Speaker Mahara resigns amid rape allegation

Published On: October 2, 2019 07:20 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Oct 2: Speaker of the House of Representatives Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who faces allegation of rape, resigned Tuesday to facilitate investigation into the allegations. 

Mahara tendered his resignation to deputy speaker of the House Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli directed him to cooperate with the investigation process. 

In the letter, Mahara said that he decided to step down on “moral ground to facilitate free, fair and independent investigation into the allegations made by media raising serious question about my character”. 

The resignation comes two days after an employee at the parliament secretariat made a verbal complaint to police that the speaker had raped her at her room in Tinkune. 

The woman, who had called police soon after the alleged incident which took place on Sunday evening, told police that Mahara had forcefully assaulted her before the rape, according to police officials involved in the investigation. 

Mahara has been alleged of engaging in similar misconduct with the same woman in the past. 

Speaker Mahara has public admitted meeting the woman at her apartment whom he described as a family friend although on Monday his press advisor had issued a statement denying meeting the woman. He, however, denied the allegation of rape, claiming that it was an attempt to tarnish his character. 

The incident of the alleged rape, first reported by HamraKura, an online news portal, triggered a huge public outcry and prompted the ruling Nepal Communist Party to hold an emergency meeting that unanimously recommended Mahara to resign. 

PM Oli and NCP Co-Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal held rounds of meetings with Mahara, Nepal Police IGP Sarbendra Khanal and other officials before urging Mahara to step down from the post of speaker. Mahara, however, hasn’t resigned from his post as a Member of Parliament. 

After trying to cover the issue for more than 48 hours, police on Tuesday announced that they have initiated a probe into the allegation. 

Police officials said that they have already gathered evidences from the woman’s apartment. 

Mahara, 61, is one of the high-profile public figures to be charged in a series of sexual misconduct in wake of the global #MeToo movement. But none of the allegations have been investigated.

Despite his resignation, not many are convinced that Mahara would actually face punishment. 

Many believe that the case would be settled even before reaching the court. And its first indication came on Tuesday itself after the woman, who never lodged a written complaint despite request from police, has reportedly made a u-turn in her statement, and accused the media of exaggerating the facts. 

The woman told Nagarik Khaber, an online portal, that she regretted making false allegation against ‘a fatherly figure’. She said that she went to media due to a fit of anger and depression. Republica couldn’t independently verify the claims as the woman has switched off her mobile phone and gone out of contact in following Mahara’s resignation. 

Whether the victim actually lied or was forced to change her statement due to undue pressure might never be known, especially since the victim appears to be in no mood to lodge complaint. 

But Mahara is no saint. Since joining mainstream politics after the end of the People’s War in 2006, his political career has remained marred in series of controversy. In 2013, he courted controversy after an audio leak in which he was heard asking Rs 500 million in bribe with an unknown Chinese man for horse-trading of 50 MPs. He and other senior Maoist leaders also face allegations for embezzling possibly billions of rupees during business deals. But he has somehow managed to remain unscathed.

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