11 - 17 December 2015 #786

Kathmandu Witch Trials

Under the guise of corruption the CIAA is targeting those with whom its puppeteers and their puppets do not agree
Bidushi Dhungel

In 1692, Salem in Massachusetts of the United States saw the beginning of what was a series of hearings and prosecutions of people – mostly women -- accused of witchcraft. Although the trials went on for less than a year, they are still studied in history as an example of ‘mass hysteria’, religious extremism and in highlighting the dangers associated with the abuse of authority, in this case of the justice system.

In under a year, 20 people were killed on these false charges. The trials stand as a reminder of the way in which people, or groups of people, can be ‘legally’ and ‘legitimately’ targeted as a means to push various religious or political ends.

The Salem Trials came to mind almost immediately upon reading the headlines last week on the activities of our own beacon of justice, the Commission on Investigation on the Abuse of Authority (CIAA). It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots.

It is not new news that Nepal’s CIAA is but a mere tool of the powerful. It is rather ironic that the body given charge of checking the abuse of authority for economic gain abuses its own authority for political ends. In a sack of rotten apples that is Nepal, it is of great significance which apples one handpicks for scrutiny. Are some apples, perhaps rotten, being scrutinised scandalously while fruit so rotten they have begun to decompose fully are left alone? It sure seems that way.

One doesn’t have to go back too far in time to recall the last rampage the Authority went on ‘against corruption’, between 2000 and 2006. A cursory look at those who were implicated and even sentenced to jail – Khum Bahadur Khadka, Chiranjivi Wagle, JP Gupta etc – shows that the water in which the CIAA wades is bloody muddy. You, me and the next average Gita could, within a few spare minutes, list at least another 10 equally if not more ‘corrupt’ individuals who made their fortunes in the heydays of Nepali Congress politics and yet continue to rule the roost over at the party office in Sanepa.

Some of those guys – K P Sitaula, who was given a clean chit after just one calling and Govinda Raj Joshi, whose case hasn’t even moved to the SC after the Special Court convicted him of corruption – have managed to maneuver so well as to keep out of jail. And anyway, the UML was also already claiming its space in the state coffers in the 1990s, so one cannot help but wonder why on earth they would be spared from the ‘zero tolerance’ on corruption these CIAA bigwigs hammer on about.

That error seems to have been corrected this time around as almost all of those implicated are either close to the UML, or the ruling establishment. In addition, one cannot help but notice that some of the list have in recent days and years spoken out against Indian intervention in Nepal – whatever their personal motivations for doing so may have been. One doesn’t have to like or agree with those being ‘investigated’ to acknowledge that they are being targeted for reasons which span beyond possible financial irregularities, but also for their political bearings.

Of all the nonsensical, and often outright dangerous, maneuvers that the CIAA has made, perhaps none is as foolish as going after Sajha Yatayat. It was a dead initiative that was brought back to life for public good, and anyone who has experienced a Sajha bus ride must acknowledge that it is pretty much the only public transport worth keeping or scaling up in Kathmandu. The irony is that no one was around to investigate it when it was government owned and as politicians sold it off piece by piece, filling their pockets and accounts, without even leaving so much as flat tyres to spare.

The CIAA is not a public good that is working to curb the corrupt activities of political leaders, civil society and bureaucrats. Instead, under the guise of corruption, it is targeting those with whom its puppeteers and their puppets do not agree. The puppeteers and puppets will change, as has happened in the past, and yet the body’s utility remains the same.

The abuse of authority of the CIAA is a political corruption, which must be investigated and remedied at once, lest we begin another series of the Kathmandu Witch Trials.

Read Also:

Watchdog vs CIAA, From the Nepali Press

Watching the watchdog, Binita Dahal

Afraid of catching big fish, Muma Ram Khanal

CIAA under threat, From the Nepali Press

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