The police are less likely to to press charges against the cadres of big political parties accused of vandalising a tanker delivering gasoline to the Madhya Bhote Koshi Hydropower Project bowing to pressure from their superiors.
Police sources said that the local police had been pressurized not to file cases against the workers of the ruling Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and the main opposition UCPN (Maoist).
On Saturday, a group of political party workers aligned with the NC, UML, Maoists and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) had damaged the tanker to press their demand that they be given the contract to supply fuel to the 102 MW project.
The police had arrested two RPP cadres, Min Bahadur Shrestha and Dawa Tamang, in connection with the destruction. As Shrestha belongs to a small party, the police have moved to file charges against him under the Public Offence Act.
The oil supplier Serap Enterprises had registered complaint at the District Police Office seeking action against 16 persons of different political parties for their alleged involvement in the vandalism. The alliance has been demanding they be awarded the gasoline supply contract. China’s Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau, the contractor, had awarded the contract to Serap Enterprise.
The group had earlier obstructed fuel supply twice, and forced the return of 12,000 litres of petroleum products from Jambu. Following the incident, the Chinese contractor informed Prime Minister Sushil Koirala through the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.
Local leaders of the political parties have threatened that they will intensify their agitation if the arrested were not released and warned against making any further arrests. Non-cooperation from the political parties has created problems for the local police in registering the case.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Dipak Kharel at the District Police Office said that they had given the right to file the case to the Area Police Office based in Barhabise. “The local police office has been told to investigate the incident and take an appropriate decision on the mater.”
According to sources, pressure from higher-ups and opposition at the local level have discouraged the police from initiating legal action against the culprits.
“It is not good to file a case without first finding out what really happened,” said Majil Mukarung, Police Inspector at the Area Police Office, Barhabise. “If the investigation demands the arrest of other people, we will do that,” he added.
According to sources, if the police arrest one more person, the local leadership of the main political parties has warned of blocking Araniko Highway and preventing the project from operating. “We can’t say who has threatened us, but it has been a hindrance to our investigation,” said a police officer.
The local leaders of the political parties did not immediately return telephone calls.
However, the chairman of the inter-party mechanism Suppa Shrestha of the UML sent an sms stating that they had put forward certain demands on behalf of the project-affected people.
Charging the media of favouring the contractor and the project, he said that jobs should be guaranteed to the project-affected people at the project.
“We have been presented in a wrong way when we have been arguing that locals should be given priority,” he added. He didn’t say anything about the vandalised tanker in his sms response.