10-16 June 2016 #812

A parallel government

Govinda KC in Kantipur, 3 June

Bhanu Bhattarai

Having overcome many hurdles in our long drawn-out crusade to rid Nepal’s health sector of its ills, we are now confronting a new reality: the existence of a parallel government run by the corrupt head of a constitutional body.

The rise of Lokman Singh Karki, the Chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is the direct result of our political failure. But it is not acceptable to people living in any country that claims to have the rule of law.

Our demand for quality medical education, a just distribution of health facilities around the country, and access to affordable and accessible medical services remains unaddressed.

The CIAA should have stood by us in our campaign to bring about positive changes in Nepal’s medical sector, but has instead worked against the national interest. Its failure to uphold the rule of law will worsen the state of impunity, endangering transparency and accountability. What if the head of such a constitutional body abuses his power to get to power? What if he allows his family members and relatives to abuse the power he wields?

This is what is happening: the CIAA is actively overstepping its jurisdiction. It protects the corrupt. The innocent are being mentally and physically harassed. A constitutional body responsible for promoting transparency and accountability is itself opaque and abets impunity.

The CIAA boss is abusing his power to help medical colleges run by members of his family to obtain university affiliations and add more student seats. Officials who refuse to kowtow have been threatened, and even forced to resign. Those who abide by the rules are afraid of the CIAA, but not those who are themselves abusing their authority.

A medical college run by a family member of the CIAA Chief has been allowed to enroll students even when most of its departments – which are necessary for quality education – are out of operation. Authorities at the Nepal Medical Council and Tribhuvan University do not want to face the wrath of the CIAA Chief by ordering the closure of this college. On the other hand, some officials at the Institute of Medicine (IoM), known for honesty, have been dragged to court by the CIAA for allowing another medical college to add more student seats.

Whether the CIAA’s arrest of the IoM officials is legal will be decided by the courts. But, by the time the verdict on this case is out, the damage will have been done. In the three years since Karki’s appointment as the CIAA Chief, the honest have been demoralised, and the crooked empowered.

In the last three stages of our civil disobedience, we had held the conduct of the CIAA Chief responsible for irregularities in Nepal’s medical education sector. We had even thought of demanding his resignation – but we did not because many of us argued that he is the head of a constitutional body, and it would be difficult to force him to resign.

But the CIAA Chief has now overstepped his bounds. He is not just forestalling new reforms in the medical sector, but is also trying to subvert past achievements. He is passive where his intervention is needed, and he is overstepping his jurisdiction where his role is not needed.

Unless we rid the CIAA of its prejudices, and selective and arbitrary actions, we cannot rid the medical sector of its ills.

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