read 4 min

Panel recommends some revision in MCC 

A high-level task force formed by Nepal Communist Party has recommended the need of revision in the draft agreement concerning the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, a multi-million dollar grant scheme through which the United States would invest USD 500 million in infrastructure projects in the country. The intraparty task force comprising of party senior leader Jhal Nath Khanal, Foreign Minister Pradip Gyawali and NCP Standing Committee member Bhim Rawal made such recommendations in a report submitted to party headquarters on February 21.

The taskforce was formed after the majority of the central committee members urged party leadership to pass the MCC related bill only after ascertaining that it was not part of the Indo Pacific Strategy.

The bill has support from across the political spectrum except from a quarter of the ruling party who see it as a component of the US’s Indo Pacific Strategy, which seeks to strengthen US cooperation with the region stretching from India to the west coast of the United States. Analysts see the IPS as a strategic counterbalance to China’s increasing geopolitical power and ambitions.

Khatiwada, Nembang get additional  responsibilities 

Finance Minister Yuwaraj Khatiwada will concurrently oversee the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, while Basanta Kumar Nembang, the minister for physical infrastructure and transport, will head the Ministry of Urban Development, according to the office of President. The duo were given the added responsibilities just hours after the incumbent minister Gokul Prasad Baskota resigned on February 20 over a leaked video that shows him demanding bribes from an agent of a company with whom the government was negotiating the supply of a security printing press. 

Oli says govt committed to zero tolerance to corruption 

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that he won’t do corruption and won’t tolerate corruption from anyone. Speaking at a book launch in the Capital just a few hours after the resignation of Information Minister Gokul Prasad Baskota over corruption allegations on February 20, Oli said that anyone, irrespective of their background, will have to face consequences for corruption. 

“Promotion to ruling positions doesn’t give you a license to loot,” Oli said, adding that the government was sincere to its slogan of zero tolerance against corruption.  

Credit: RSS

“Zero tolerance is not only a slogan, it is already in practice. I won’t hesitate to take steps for good governance,” said the prime minister. Oli has repeatedly vowed to fight against corruption while his government has been embattling one after another scandal since it formed in February 2018.

Some opposition leaders have been demanding Oli’s resignation, alleging him of remaining silent for months despite knowing about the Baskota audio tape.

Tumbahangphe is new Law Minister 

Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe is the new Minister for Law and Justice.  Tumbahangphe was administered the oath of the office and secrecy by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Monday. The law ministry was without a minister after Upendra Yadav led Socialist Party walked out of the government. 

Credit: Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe / Facebook

After ignoring multiple calls by party leadership to step down from her post of deputy speaker, Tumbahamphe,  an aspirant for the post of speaker, had resigned as deputy speaker last month after assurances of a ministerial berth from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. She had previously described her resignation as an illustration of the sexist and patriarchal attitudes of the NCP.  

Mahara walks scot free  

The Kathmandu District Court on February 17 acquitted former speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara of all charges in an attempt to rape case. A single bench of judge Ambar Raj Poudel ruled in favour of Mahara after the alleged victim testified to the court retracting from verbal statement she had given to the police. He walked free amid the presence of hundreds of supporters.

Mahara was forced to resign from the post of House Speaker and was arrested on October 6 in the wake of rape allegations from a woman who was working at the parliament secretariat.

Read also: Mahara may be fired – and his case could go nowhere

In an interview with Hamra Kura, an online news portal, and in her verbal statement to the police, the woman had alleged Mahara of coming to her house inebriated and raping her. She later changed the statement, saying Mahara had only attempted to rape, before taking a U-turn on her allegations.  The court, however, did not take any action against her for defamation, a standard practice in such cases.

According to media reports, more than 10,000 people had gone to the DilliBazar Jail to meet Mahara while he was in judicial custody since October.

Rana vows more reforms in judiciary  

Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana has said there was need of support and cooperation from all sides to reform the judiciary and uphold the dignity of the court. Speaking at a program organized to mark the 47th anniversary of the Nepal Bar Association in the Capital on February 20, Rana said the reformation of judiciary was his top priority. He said an independent and accessible judiciary is all the more important to give common people hope of impartial justice in hard and polarized times.

“Society is being militarized, so law professionals should be even more sincere to their profession . The judiciary is the ultimate hope of the people,” said Rana. 

Corona suspects tested negative 

Nepalis evacuated from China, who are currently under quarantine observation at Kharipati, have tested negative for Noble Corona. They will be reunited with their families after completing the mandatory checkup in isolation. As many as 175 Nepalis, including some government officials at the quarantine centre at Kharipati, were evacuated from Wuhan, China last week.

PM Oli draws criticism for lavish birthday celebration 

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has found himself on the receiving end of a raging social media strom over reports of a grand celebration for his 69th birthday at his birthplace in Aathrai Rural Municipality in Terhathum on February 23. According to media reports, the Yeti Holding, a firm with varied business interests in the region, had chartered several  helicopters to ferry cadres of Nepal Communsit Party and a giant Nepal shaped map cake. Hundreds took to social media to criticise Oli, saying that he had flouted the ruling party’s code of ethical conduct and possibly committed public offense by denigrating the map of Nepal.