Nepal recalls Qatar ambassador over diplomatic conduct

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Less than halfway into her appointment as ambassador to Qatar, Dr. Maya Kumari Sharma has been recalled by the Nepali government over dissatisfaction with her diplomatic performance.

Nepal’s Cabinet made the decision during a meeting today, about a week after Sharma’s political party officially called for her ousting. The ambassador was appointed to a four-year post in Qatar in May 2012.

Speaking to AFP, Nepal’s Communication Minister Madhav Paudel said:

“The government decided to recall Sharma because her dealings were not according to diplomatic decorum.”

The news, which is being circulated by Nepali media, has been received positively in diplomatic circles, one journalist told Doha News.

“The rest of the embassies are too happy for this decision,” said Devendra Bhattarai, who was in Kathmandu when the decision came down. Her attitude is hurting Qatar-Nepal relations, the New Delhi bureau chief of Kantipur Publications added.

Not gone yet

When reached for comment, a Nepali embassy official in Qatar told Doha News that no official papers have yet been sent relieving Sharma of her duties.

That could be because the decision was only taken today, said Bhattarai, the Nepali journalist. A letter would probably reach Sharma early next week, and she would be given 30 to 45 days to leave Qatar, he said.

Nepal, an impoverished country in South Asia whose expats account for some 20 percent of Qatar’s population, has been in the spotlight over the past few months after it emerged that dozens of its young nationals have been dying here.

This summer alone, some 44 men died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents, according to files obtained by the Guardian.

Most of the deceased were low-income construction workers in their 20s, an embassy official told Doha News last month. Lack of food, water and high temperatures all served as contributing factors, he said.

‘Open jail’

One of the main issues with Sharma appears to be frank remarks she made to the BBC Sajha Sawal (“common questions”) show in June, saying “Qatar is an open jail.”

When Qatar complained about the comment, she apologized. At the time, Sharma also sent a letter to Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs department, calling for an investigation into Nepali media for its reports on Qatar. The note incensed journalists there, including Bhattarai.

Sharma’s comments were also mentioned in a Guardian investigation into Nepali workers’ rights in Qatar, which was published yesterday.

Discontent with Sharma, who has been criticized for having an “unprofessional” working style, has been brewing for some time. But her fate was not sealed until last week, when her political party, the UCPN (Maoist), called for her ousting.

“Everyone has his or her own limit – she is an ambassador and there is no moral ground to speak like that,” Bhattarai said.

According to the party, Sharma, who has a PhD in economics and formerly worked at the Agricultural Development Bank, did not have sufficient diplomatic or political experience before her appointment in Qatar. 

The Himalayan Times also weighed in on the debate with an editorial published earlier this week:

Because of some objectionable remarks that she had made against Qatar, there is an urgent need for her to resign and return home. This happens when the posts of ambassadors are given like party tickets without taking into consideration the responsibility and credibility that an envoy has to maintain, besides the academic and requisite qualification in diplomacy.

Another op-ed, published in the Kathmandu Post on Tuesday, said the issue goes beyond Sharma’s appointment, and that politics have caused many of Nepal’s overseas posts to be filled by those who are unqualified, or not filled at all.

Thoughts?

Credit: Video still courtesy of BBC Sajha Sawal

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