As the nationwide lockdown enters its second week, people are desperately looking for a reassuring leader at the helm of our government. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is recovering from a kidney transplant and Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel is technically in charge of the coronavirus response team. However, we have yet to see the type of leadership a crisis demands.
New York’s governor Andrew M. Cuomo has been lauded as a model leader during such a crisis. He has done a great job of explaining the crisis to the people and giving them hope. We need a leader to guide us through this crisis. We need someone in the Oli’s cabinet to face the public and be that calming voice.
So far, we have not seen that from Pokharel or anyone else. Health Minister Bhau Bhakta Dhakal has been a huge disappointment. He not only lacks a basic knowledge about the health system, but he fails to understand the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. He even suggested that the health care professionals only need the personal protective equipment (PPE) while treating people with coronavirus. This is not only ridiculous, but also an irresponsible statement coming out from the health minister.
Corruption in a multi-million-rupee medical kit purchase from China has been widely reported. However, health minister Dhakal says he does not feel the need to explain the purchase. This flies in the face of PM Oli’s vow to run a clean and efficient government. Mismanagement and chaos within the health ministry is another disaster at a time of great national emergency.
Even Nepali Congress (NC), the main opposition party, has been a disappointment. NC has failed to pressure the government to act quickly to contain the spread of coronavirus. From the very beginning of this crisis, NC should have pressed the government to take preventive measures like halting international flights, managing in-flow of Nepalis from India and elsewhere and more. The party also failed to play its part in containing this crisis.
We don't yet know when and how this crisis will end. We must prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Last few months have shown that our government is woefully unprepared to handle the crisis. Individuals and some organizations have stepped up to help whatever they can. Such works are commendable. However, the people should feel that they have someone to look up to, especially during this pandemic. We need a face and a voice to tell us that we are all going to be okay and that we will together overcome this health crisis.