Government’s intent to keep security policy secret raises concerns

  • The document has given too much emphasis on army, ignoring other security agencies, officials who have seen the document claim
- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Mar 29, 2019-

Even almost two weeks after the Cabinet endorsed the National Security Policy, the document is yet be made public, raising concerns about the government intent to keep it under wraps.

A senior official at the Ministry of Defence said that Defence Minister Ishwor Pokharel has categorically asked officials not to disclose the document until there’s a directive to that effect from him.

“The policy is available only to limited ministers and the officials,” the official told the Post, requesting anonymity.

Pokharel left for the United States on Tuesday to participate in a ministerial level workshop of the countries that contribute to the UN peacekeeping mission.

Analysts say the move of not making public the security policy is a cause for concern as it comes in a series of some of government actions which aim to control or block the flow of information. Making documents like security policies public is a common practice in democratic countries worldwide.

“Every democratic country puts its security policy in public domain. Keeping it secret is against democratic principles and spirit of the constitution,” Geja Sharma Wagle, a security expert, told the Post.

The Ministry of Defence as a nodal agency is responsible for drafting the policy and presenting it before the Cabinet for endorsement.

It, however, can consult different stakeholders to prepare the policy.

Three security agencies—Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force—along with the National Investigation Department, which have the main role in implementing the policy, had provided special suggestions. But the government has not shared the policy even with Nepal Police.

“We were consulted when the policy was being drafted,” Senior Superintendent of Police Uttam Subedi, who is also the spokesperson for Nepali Police, told the Post. “But we are yet to get a copy of it after it was endorsed by the Cabinet.”

Multiple senior officials the Post talked to said that the government is in “no mood” to make the document public anytime soon.

People who participated in the consultation process and have seen the final document said that unlike the earlier National Security Policy in 2016, the new security policy revolves around the Nepal Army only.

Nepal Police, the Armed Police and National Investigation Department, which play a crucial role in implementation of the security policy, have been completely ignored, a source who claimed to have seen the document told the Post on condition of anonymity citing sensitivity of the matter.

“One of the reasons for making the army too important is because of the dominance of the generals in the drafting committee,” a source said.

In the nine-member committee, led by Minister Pokharel, four were army generals.

Retired major general Devendra Medhasi was appointed as the member-secretary instead of defence secretary in the committee led by the minister.

The source said the security policy mentions “blockade” as one of major security threats to the country, but it has stopped short of naming any country.

Nepal faced recent blockade in 2015 along the southern border after the promulgation of the constitution. The blockade continued for five months, during which then CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, the incumbent prime minister, established his nationalist agenda, which was one of the factors that catapulted him into power in elections two years later.

“That [blockade issue] could be one of the reasons the government is hesitating to make the security policy public,” Prem Basnyat, a retired brigadier general who writes on security-related issues, told the Post. “But external factors constitute only about 10 percent of threat to national security. Internal factors constitute 90 percent of threat to national security. This fact has been totally ignored in the policy.”

Basnyat said the very process of formulating the policy was flawed.

“A security policy is an umbrella policy which revolves around a wide range of issues--from defence to foreign to economic to education. Therefore, broader consultation is a must while formulating a security policy,” said Basnyat. “The current policy was drafted by a handful of people, and there was an utter lack of transparency.”

The National Security Policy 2019 was endorsed by the Cabinet on March 18.

An official at the Prime Minister’s Office told the Post this week that the Cabinet had made some changes to the document before endorsing it.

When asked, Babu Ram Poudel, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, told the Post that the document will be kept secret unless the government makes a decision to make it public.

Published: 29-03-2019 07:25

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