Do not make the probe committee a ploy to cover up crimes

Published On: April 15, 2024 07:35 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

In our country, almost all controversial events or decisions are investigated. Although such incidents are examined by probe committees, their reports are rarely publicized, denying the ordinary public access to the findings. This tendency by political leadership reduces the committees to mere ploys for covering up crimes. Political leaders seem to prefer forming these committees for various reasons. Firstly, it helps temporarily settle disputes. Secondly, it can divert attention from the real issues, which many may later forget. Thirdly, it allows the guilty parties to be spared without any action. Thus, even if one side is vocal about the investigation, the issue tends to fizzle out over time as the other side sees a benefit in that.

Often, when new ministers are appointed, they initially take rigid stances. Over time, the situation in the country makes them more flexible. As time passes, they become complacent with the prevailing practices. This happens in all major appointments. The structure here gradually diminishes the initial apprehensions of the newcomers. Eventually, they accept all sides. Currently, a few new ministers in the government led by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal are showing readiness to work in their ministries. There is increased pressure on the minister from the party who positions himself as an alternative to the old guard. If he can demonstrate effectiveness now, it will naturally increase public faith in his party and himself. As a result, the Minister for Labor, Employment and Social Welfare, DP Aryal, has announced that his office has expedited labor approvals to within three minutes, and he has pledged to complete tasks within an hour. His efforts will naturally boost public confidence. The only question is whether this work will continue.

Sumana Shrestha, from the fourth-largest party in Parliament, the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), currently leads the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. She has released the Medical Education Investigation Commission  2074 BS' report prepared six years ago. Parts of this report were previously disclosed unofficially and made little impact. The report recommended action against those causing disorder and promoting anarchy in the medical sector. It is now clear that the report was concealed to protect individuals close to the ruling establishment at that time. By publishing this report, Minister Shrestha has offered a message of hope. If this trend continues, the new ministers will be able to make a modest contribution to addressing past anomalies.

Such responses are common across all ministries and departments. The most notable example is the report on gold smuggling, which is also languishing unnoticed. The fact that non-Bhutanese were sent to the US based on a completely falsified report on Bhutanese refugees has not been made public yet. If the full report had been available, action could have been taken against many based on its findings. However, the practice of keeping reports confidential persists in our state structure. Ideally, all matters should be public unless they breach state secrecy or individual privacy. If made public, it would facilitate improvement. The continuation of a monopolistic autocratic system that conceals everything is still prevalent. As a result, there is a practice in the country of keeping reports secret and not punishing the culprits.

There are only a few issues that need to be kept confidential. Our constitution and the Right to Information Act clearly stipulate them. A legal provision could be made to declassify confidential information after certain years. If implemented, this would empower people with information. Only a country with informed citizens can be truly democratic. The practice of weighing political gains and losses when publishing reports should end. Only if all reports are made public can the truth be revealed. It is high time all stakeholders acted to end the current practice of supporting cover-ups in the name of investigation. This alone can improve our system.

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