Nepal at a loss over future of ex-VIP cars

Former ministerial car in Nepal government garage
Image caption It is not clear at present what exactly will happen to the cars (Photo by Bhaswor Ojha)

Officials in Nepal say they are at a loss to know what to do with luxury vehicles handed back to the state by the deposed king and former ministers.

About 24 government vehicles were returned following a Supreme Court order last month.

They belonged to former King Gyanendra - overthrown in 2008 when the monarchy was abolished - as well as several former prime ministers and ministers.

The deluxe fleet is currently gathering dust in government-run garages.

Officials say the authorities failed to prepare contingency plans for their handover to the state.

The vehicles must remain parked because no laws have been passed stipulating what should be done with them, they say.

"About two dozen expensive vehicles have been parked - either at the home ministry or at the prime minister's office," Home Secretary Sushil Jung Bahadur Rana told the BBC Nepali Service.

The vehicles include expensive SUVs, Land Cruisers, Prados and Pajeros. But the cream of the fleet is a Mercedes Benz car used by former King Gyanendra.

In its ruling on 9 December, the Supreme Court concluded that decisions taken by various cabinets to provide vehicles, fuel, rent and other perks to senior figures of former administrations - including members of the judiciary and civil servants - were "arbitrary, discriminatory and against the law".

Image caption PM Baburam Bhattarai opted for a budget-friendly local Mustang

The court ordered the government to withdraw such facilities from former ministers, including former heads of state. Officials say Gyanendra is joined by numerous former dignitaries who are affected by the order.

Former Prime Ministers Jhalanath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (the Maoist leader Prachanda) and Lokendra Bahadur Chand have all returned their vehicles.

Mr Rana said the government was "sensitive over the possible damage of such expensive vehicles due to lack of use and proper maintenance".

"That's why we are currently working on introducing a law that ensures facilities to VVIPs," he said.

"These vehicles could be damaged if we don't carry out maintenance on them. We will provide such vehicles to VVIPs immediately after laws relating to them are formulated."

In August PM Baburam Bhattarai spurned the opportunity of travelling in a luxurious car - instead choosing an unglamorous Mustang assembled in Nepal.

Its unostentatious reputation made it the ideal choice for a Maoist prime minister who insisted that his top priority was the eradication of poverty.

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