Comedy of errors

Published On: April 12, 2020 08:24 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

It was as if the government was playing prank with the people who are struggling with lockdown in Kathmandu and wish to leave for their hometowns.

Prime Minister’s office sometimes make such egregious mistakes that people wonder who actually run his office, if those who are inside his office even possess the basic minimum common sense and, more than that, if the prime minister himself even cares about how these activities are earning bad name to him and his office. This happened again on Thursday. The verified Facebook page of the Office of the Prime Ministers and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) posted a note at 4 PM, saying that those stuck in Kathmandu due to lockdown would be allowed to go home. Online news outlets quickly posted breaking news saying that those who are interested to go back home will be able to do so from Kathmandu and that the transportation for this purpose will be managed by the government. Soon after OPMCM posted the status, ruling NCP’s leader and Province 5 Chief Minister, Shankar Pokhrel, wrote a contradictory post denying the decision.  Around the same time Lekhraj Bhatta, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, told a TV channel that the government was indeed going to facilitate people’s movement to their hometowns.  Then the coordinator of high-level coordination committee formed to prevent and contain the COVID-19, Ishwar Pokhrel, posted a message on Facebook at 6:29 PM, saying that no such decision has been made.  Then the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement around 7 PM informing that no decisions to allow people to leave Kathmandu have been made. Then the verified Facebook page of the OPMCM was suddenly deleted around 8 PM. So within four hours on Thursday, there was one after another contradictory message coming out through the social media posts of the responsible government ministers and OPMCM. It was as if they were playing a prank with the people who are struggling with a lockdown in Kathmandu and wish to leave for their hometowns if a safe arrangement for that purpose is made by some authorities.

But this is not the first time. Something similar had happened earlier in December 2019 too. In India, Modi government was struggling to calm down the country's Muslim population over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) bill. PM KP Sharma Oli's twitter handle (@PM_Nepal) “accidentally” retweeted a tweet (by Indian journalist @DilliDurAst) where Sonia Gandhi was criticizing Modi for crackdown on protests. The tweet was later deleted but we still do not know who did this though the matter was put under investigation by Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police. It seems no investigation has been made on this issue.

Why do such mistakes happen? There are two obvious explanations. The OPMCM either does not have competent people to manage social media platforms, or they are not doing their duty properly. Second, the PM himself has not taken such embarrassment seriously. The PM and government ministers quickly point fingers to the media when such cases are reported. But they do not care how their own staff misuse or mishandle the social media page of the head of the government. PM’s IT consultant himself was found involved in deleting the news report from an online portal recently. There has been no investigation into this case, let alone action against him. Such clemency to those who make mistakes will further erode the credibility of the government and the PM himself. Since, the PM looks least bothered about such mistakes, we are afraid, we may have to face another embarrassing situation again.

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