Questionable conduct

Published On: December 24, 2019 09:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Through this space we have urged the top leaders of political parties, including the prime minister and ministers, to stay away from vested interests of business groups. When top leaders associate themselves with such groups the immediate fallout is undermining of rule of law which allows business groups to take advantage of their connection with power centers. There is a strong reason to dissociate politics from business nexus for obvious reason—it breeds corruption, corrodes the system and dents image of political parties and business nexus has upper hand in decision making.  The government of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has not been able to rise above this nexus. In fact, Prime Minister himself is seen to be favoring one or other business groups affiliated with his party over others, undermining, even making mockery of, rule of law of the country.  This has to stop immediately.

The case in point is undue favor given to the Yeti Group, owned by late Ang Tshering Sherpa who was affiliated to ruling Nepal Communist Party, by this government and Prime Minster Oli. Using the political connection or by allowing the group to take advantage of this connection, the government has allowed Yeti Group to carry out a number of questionable business conducts. First, the group has secured several prime public properties including Nepal Trust property worth billions of rupees. The Yeti Group has managed to transfer the ownership of land inside the Sagarmatha National Park, the land that falls inside UNESCO World Heritage Site, to its name to establish Kongde View Resort. The public land now is under ownership of Sonam Lakpa Sherpa, the chairman of Yeti Group. Second, Yeti Group has secured the permission to operate Pathibhara Devi Darshan Cable Car Pvt Limited, owned by the Yeti Group without following the due legal process. Third, the members of Yeti Group have been appointed in Nepal Trust Board, creating the situation of conflict of interest. Fourth, and the most controversial, is the extension of the lease period of Gokarna Forest Resort to Yeti Holdings Private Limited for another 25 years even before the current lease agreement expires in 2025. Some of the provisions in the Nepal Trust Act were amended allegedly under the influence of the high political office to pave way for extending the lease period to Yeti Group. Evidently, this has been done at a substantially cheaper rate to allow the Group to reap huge benefit at the expense of public land. Prime Minister KP Oli’s patronage to members of this group does not stop here. He reportedly allowed 14 ropanis of land to build Ang Tshering Sherpa Gumba in Lumbini. Controversy surrounding appointment of Dawa Futi Sherpa, daughter of the current chairman of Yeti Airlines Lakpa Sonam Sherpa, as Nepal’s ambassador to Spain is still fresh.

It is unfortunate that government and head of government are letting a powerful business group to have its say in almost every matter just because its members are close to ruling party. Prime Minister’s Yeti connection has become the subject of serious debate in the public spheres. It has set the dangerous precedent too. The business- politics nexus is nothing new. It has existed for many years. But the two thirds majority government was expected to break it. Instead it is abetting the practice.  The Yeti connection has earned infamy to the prime minister and his government. The government must correct this mistake to send the message that it does not favor a business group based on political association and that it allows businesses to run according to the laws of the land.

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