is nothing but a development grant while others say its parliamentary ratification in the present form will undermine Nepal’s sovereignty. Though the US embassy in Kathmandu and the MCC headquarters have clarified that the MCC compact has no primacy over Nepal’s constitution, some political parties, including the Maoist Centre, and public intellectuals have been calling for revision to some of its clauses.
The MCC headquarters has continuously been reminding the Nepal government for early endorsement of the compact.
The current ruling coalition is made up of four major parties.
The Nepali Congress wants its immediate ratification from the House, but the Maoist Centre and the CPN (Unified Socialist) have reservations over some of the points in the agreement, as they believe these conditions undermine Nepal’s sovereignty.
The Maoist Centre and the CPN (Unified Socialist) have been saying that there should be a national consensus on passing the MCC compact from Parliament. They also want a revision to some provisions in the agreement.
The Janata Samajbadi Party is for MCC ratification, but it has not made any preconditions public.
“I am not aware of the content of the letter but our position is clear that until there is a national consensus, the MCC will not be ratified,” said Dev Gurung, a Standing Committee member of the Maoist Centre.
Gurung is a staunch opponent of the MCC.
He also could not offer any insights into how the letter was sent.
Beduram Bhusal, general secretary of the CPN (Unified Socialist), said his party is unaware of any letter sent to the MCC headquarters.
“Our party will raise this issue at the meeting of the ruling alliance,” said Bhusal.
As if the controversy surrounding the MCC, which was signed by Nepal in 2017, was not enough, Deuba and Dahal’s conflicting statements have created more confusion.
Former prime minister and UML chair KP Sharma Oli said on Monday that either Deuba Oli or Dahal had lied to the nation on the MCC letter.
“The prime minister says he has undersigned the letter, while Dahal has given a different statement. So one of them is lying,” said Oli while speaking to reporters at Biratnagar airport.
At least two knowledgeable sources told the Post that a letter has indeed been sent to the MCC and it was done directly through the US embassy in Kathmandu.
The Post could not independently verify the claim.
There is also confusion about the content of the letter, as both Deuba and Dahal have given conflicting statements.
A former Nepali career diplomat said that such important communication from the head of the government should be made through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Finance Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office.
“If we follow the diplomatic code of conduct, all communications should be made through the state entities and since the MCC has become a controversial topic in Nepal, people have the right to know what has been communicated and how it was communicated,” said the diplomat who wished to remain anonymous.