US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU520

TIMBER! TOP BRANCHES OF FORESTRY MINISTRY FELLED IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU520
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU520 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-03-13 01:50:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV SENV NP
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS KATHMANDU 000520 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR SA/INS 
LONDON FOR RIEGEL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, SENV, NP 
SUBJECT: TIMBER!  TOP BRANCHES OF FORESTRY MINISTRY FELLED 
IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL 
 
REF: A. REF A) KATHMANDU 0485 
 
     B. REF B) 01 KATHMANDU 2092 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary:  On March 11 Minister for Forest and Soil 
Conservation Gopal Man Shrestha and Minister of State for 
Forest and Soil Conservation Surendra Hamal resigned from 
their posts after trading charges of corruption and abuse of 
power.  The resignations come less than ten days after Prime 
Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba announced the formation of a 
special judicial commission to probe corruption (Ref A). 
Most observers tote up the resignations to mutual personal 
and political enmity, rather than to any new initiatives to 
rid the Government of corruption.  End summary. 
 
2.  (U)  On March 11 Minister for Forest and Soil 
Conservation Gopal Man Shrestha and Minister of State for 
Forest and Soil Conservation Surendra Hamal resigned from 
their posts after trading mutual charges of corruption and 
abuse of power.  In tendering their resignations within hours 
of one another, each publicly maintained his own innocence, 
while asserting the guilt of the other. 
 
3.  (U)  The short-lived but highly visible scandal erupted 
March 8 after State Minister Hamal petitioned the Supreme 
Court to halt an investigation, initiated by the Commission 
for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA), of 
personnel transfers he had authorized.  Hamal's petition 
accused CIAA Commissioner Krishna Kafle and Forestry 
Secretary Chandi Prasad Shrestha of conspiring against him. 
 
SIPDIS 
In a press conference later that day, Hamal accused Forestry 
Minister Gopal Man Shrestha--whose complaint had prompted the 
CIAA probe of Hamal's personnel appointments--of accepting 
bribes from a turpentine company in return for increasing its 
resin collection permit.  Minister Shrestha publicly refuted 
his state minister's charges and counter-accused him of 
trying to arrange illegal transfers for selected employees 
within the Ministry. 
 
4.  (SBU) Several sources within the ruling Nepali Congress 
Party attributed the scandal to the substantial personal and 
political enmity between the two men, who hail from rival 
factions of the party.  (Note:  In an attempt to build 
broader support within his fractured party, PM Deuba expanded 
his Cabinet on October 18 to offer deputy ministerial posts 
to MPs aligned with his rival, former PM G.P. Koirala.  End 
note.)  According to one source, Minister Shrestha and his 
deputy locked horns over the dispensation of patronage--such 
as the allocation of plum assignments--within the Ministry. 
More than one party source noted that such tussles are 
commonplace within ministries, but are usually kept quiet as 
"internal" matters.  When Shrestha and Hamal both went public 
in their accusations, however, these sources emphasize, they 
violated party discipline, forcing the PM to ask for their 
resignations. 
 
5.  (SBU)  Comment:  We find it instructive that Nepali 
Congress sources close to the PM identify violation of party 
discipline--and the public embarrassment it caused the 
Government--rather than the acts of alleged corruption 
themselves as the real reason Deuba asked for the 
resignations.  These resignations came less than 10 days 
after Prime Minister Deuba, in an apparent effort to appease 
Opposition criticism of his administration's failure to 
prosecute corruption, annnounced the formation of yet another 
special commission to investigate corruption (Ref A).  That 
two members of his own Cabinet should almost immediately 
thereafter engage in highly public and acrimonious 
recriminations must have been acutely embarrassing for Deuba 
and left him little choice but to ask for their resignations. 
 Whether these resignations indicate a tougher stance toward 
corruption--and perhaps a more thorough Cabinet-cleaning 
exercise--from the PM in the future remains in doubt. 
 
 
 
MALINOWSKI 

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