Time To Demonstrate True Leadership

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Corruption is a form of dishonesty. Criminal offenses, which are undertaken by individuals or organisations, have negative influences on the society. They abuse power and authority to acquire illicit benefits for one’s personal gains. Corruption and crime go hand in hand and is known as an endemic sociological occurrence that happens in all countries. Political corruption occurs when office-holders and other government employees use their government positions for personal gains. Stephan D. Morris, a professor of politics, has written that political corruption is illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest. There are petty corruption which occurs at a smaller scale at the implementation point of public services like at registration offices, police stations and different private and government sectors. 

Then there is the grand corruption which occurs at the highest levels of government in a way that requires significant subversion of political, legal and economic systems. Such types of corruption are commonly found in countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments. However, such grand corruption is also found in countries without adequate policing of corruption.  Nepal has been ranked as the 110th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries according to the 2022 Corruption Perception Index reported by Transparency International. Several serious cases of corruption have been exposed in Nepal after it was declared a Federal Republic. However, a state of impunity seems to be prevalent in this country as most of the cases come up with grand fanfare but fizzle away without punishments and actions against the perpetrators. 

Dark spot

May of 2023 could be seen as a dark spot in Nepali history as the scandal of the fake refugees sent abroad was highlighted by Devendra Bhattarai for CIJ, Nepal. It will be even darker if proper actions are not taken against the accused. In this grand scheme of corruption, many people at the highest level of government officials, including the former home minister and former deputy prime ministers have been implicated. This investigative reporting has exposed a grand corruption that had been skillfully swept under the carpets. Names of 875 Nepalis were added to a fake schedule of a report of Bhutanese Refugees which is yet to be made public. The first corruption is that bona fide Nepali citizens were turned into Bhutanese refugees. 

This not only indicates a process of human trafficking, it is also going against the trust with the country and international rules and regulations which facilitated the transfer of refugees to move on to a country where they could be given a new identity and citizenship status. Rupees 1-5 million was extorted from each of these 875 Nepalis and they were given fake refugee ID cards. The investigative report mentions that in June 2019, a taskforce had been set up by the government, led by Bal Krishna Panthi with Ganesh Bahadur KC and Deepak Prasad Neupane as members, to address the Bhutanese refugee issue. This committees report was manipulated by a gang to add 875 Nepali Citizens. 

Since this investigative story has been out, the Nepal Police became active, issuing arrest warrants in the names of former deputy prime minister and home minister with high level government civil officers. In this process those, who had held such responsibilities, chose to abscond instead of coming out in the open. Ultimately some of the accused have now chosen to surrender and are being questioned by the police. A fair trial is definitely the need of the moment but the trial has to be accountable towards the nation and the people. There have been ample examples where corruption cases have been exposed but also closed due to “no evidence” or due to tempering of evidences. 

Repeatedly names of politicians and their family members are being dragged into scandals of corruption and now this accusation of a grand corruption has blown the minds of the general population. It has also made Nepal look like a joke in front of the global audience.  This time proper investigation and fair trial has to be done to benefit the nation and its sovereignty. Turning 875 bona fide Nepali citizens into non Nepalis that too in the protection of Home Ministry is an attack on the sovereignty of this country. This whole process has also shown that nepotism within political parties hinders the growth of the cause of politics and interest of the nation. 

Nepotism

The system of one spouse contesting under first-past-the-post (FPTP) and the other under the proportional representation goes against the real benefit having a combination of these two systems for strengthening the state apparatus and uniting the people of the country. The purpose is to have a gender and social inclusion in the parliament, however, it only succeeded in giving a place to nepotism. The current leaders in the government and the main opposition now need to come out of their petty interests and review the current facts that have emerged exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country that has an international dimension to it.

This is the time for them to emerge as true leaders and make sure the nation and its people get justice by supporting the hopefully un-biased and independent police investigations. Proper punishments should be meted out to the perpetrators for such heinous crimes that have not only named and shamed our country but have exposed a deep-rooted political corruption nexus within the major political parties. Nepali people no longer have the appetite to stand as bystanders to see this corruption scandal as so many before it dwindles without sincere efforts by the state and the judiciary to punish those who are major perpetrators.

(Namrata Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate namrata1964@yahoo.com Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)

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