March 20, 2012
Prakash Dahal, the son of Maoist Chairman Prachanda, was forced Sunday to refuse $250,000 from his father’s government for a Mount Everest expedition after the offer sparked outrage and accusations of Maoist corruption.
Earlier in the week, Prakash had proclaimed that he and his 11-member crew were “going to climb Mount Everest for the country and its people to ensure peace and new constitution.”
But the brazen move made front-page news in all newspapers and led opposition parties Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) to protest and demand a rollback.
Opposition activists burned effigies of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and warned they would stage “massive” protests across the impoverished nation after details of the grant emerged. Maoist party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s son, Prakash, told a press conference: “We want to return the money to the government, showing respect for the sentiments of the Nepali people.”
But in a bizarre afterthought, Prakash suggested that the ill-gotten money should be given instead to the families of the 16,000 killed in the country’s 10-year civil war, which ended in 2006. Critics complained that he was hardly in a position to dictate where taxpayers’ money should be channeled.
"This is the worst kind of immoral decision taken by this government. There cannot be any financial irregularities greater than this," said Ramesh Lhekhak, leader of the opposition Nepali Congress, accusing the Maoists of "nepotism".
"Many common people are forced to live in poverty due to poor economic conditions but the government ignores them and wastes money in an unmeaningful [sic] initiative like this."
"How could the government's decision to empty the state coffers for these new princelings help achieve peace and the constitution-making process?" National Students' Union coordinator Ranjit Karna was quoted as saying in the Kathmandu Post. "This is an example of institutional corruption."
This is not the first time that Prachanda’s son has garnered negative headlines.
On March 22, 2009, the then Prime Minister Prachanda and his Minister for Finance Dr. Baburam Bhattarai – the current Prime Minister – rushed to Dhulikhel to hold a meeting with the vice chancellor of Kathmandu University Dr. Suresh Raj Sharma. Prachanda’s son accompanied them.
However, while the two Maoist leaders were engaged in the meeting, Prakash got it into his head to invite all the security personnel and the Maoists’ party cadres present to join him in alcoholic revelry. The results of that party – a photo of Prakash passed out in the Dhulikhel hotel lobby – made front-page news the following day, along with the unflattering comparison to “the good old days”, when King Gyanendra’s high-rolling son, Prince Paras, embarrassed the monarchy on an all-too-regular basis.