Calls for internal inquiry into Mahara affair grow

Published On: October 3, 2019 07:24 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Oct 3: Pressure is mounting on the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to launch an internal inquiry into allegations against Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who has stepped down as speaker of the House of Representatives after being accused of raping a parliament secretariat staffer. 

NCP leader Bhim Rawal on Wednesday said that the party should conduct an investigation into the allegations against Mahara if it is to retain the public trust. 

“For the development of democracy it is indispensable to respect rule of law, good governance, integrity and the people’s voice. The NCP has its statute, its stated policies and ideology. Taking these things into account along with legal and social norms and values, the Mahara case should be independently investigated and the guilty duly punished if evidence substantiates the allegations,” Rawal tweeted. 

Rawal was the first NCP leader to unequivocally demand an internal investigation. Others are also quietly pushing the party leadership to take necessary action against the disgraced leader to avoid a possible backlash.

Mahara had resigned after the NCP central secretariat directed him to do so and also to cooperate in independent investigations. 

But many leaders of the party have described this as inadequate and urged the top leadership to take sterner action to quell growing public anger. Sources said that many are in favor of suspending Mahara’s status as an MP along with his party membership in order to distance the party from the whole affair. 

But some others have cited some practical difficulties in taking such disciplinary action as the party is still without a disciplinary committee. 

“The party does have a policy statute for suspension of membership in such cases. But I can’t really say what’s happening,” said Amrit Bohara, former chief of the erstwhile CPN-UML’s disciplinary committee. 

The calls for an independent inquiry come at a time when investigators are struggling to proceed due to lack of cooperation from the alleged victim. The woman, who never lodged a written complaint despite a request from the police to do so, has now retracted her statement and instead accuses the media of distorting the facts. 

“He had not even come to my room,” she told Nagarik Khabar, an online news outlet, in a video interview on Tuesday. 

On Sunday evening, following the alleged incident, the woman had called police and accused Mahara of physically assaulting her at her apartment in Tinkune, according to police officials involved in the investigation.

Following a public outcry, Mahara tendered his resignation to Deputy Speaker of the House Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe on “moral grounds to facilitate free, fair and independent investigations into the allegations made by media that raise serious questions about my character”.

Mahara has confessed to meeting the woman at her apartment although on Monday his press adviser had issued a statement denying such a meeting. Mahara, however, has denied the rape allegation, claiming that it was an attempt to tarnish his character. 

Talking to Republica on condition of anonymity, two NCP leaders said the party was setting a wrong precedent by standing behind Mahara, someone whose political career has long been mired in controversy. 

Since joining mainstream politics after the end of the Maoist armed insurgency in 2006, his political career has been punctuated by a series of controversies. In 2013, he courted controversy following an audio leak in which he was heard asking an unidentified Chinese man for Rs 500 million in bribes over the horse-trading of 50 MPs. He and other senior Maoist leaders also face allegations of embezzling possibly billions in business deals. But he had somehow managed to remain unscathed so far.

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