KATHMANDU, April 8: At a time when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has directed all its missions to monitor the situation of Nepali nationals and provide necessary assistance to those in need in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nepali envoy to Japan Prativa Rana is in Kathmandu on home leave for the past two months.
Sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said Rana has informed the ministry that she will not be able to return to Japan immediately as all international flights remain suspended. Nepal has suspended all international flights to and from Nepal since March 20 to stem the spread of the COVID-19.
Ambassasdor Rana chose to stay in Nepal despite having advance information that the government was suspending all international flights. Officials within the MoFA have taken serious exception to the decision of ambassador Rana to take such a long leave as the role of ambassador becomes very important for establishing necessary coordination with the government agencies to extend support to any Nepalis in distressd.
Japan is among the countries affected by the COVID-19. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday announced to enforced a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures until May 6.
"There is no point in continuing in the position if any ambassador decides to take home leave without any plausible reason when Nepali nationals in his/her host country are in danger and may need support," said a former ambassador, asking not to be named.
Venting their anger with the prolonged absence of ambassador during this difficult time, various organizations of Non-Resident Nepalis in Japan have suggested ambassdor Rana to step down instead if she is unable to help Nepali nationals when they need embassy's support the most. It is estimated that some 100,000 Nepali nationals, mostly students, currently live in Japan.
The then Nepali Congress (NC)-led government appointed Rana-- a leader of Rastriya Prajatantra Party-- as Nepali ambassador to Japan in April, 2017. Although all ambassadors appointed by then government except those representing the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center) have been recalled already, the KP Oli government has made Rana an exception.
Sources claim that the government has chosen not to recall her in an apparent bid to appease the main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), as Rana happens to be the mother-in-law of NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and the RPP as well.
In addition to Japan, Embassy of Nepal in Beijing (China) is also currently without ambassador after the government decided to recall then ambassador Leela Mani Paudyal. Although the government has decided to appoint former Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey as new Nepali ambassador, he reportedly will assume his duty after some time as China is still struggling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Likewise, the embassy of Nepal in South Korea -- also a country hit by the COVID-19 pandemic -- is also without an ambassador for the past one year. Reports say that a number of Nepali migrant workers are infected by COVID-19 and are in need of requring embassy's support there.