KATHMANDU, Jan 8: Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai has faced a barrage of criticism on social media for his “ill-timed” visit to Australia to promote the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, when as the country is reeling under one of the worst crisis in its history due to the massive wildfires.
Social media users took to Twitter and Facebook to criticize him as soon as news spread about his visit to Australia. In addition to that, the minister came under fire after the people learnt about Australian security personnel stopping a rally organized to promote Visit Nepal 2020 campaign in Sydney on Tuesday.
According to a report published by Australia-based news portal Southasia.com.au, the organizers had not taken permission from the local authorities for the rally which was being led by Minister Bhattarai.
Nepal's Ambassador to Australia Mahesh Raj Dahal, Consul General of Nepal in NSW Deepak Khadka and Consul General of Nepal in Victoria Chandra Yonzon were accompanying him in the rally.
However, Minister Bhattarai wrote on Facebook that the news reports regarding the tourism campaign were misleading and aimed at hurting ties between Nepal and Australia.
"Such misleading reports also tarnish our country's prestige," he said.
Bhattarai claimed that the program organized to mark the beginning of the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign has successfully concluded in Australia. "The program was attended and addressed by the parliament speaker of New South Wales and ruling and opposition party leaders of Australia," he wrote.
According to the website, the Events Planning Unit of NSW Police had explicitly asked the organizers not to conduct the “procession for a number of reasons” including the fact that the event was “promotional and for commercial gain” which was “not in keeping with the legislation regarding a right to protest”.
Police had also considered the size of the contingent of participants in disapproving the rally. Authorities feared the entire footpath would be taken up by the marching participants, “blocking access for pedestrians”. Those taking to the social media to criticize Minister Bhattarai have asked the rationale behind visiting Australia at this time to promote Visit Nepal campaign when the country is struggling hard to tackle the bushfire crisis.
Sending a condolence message to his Australian counterpart Marise Payne on Monday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali had extended his deep regrets on the loss of lives of many people and millions of animals. The message said the minister was shocked to know about the irreparable loss to flora and fauna as well as extensive damages of properties in the wake of the devastating bushfire engulfing many parts of Australia.
Dila Kharel, Sydney-based accountant and former treasurer of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), Australia, was tasked by organizers to secure permission from the police and other relevant authorities. He claimed that he had duly informed the organizers about the disapproval by the local authorities.