The recent criticism of the government, and of the prime minister in particular, has clearly touched a raw nerve of KP Sharma Oli. The criticism was centered on how the prime minister helped with the logistics and cost of an international summit being hosted by an organization of dubious credentials in Nepal. The Nepal chapter of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) has in the past been accused of involvement in forced conversion of people into Christianity. Many commentators in this country where over 80 percent people identify as Hindus found that problematic. Others faulted the government for paying the bills of a summit from which Nepal stands to gain little. Most problematic was the prime minister’s acceptance of a reward worth $100,000 from the UPF as well as ‘blessing’ of its head who boasts of being ‘Female Jesus’. Why did the prime minister have to sink so low? There may be a few reasons. One is that the UPF has been sponsors of all-expenses-paid foreign trips of senior Nepal Communist Party leaders, so they somehow felt beholden to the organization. There were speculations that the organizers also gave ‘heavy donations’ to the ruling parties—in return for Nepal government agreeing to confer greater international legitimacy on the UPF.
PM Oli clarified that as a secular state Nepal could not bar any faith
In his defense, PM Oli clarified that as a secular state and as a country traditionally known for its hospitality—and one that is looking to bring in two million tourists a year to boot—he found no reason to object to the religion of the UPF top brass. He also said that should the intellectuals who have recently criticized him get into a serious debate with him, the prime minister would make them lose face, exposing their hypocrisy. He then added that the summit had greatly boosted Nepal’s international image.
But what he left out was more meaningful. He didn’t say why he was adamant on hosting the summit, despite being advised against it by senior government officials. He didn’t say how much the government had spent on security and care of the around 1,500 visiting VIPs and VVIPs. He didn’t say how being awarded by Hak Ja Han, the UPF chairperson and a leader of what has been described as a ‘divisive Christian cult’, was becoming of a prime minister of a secular state.
With no easy way to wiggle out of it, the prime minister is trying to deflect genuine criticism with pure bluster. But deep down he must know he made a huge mistake.