PM’s threats are unbecoming of his high office, intellectuals say

  • Oli takes a stab at academics and journalists who have been vocal critics of his administration
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Dec 7, 2018-

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s veiled threats on the “intellectual community” during a televised show on Wednesday night has drawn widespread attention and criticism, including on social media platforms, where many accused him of making remarks that are beneath the office of the prime minister.

Oli appeared on the fortnightly interview show “Janata Sanga Pradhanmantri”—Prime Minister with the public—on the state-owned Nepal Television, during which he took a swipe at what he called the intellectual community, threatening them for making “uncivilised and cheap comments” against him and his administration.

“If I respond to the comments made by some intellects, they will be bedridden,” the prime minister said during the interview. “Before going to the media, if they come to me for discussion and if I will respond, there is a chance they will be bedridden, which I don’t want.”

The prime minister did not name any individuals but he spoke to them directly on television and asked if he should reveal what he knows about them.

“Do these intellects want to discuss with me what they know,” Oli said in the interview. “They should be warned of—and careful about—what will happen to them if the truth comes out.”

In recent weeks, opinion pages in various private-owned newspapers, including those owned by Kantipur Publications, carried opinions, editorials and cartoons aimed at the prime minister and his administration’s policies and performance.

In particular, Oli has been criticised for his government’s involvement in hosting a South Korean non-government organisation’s summit during which he was awarded a plaque and a medal for “good governance and leadership.”

The Post had reported earlier this week that entities within the Oli administration had used millions of rupees from the state coffer to organise a three-day conference that was hosted by the controversial Universal Peace Federation.

Also read: I can make the intellectuals speechless: PM warns

Prime Minister Oli has appeared desperate in recent weeks after members from his own party and the Cabinet have failed to defend his administration’s performance, which has come under severe criticism from all sides.

Following a footage of the interview the next morning, Nepalis across the country, including members in academia, politics, and journalism said the prime minister’s language was unbecoming for someone holding the highest office in the country.

“The prestige of the prime minister’s post and position is associated with the citizens and the country and everyone believes the chair is dignified, honoured, credible and respected,” said Krishna Khanal, a professor at the Tribhuvan University. “But if the prime minister is making such cheap remarks, it weakens the institution and sanity of that post.”

Khanal said the public has the right to express their opinions in a democracy, and that could include voices that don’t agree with the administration’s policies. “It is not the job of the prime minister to react to each and every remark; he should instead respond by implementing better policies and promises,” he added.

During the interview, Oli criticised retired professors and bureaucrats for “taking perks and facilities from the state,” and accused them of actively demonising the government.

Lok Raj Baral, a veteran professor at the same university who often writes sharp opinions about the Oli government, said the prime minister’s remarks were a manifestation of him not receiving support from party leaders and cadres. “

“He is being criticised from various quarters and even his own party leaders have not taken his defence, and his remarks against the intellectual community is a reflection of that frustration,” Baral told the Post.

This wasn’t the first time Oli had made such harsh remarks against those who criticise him, his working style, and his government. After the perennial attack against the administration since he took office earlier this year, Oli had come down heavily against his own party leaders and cadres for not defending the good work of the government and asking them to respond to the criticism.

A former justice, who was part of the government during the autocratic Panchayat era, said Oli’s attack reminded him of the pre-1990 administration, during which the government was frequently criticised for its policies and it would return threats at those making the criticisms.

“Oli does not want to see any kind of opposition because he is a communist prime minister,” said Gauri Bahadur Karki, a former attorney during the Panchayat regime.

“He just wants everyone to support him and that is not possible in a democracy.”

Published: 07-12-2018 07:41

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