After SAARC, row over Olympics in Nepal

August 4th, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 4 (IANS) After a flaming row over who should represent Nepal at the SAARC Summit in Colombo, now the caretaker government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is mired in fresh controversy over attending the Olympic Games in Beijing this week at the invitation of the Chinese government. Close on the heels of the controversy that erupted when Koirala unilaterally decided to attend the Colombo meet although he had already resigned, now a former communist minister, who too resigned almost three months ago, has fanned a fresh row by heading a jumbo Nepal team to the Games.

Pradip Kumar Nepal, a member of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), was forced to resign as education and sports minister after he, almost all his party members in the cabinet as well as top leaders lost the April election.

The poll drubbing made the party recall all its seven ministers from the Koirala cabinet on the ground that having lost the people’s mandate, they had no moral right to stay in the government.

Since his resignation in May, Nepal has not attended the ministry or sat in any cabinet meeting. However, that has not deterred him from leading a 32-member delegation to Beijing that includes only eight players who will take part in the Olympics.

Nepal decided to step in after President Ram Baran Yadav, who was the original recipient of the invitation from the Chinese government, declined it on the ground that he is required to stay in Nepal since a new government could be formed any day.

The Nepali Olympic delegation includes five coaches for eight players and 18 government officials.

Like Koirala’s SAARC trip, Nepal’s participation in the Olympics was not discussed in the cabinet meetings or among the major parties. The education and sports ministry is said to have taken the decision on its own.

The scandal surfaces close on the heels of a raging row among the major parties over Nepal’s participation in the SAARC Summit that ended Sunday.

The Maoists, the UML and other minor parties had flayed the caretaker prime minister for taking the unilateral decision of heading the Nepali delegation to the Colombo meet instead of sending the president.

The Himalayan republic was without a foreign minister at the SAARC foreign ministers’ meet preceding the Colombo Summit since its foreign affairs minister Sahana Pradhan, also a UML member, didn’t go as she had resigned along with Nepal and five other colleagues in May.

Consequently, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat took the foreign minister’s place.

Even three months after the election, the new government has not been formed in Nepal due to the intense fight for power among the major parties. This has given rise to increasing irregularities and ad hoc-ism in the running of the government.

It remains to be seen how Beijing, whose interest in Nepal has multiplied in the last three years, will react to a former minister being sent in the place of the head of state.

Promising to be a star-studded affair, the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is expected to be attended by the heads of several powerful states, including US President George W. Bush.

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