An open letter to the PM

- Naresh Koirala, Kathmandu

Mar 22, 2016-

Honorable Prime Minister 

KP Oli,

Following the election to the second Constitutional Assembly, as Chair of the CPN-UML, a communist party, you threw yourself into drafting the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Your impatience to promulgate a new constitution was palpable. You considered yourself the prime minister-in-waiting. You rejected the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s request to defer the promulgation so as to consider the Madesh-based parties’ objections, as doing so would have delayed your accession. You let your personal ambition 

override a matter of serious national concern. 

Soon after the constitution was promulgated, you cobbled together a hodgepodge coalition of political parties from the extreme right to the extreme left and in October 2015, you became the prime minister by trading ministerial posts for your coalition partners’ support. You formed a cabinet of 40 ministers—a number that exceeded the limit of 25 set by the new constitution. The gargantuan cabinet, which included a ridiculous number (six) of deputy prime ministers, imposed an additional burden of three billion rupees on the country’s exchequer. When asked to explain, you basically conceded in your characteristically convoluted way that you did it to hold on 

to power. 

As prime minister, your governing priorities have been anything but people-centric. You 

summoned Dr Govinda KC to your office and tried to coerce him to withdraw his planned hunger strike against the bill your fellow UML parliamentarians had introduced in Parliament. The bill intended to legitimise the establishment of a private for-profit medical facility owned largely by your party colleagues. You knew your party colleagues were abusing their legislative power to promote their private business. Instead of reprimanding them, you brought to bear the weight of your high office on Dr KC to force him to facilitate the bill’s becoming law. The public outrage against the bill forced you to form a commission to compensate the shareholders of the facility. You have yet to instruct your comrades to withdraw the bill. 

National embarrassment

Your outlandish declarations to eliminate load-shedding by using wind power and to connect Nepali houses with piped cooking gas in a year show you have no clue what it takes to translate a dream into reality. We now know that a fake UK-based developer prompted the wind power guff. We still do not know who prompted your cooking gas fantasy, but it seems you do not appreciate the weight of a prime minister’s words. Prime ministers do not go about announcing projects without credible homework. 

The Madesh protests against the constitution erupted immediately after its passage. The Indian blockade in support of the Madeshi parties added fuel to the fire. As prime minister, your job was to try to open the border by negotiating with the Madeshi parties and securing India’s cooperation through diplomacy. Instead, you mocked the protestors with crude comments and whipped up anti-India sentiments. Democracy demands respect; you showed none and to no one. Instead of solving the problem, you worsened it.

Your attempt to internationalise the illegitimacy of the Indian blockade failed miserably. All you were able to secure from our international friends were some diplomatic platitudes.  

You delayed the Constitutional Amendment Bill to accommodate some of the Madeshi parties’ demands as long as you could. Finally the amendment passed; India grudgingly withdrew the blockade and the Madeshi parties imploded. The lifting of the blockade had little to do with your leadership. Nepalis would have been spared much suffering if you had shown leadership and acted in time. 

You have completely failed to curb the growing black market that spread during the Indian blockade. Instead, your foreign minister has on record lauded the black marketeers for helping to sustain the nation during the blockade. 

Value-less politics

Even in the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), you let partisan interest trump public interest. The reconstruction is estimated to cost over US$7 billion (Rs7,000 million). It impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The complexity of the task demands a CEO capable of inspiring and mobilising a multidisciplinary group of professionals—a CEO with a firm grasp of the social sciences, environmental science, finance and experience in managing large construction projects. 

Instead of searching a competent person through a competitive public process, you picked an obscure party apparatchik with no relevant experience. You could argue that your predecessor’s approach was not different. But as a leader, you do not perpetuate the wrongs of the past; you right the wrongs. It is no surprise that the secretaries from line ministries who are supposed to be a part of the NRA team have refused to work with the “untested” CEO. To date, there has been no meaningful progress in reconstruction. The victims continue to suffer as if the earthquake struck yesterday. Around a dozen of them perished in December from cold; the upcoming monsoon is likely to add to the misery and death toll. 

Mr prime minister, during the Indian blockade, you said you would free Nepal from its dependence on India. You went to India with a showy, bloated entourage of 92 people. You came back with nothing tangible except that India will provide us 80MW of power, which will help reduce our load shedding hours.  There is nothing to give us confidence that there will not be another blockade. What did you achieve? 

As the executive head of our country, you are the role model for future generations. I expected you to lead, inspire, and conduct people-centered, value-based politics. You have not only failed on all counts, but have become a national embarrassment. You have been in office for over five months and you have accomplished nothing. 

Please do us all a favour. Spare our country more anguish and step down. Help us bring someone who has the Nepali people’s interests at heart. We deserve better! 

Koirala, a geotechnical engineer in Canada, was a consultant to National Planning Commission  

Published: 22-03-2016 09:08

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