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A Manifesto To End CorruptionFebruary 11, 2001
Earlier this week the Prime Minister was asked to resign by a united front of opposition parties. As the Maoist rebellion gathers speed, they condemned him for losing control of law and order and doing nothing to stop corruption. Mr Koirala declared that he would not step down under opposition pressure. That same day it was announced that 7,000 Kamaiyas had been evicted from government land controlled by the Cotton Development Board in Bardia. Their houses were apparently burned to the ground after they left. The Congress Party is certainly very confident that a policy of force rather than negotiation will succeed. We shall see.
Last week I wrote that a political party motivated by the welfare of the people could solve this crisis without force. It is a matter of political will because the root cause of discontent is official corruption and any government has the power to control it. Widespread corruption is the people's charge not only against this government but against the whole political system. From the streets of Kathmandu to the remote farmlands of the West I have heard the same complaints. Bribery of officials from policemen to tax collectors is an every day event. Without bribery it is almost impossible to get anything done in the country. Graduates must bribe their college officials to collect their certificates. Wealthy business owners commonly bribe tax officials to reduce their payments. Even magistrates are often bribed to ignore evidence and dismiss charges.
But the effect of corruption goes much deeper than that. The wealth of our nation is not being fairly distributed amongst its citizens. The workers are not being properly paid for their labour. Government contracts are made and laws are passed which benefit companies but not their workers. Whilst those in power live in luxury, nearly 50% of our people live in absolute poverty. Our children are poorly educated, our wives must work long hours at home with outdated facilities. And our fathers face starvation in the mountains as the market economy favours wealthy landowners with modern technology. Everything stems from official corruption. It has become part of the culture and the whole of Nepal is suffering.
The principles of good government must be to have the welfare of the whole nation at heart rather than a single class or group of people. It is an inherent part of nature. The whole matter of the Universe is composed of tiny particles working in tandem with each other. They form groups that work with other groups and create larger structures. But the nature of each group is always governed by its particles. Rather like atoms within a molecule, the people of any nation are its very substance. If they fight against each other's interests, the molecule will become unstable and break apart. The same law is true throughout society even down to the family molecule at its root. If a father does not have the welfare of his whole family at heart, it will break apart from beneath him and cease to exist. It is even true on a global level for what are we as human beings if not a constituent part of Molecule Earth? And if any nation atom does not have the welfare of the whole world at heart, our global molecule will always be unstable and the whole planet will suffer.
Plainly we need to have governments that understand this reality and endorse that 'Molecular' principle. The welfare of the people must be their first objective for democracy to have any meaning. And because so many people suffer through corruption, a good political party will do everything possible to combat it. They would immediately raise the penalties as a stiff deterrent to others. In China, official corruption often carries the death penalty but our government currently accepts it as a small crime. However much money is involved, whatever the rank of official, the maximum term is just six years imprisonment. Sometimes the penalty may only be a fine and the offender is allowed to walk free. The political Party that will save Nepal from years of insurgency will enforce sentences between 3 and 25 years depending on the rank of the person involved.
But more measures are needed. Often the courts do not convict suspected officials and the legal system is widely thought to be corrupt as well. Under these circumstances the government must act positively to restore public confidence in the whole system.
A party with nothing to hide would introduce open government with proper public scrutiny and accountability. It would pass an emergency bill to enforce a full and proper investigation into what has happened financially over the past ten years. For the people to have any faith in that enquiry it cannot be carried out by Nepali officials. Instead, an independent international team of consultants should be invited to examine the financial records of various bodies and individuals since democracy. They would help develop more effective taxation control to minimise evasion. Their professional advice would ensure much greater efficiency in the running of the economy and so benefit all the people. Money spent as foreign aid in that direction would benefit the nation far more than the subsidy of major construction schemes. Not only would it give a greater financial return, bit it would also answer the concerns of the people that fuel their discontent. Where has the wealth of the Nation gone over the past ten years? Just how wealthy are the leading political and business families? From where did they get their wealth? Was there any connection between ministers and the companies they benefited through government contracts? Whilst these questions remain unanswered in the minds of the people, no degree of force can extinguish the flames of insurgency.
With my best wishes to you all,