It is a question of political culture. Nowhere in a democratic system, however flagging it maybe, would an outgoing prime minister make political appointments or reshuffle his cabinet. The cabinet on Monday appointed vice-chancellors (VCs) in seven universities even as the prime minister (PM) was preparing his speech to be delivered in the parliament announcing his conditional resignation on August 13. Actually, the PM committed himself on May 28 in writing to resign to pave the way for the formation of a national consensus government.
The appointment of the VCs at the country’s premier universities has devalued the post of the PM as it has raised questions the legitimacy of the new appointees. Democratic Professors Association (DPA), which is close to Nepali Congress (NC), has already challenged the legitimacy of the appointments and has announced that it would padlock the universities in protest.
For years, the functioning of the universities was affected because of absence of leadership. Ironically, the universities will now remain padlocked—who knows till when— because the government has appointed new VCs. The padlocking of the universities by the DPA is unfortunately not aimed at ending politicization of the universities and educational institutions. Instead, the DPA is protesting the appointments because it thinks that its members didn’t get a rightful share in the new appointments.
Of the seven VCs appointed, four have allegiance to the ruling UML, two are affiliated to the NC and one is close to the Maoists. The DPA has argued that almost 80 percent of the university professors and teachers are either supporters of the NC or the Maoists; therefore, the VCs’ slots should have been distributed among supporters of the three major parties accordingly. The DPA or any other professors association, for that matter, should feel ashamed for making such an argument. Universities are not the spoils that party cadres and supporters divide among themselves.
It seems everything eventually boils down to leadership. Take for instance, Minister for Energy Gokarna Bista. Like the Education Minister Ganga Lal Tuladhar, Bista is also a UML cadre but these two ministers are poles apart. Minister Bista did not only resign from the powerful and lucrative post of Chairman of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) but he also appointed executive director of NEA through free competition. He has set such a strong precedence that his successor will not be able to muster courage to make political appointments at the NEA in the future.
Educational institutions are even more vital institutions when it comes to their role in formation of social capitals; therefore, it is imperative that we keep them insulated from partisan politics. We strongly urge the government to cancel the current appointments of the VCs and fill these top posts of the vital educational institutions through free competition.
(Source: Republica Nepal)