KATHMANDU, May 22: Preparations by the government's to pave the way for itself to make the secretary of any other services in the civil service the foreign secretary has drawn widespread criticism, including from the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC).
While foreign affairs experts have strongly opposed the government's preparations, NC leaders, too, have joined in the protest against the move to introduce a bill with a provision allowing the government to pick civil servants from other clusters as well for the post foreign secretary, the bureaucratic head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
The Federal Civil Service Bill, which is currently under discussion at the parliamentary State Affairs Committee, has a provision which allows the government to transfer any special-class gazetted official, except those in the judicial and public audit services, to any service including the foreign service.
Taking strong exception to the provision in the bill, an influential leader of NC, Dr Shekhar Koirala warned the government not to politicize the foreign service, "a vanguard of the national interests."
“The foreign service is a specialized service and this is the main fort of national interests. The provision to allow the secretary of any branch of the civil service to become the foreign secretary makes the country's diplomatic sector weak. So, I urge the government to withdraw this bill and stop politicizing the foreign service,” said Koirala.
Foreign policy experts have already voiced their concerns over the controversial provision in the bill. They have maintained that the provision will only further weaken Nepal's foreign service.
Former foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey said such an arrangement in the bureaucracy will not serve the interests of the country. “Foreign affairs is the main pillar of the country's national interests. The plan to displace experts with near and dear ones of the political masters cannot be in the national interest,” said Pandey.
However, Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Lal Babu Pandit said the issue had been blown out of proportion. “The bill on the federal civil service is currently under discussion at the parliamentary committee. There is nothing that cannot be discussed,” he said, adding that the provision is not aimed at making anyone the foreign secretary.
Sources said that the government has introduced such controversial provision in the Federal Civil service Bill after it faced complications while transferring the secretary at the Prime Minister's Office to the Ministry of Health and Population as the secretary. Against the long-standing tradition of appointing only a medical doctor as the health secretary, the government transferred secretary at the PMO, Ram Prasad Thapaliya to the health ministry as its secretary, transferring health secretary Dr Pushpa Chaudhary. But the government failed to transfer Dr Chaudhary from the health ministry following a Supreme Court verdict. Currently, there are two secretaries –Dr Pushpa Chaudhary and Ram Prasad Thapaliya at the Ministry of Health and Population.
Minister Pandit clarified that the government will transfer the secretaries from other clusters only in cases of exceptional circumstances. “The government cannot remain a mute spectator if someone in the position of secretary does something wrong. The government should be able to replace such a secretary with a secretary from any other cluster in such circumstances,” he further said.