Saturday, February 19, 2005

Cats to Guard Milk: The Anti-Corruption Move

Corruption, which has been continuously spreading its tentacles, has not only cast a shadow over politics and administration, but has also obstructed the nation's march towards progress. Corruption has struck at the very core of our society, the result of which the common man's confidence in the laws of the land has been shaken. Therefore, in keeping with the popular will and to fulfill the main criterion of good governance, effective measures will be adopted to curb corruption, while ensuring that the principles of justice are not infringed upon.

King Gyanendra told the nation in his Royal Proclamation on Feb 1. His commitment towards curbing the corruption which is deep-rooted in the country 'ensuring that principles of justice are not infringed upon' was sweet to the ears. On Feb 16, he constituted five-member Royal Commission for it.

But sadly enough, the reality is, what he had told and what he had done do not match. Indeed he has been asking cats to guard milk.

Let's begin with Day 2 when he constituted his cabinet. His sweet-worded commitment towards curbing corrupting became bitter within 24 hours. His cabinet included two such ministers who can not be called clean in the regard.

Minister of Home Affairs Dan Bahadur Shahi is still under investigation for the suspected embezzlement of NRs. 6,7100,000 along with 14 others. The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is investigating that 'corruption' in importing chemical fertilizers which happened when he was agriculture secretary. And wasn't he the one who was sacked during Girija Prasad Koirala's premiership for dubious charters tics (later to be reinstated by court).

King Gyanendra appointed two vice-chairmen to his cabinet a few days ago. Who are they? Dr. Tulsi Giri, former prime inister, was the 'chief accused' in the Carpet Scandal in 1965 AD. After the scandal known as the biggest of the Panchayat Era, Dr. Giri's political career ended and he left the country. He along with 90 others – including administrators and businessmen – were accused for inappropriate conduct in export of carpet. (Three years after all were given clean chit however.)

Radha Krishna Mainali, another minister, was also under investigation of CIAA but later was given clean chit in lack of enough proofs.

The Royal Commission is constituted for five members with Bhakta Bhahadur Koirala as the chairman. Koirala claimed that 'the corruption will be totally eradicated if he had support of people'. But had anyone looked at Mr. Koirala's career?

He was special secretary at ministry of home affairs when he was sacked after restoration of democracy in 1990. He was also the one pointed out by commission, Mallick Commission (1992), as the administrator with 'corrupt behavior'.

A member of the commission, Shambhu Prasad Kharel, long served in ministry of finance and retired as the secretary of Election Commission. He is known for his love to 'Playing Cards'. He spent most of his career in such department where people believe everyone is corrupt.

So will the government and commission would really curb corruption. Not at all, they will target leaders of politica parties. The chairman has already hinted that. Those who had poor economic standards have suddenly become millionaires today,” Koirala said in a TV interview. His references are directly hinted at political leaders who are accused of having amassed huge property during their term in office.

One more thing is wrong with the Commission: their power. The commission is in a position to investigate and take punitive action against any individual found indulged in embezzlement of fiscal matters, amassing wealth by unfair means, tax evasion and dealing with illegal contracts on the basis of complains received from any source. Probably no other commission in the world has the power to investigate and punish (the commission is equal to the special court).

Moreover, there is no way to criticize the commission's action (that could cost upto NRs. 10,000 fine or 6 month term or both). However, the last appeal could be lodged at the Supreme Court but what could SC do against Royal commission?

Once again, the King's step is only the popular one because there is already CIAA which investigates (alas, they had to take the accused to court and prove the embezzlement!). If he wanted, truly, to curb corruption, CIAA would be the best mean as they are operating for last 25 years.

One thing is clear: the commission will stage a few dramas in coming days and many leaders will be the victims – without chance to clarify themselves (and that will be said to go in accordance with the spirit of the Royal Proclamation!).

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