Nepal Today

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BANGLADESHI, SOUTH KOREAN KILLED ON EVEREST Kathmandu, 21 May: A climber from Bangladesh and another from South Korea have died on Mount Everest as hundreds flock to the world's highest peak during good weather, Nepalese tourism officials said Tuesday, AFP reports from the Nepali capital.. "Both men died while descending from the summit on Monday," an official with the tourism ministry told AFP from Everest Base Camp. Sung Ho-Seo, 34, of South Korea was attempting the climb without supplementary oxygen and died on his way down the mountain. Mohammed Hossain, 35, from Bangladesh, died in his tent a few hours after successfully climbing the summit. "The exact cause of death is unknown, but altitude played a part," said the official, Gyanendra Shrestha, adding that the bodies would not be recovered until after the summit season ended so as not to interrupt other climbers. Both men perished in the "death zone" -- above 8,000 meters, notorious for its difficult terrain and thin air. Five other climbers have died on the 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) mountain this season. Early in the season Mingmar Sherpa, 47, a member of an elite team known as the "icefall doctors" who set up climbing routes, plunged to his death. DaRita Sherpa, 47, died from what is believed to have been cardiac arrest earlier this month. Commercial guide Lobsang Sherpa, 22, also plunged to his death. A 50-year-old Russian climber, Alex Bolotov, was found dead near the famed Khumbu Icefall crevasse on May 15. Namgyal Sherpa, who had led expeditions to clear garbage and bodies from Everest, died May 16 while descending from his tenth successful summit. Some 300 people have perished trying to reach the summit during the last six decades. The bodies of some of them remain on the mountain. May is considered the best time for climbing in the Nepalese Himalayas because of mild weather and some 300 people have reached the top of Everest so far this year. But a brawl that erupted last month between three European climbers and Nepalese guides on the mountain cast a shadow over this year's season, which marks the 60th anniversary of the maiden ascent by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. Nnnn PROBING UNACCOUNTED WEALTH A DIFFICULT JOB Kathmandu, 21 May: The Department of Money Laundering Investigation, which yesterday chargesheeted five dons accusing them of amassing property hem of amassing property without known legal sources, has so far collected around some Rs 210 million from earlier cases KUvera Chalise writes in The Himalayan Times.. However, only 10 of the 24 cases of money laundering have been finalised, according to DMLI. "In all 10 cases, the court ruling has been in favour of DMLI, making it collect Rs 107.90 million," a source told THT seeking anonymity. According to the anti-money laundering law, the accused, after being convicted by the court, also must pay a fine equal to the amount they are charged with amassing illegally. Including the cases of the five gangsters against who DMLI has moved the Special Court, the total cases now are worth around Rs 1.74 billion. DMLI yesterday filed money laundering cases against five dons charging them with accumulating assets worth Rs 630 million through extortion, commission and other criminal activities. DMLI's latest move may look pretty promising, but it is not all smooth sailing, especially when it comes to country's commitment to the international community to fight against dirty money. In the last two years since its establishment, DMLI has seen as many as six chiefs; needless to say, because of political pressure. "Once we start investigation, the department chief gets a transfer order," the source said, adding that DMLI, which can investigate politically exposed persons (PEPs), their families and associates, and gangsters if they are found to have accumulated wealth without any particular source of income, is in need of more teeth. The amended recommendation of Financial Action Task Force — a global anti-money laundering agency — has asked the national authorities to issue a public list of PEPs to check corruption, apart from financing terrorist activities. "But the long-drawn political transition and frequent government changes have thrown a spanner in DMLI's works," he added. "The government had planned to appoint secretary, instead of current provision of joint secretary, as the director general to head DMLI to strengthen it, but the entire process has been delayed to due to 'pressure'," the source told THT. NnnN NO GOVT. BID TO REVIVE JCF Kathmandu, 21 May: The government has decided not to revive and operate the moribund Janakpur Cigarette Factory ( JCF ). The state-owned company has remained closed since 2011 after sinking into a mess due to political interference, mismanagement and overstaffing, Prithvi Man Shrestha writes in The Kathmandu Post.. The factory has not produced a single cigarette for the past two years. However, the government has been shelling out Rs 1 million daily for staff salaries and other expenses. Deciding that enough is enough, it wants to pass the headache to the private sector if there are any takers. Finance Minister Shankar Prasad Koirala said that the factory’s 833 employees would be paid off and its liabilities cleared before scouting for potential investors to run the once reputed factory. Built in 1965 as a gift of the then Soviet Union, JCF was the champion of the market during its heyday. It manufactured a slew of brands, each of which had a dedicated fan following. The company went into a tailspin a decade ago as mismanagement, overstaffing and quality loss of its products took its toll. The government’s effort to offload JCF has come as per the recommendation of the Public Enterprise Board (PEB). A few months ago, it had recommended that the private sector be allowed to run the factory after paying off its staff. The board had raised a moral question whether it was right for the government to operate a cigarette factory. Following efforts of the previous administration to resurrect closed public enterprises, Finance Minister Koirala said that the government would no longer make extra investments to revive them. However, the government would respond positively to private parties expressing interest to operate them. Meanwhile, the ministry has formed a study committee under the coordination of an under secretary to recommend the modality for paying off the company’s staff and debts. Representatives of the Industry Ministry and JCF also sit on the committee. “The committee is expected to give its recommendation shortly, and we expect to complete paying off the staff within the current fiscal year,” said Dhundi Pokharel, chief of the ministry’s public enterprises coordination division. “The government will pay off the staff and take control of all the assets of the factory before offering it to the private sector to operate. The factory, which is located in the country’s south-eastern plains, was closed two years ago. Since then, the government has paid the factory’s liabilities amounting to more than Rs 200 million, according to the Finance Ministry. “Paying off the staff is expected to cost Rs 1.5 billion to Rs 2 billion,” said Pokharel. Meanwhile, the factory’s staff have also been demanding voluntary retirement with certain benefits. According to a study conducted by the PEB, JCF has not been running well for a long time, and its closure resulted in losses amounting to Rs 381 million in fiscal 2011-12. The factory lost Rs 218 million in the previous fiscal year. The factory’s debts to the government, banks and suppliers stand at Rs 2.5 billion. It owes Rs 1.39 billion in salaries, medical allowances, gratuities, retirement benefits and provident fund to its staff. It has not paid retirement benefits amounting to Rs 650 million and medical benefits amounting to Rs 270 million to its employees. Likewise, it owes Rs 70 million to tobacco suppliers in India, Rs 350 million to different banks and financial institutions and Rs 210 million to Rastriya Beema Sansthan in insurance premiums. It also owes the government Rs 300 million in outstanding loans, according to a PEB report. “The staff should have been paid off a long time ago,” said PEB chairman Bimal Wagle. “The longer it is delayed, the higher the costs for the government.” JCF might have massive debts, but it owns prime real estate which makes it a wealthy sick public enterprise. The PEB study has estimated the value of its fixed assets at Rs 10 billion. According to the PEB, JCF owns land and buildings in 18 locations in the country from Biratnagar in the east to Mahendranagar in the far west. The largest plot of 33.5 bighas is situated in Janakpur. It also owns land in Nepalgunj, Butwal, Dhangadhi, Dang, Surkhet, Gaighat, Narayanghat, Mahendranagar in Dhanusha, Birgunj, Pokhara, Galkot, Baglung, Kusma, Parbat, Dadeldhura, Jomsom and Musikot of Rukum. One and a half years ago, the factory sold a prime plot of land at Naya Baneshwor, Kathmandu to the Citizens Investment Trust (CIT) for Rs 722 million, but the money was not enough to get the factory back on its feet. Meanwhile, there have also been attempts to seek assistance from Russia to reopen it. As per the recommendation of the factory management, the Industry Ministry had even prepared a proposal and sent it to the National Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry to ask Russia for help. They rejected the plan as it also involved massive government investment. Nnnn CPN MAOIST RJECTS TALKS Kathmandu, 21 May: A day after the coordinator of the High-level Political Committee, Jhala Nath Khanal, held talks with the breakaway Maoist leaders, the CPN-Maoist on Monday said it will not contest Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in the status quo, The Kathmandu Post writes.. Leaders of the CPN-Maoist have, however, said the party may contest the polls if the Chief Justice-led government steps down and paves way for a partisan election government. The stance from the Mohan Baidya-led party follows efforts being made by the four major political forces to bring poll-opposing parties on board before the announcement of the election date. “This government is formed as per the interests of foreign forces, hence, a new partisan government should be formed if fresh elections are to be held,” said CPN-Maoist Politburo member Haribhakta Kandel. “We will boycott the elections and disrupt poll activities if the elections are declared without addressing our demands.” Apart from the revocation of the 25-point proposal on removal of constitutional difficulties, the CPN-M has demanded scrapping of the appointment of tainted former chief secretary Lokman Singh Karki as the head of the CIAA, and an end to the ongoing citizenship distribution campaign. The UCPN (Maoist) is learnt to have proposed that the size of the CA can be increased to 601 and the provision of minimum one percent threshold for proportional seats can be removed to bring the CPN-M and other agitating parties on board. CPN-Maoist sources said some party leaders, including General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa, Secretary Dev Gurung and Spokesperson Pumpha Bhusal, are in favour of participating in the elections if some of the demands are addressed. They argue that a roundtable conference can be organised to decide on the next roadmap, including formation of a new government to hold elections. Another faction led by Secretary Netra Bikram Chand has stressed that the party should prepare for a ‘revolt’ instead of “getting trapped into the CA that will not be able to draft a pro people’s statute.” nnnn


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