By Ram Khatry, Sydney
23 May 2017
A non-government organisation representing Australia’s burgeoning Nepalese community has raised over $200,000 in a matter of one and half months indicating just how strong the South Asian diaspora has become over the years.
The Australian chapter of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) opens its membership every two years as it prepares to hold general assembly to elect its national and state level leadership. When the global body opened its membership application on March 15, it had little over six thousand members. By the time the application process ceased on the night of April 30, the number had risen well over 8,000.
According to NRNA Australia’s treasurer Dila Kharel, approximately $214,000 was raised during the six-week window. He says the figure is subject to refund either due to possible errors in payment or applications that fail verification process.
Until last election which was held in 2015, students were not awarded NRNA membership. However, that changed this year with international students being allowed to apply for associate membership for a meagre fee of $10 (for two years). In addition to student membership, NRNA also opened life membership for a fee of $250 .
However, there has been some hiccup in this happy story with disgruntled members raising serious allegations of “scam” and “membership fraud”.
Last week, Sydney-based member Durga Banjade told southasia.com.au that he had already lodged complaints not only with Fair Trading NSW but also with Consumers Affairs Victoria and Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Mr Banjade alleged that “the agents of Nepalese political parties openly” paid membership fees for hundreds of would-be members “with an aim to build a VOTE bank”.
“It is transparent and strongly believed that more than 60% of the members are financed wrongly (as a scam). Such activities are against clauses defined within the constitution of the organisation,” he complained. The impact of the “scam” on the Nepalese diaspora would mean “a fair, capable and independent person” will be kept from being elected to lead the fastest growing community of Australia, he lamented.
It is understood he has since been in contact with NRNA Australia office-bearers and will soon hold discussions over the imbroglio.
According to a recent press release issued by NRNA Australia’s spokesperson Dr Gyanendra Regmi, the organisation has formed a three-member committee to look into the “membership eligibility concern”. The committee is comprised of three sitting NRNA associates – Surendra Sigdel (current president of NRNA Australia), Dinesh Pokharel (Coordinator of NSW State Coordination Council) and Shamim Anwar (a long-standing associate and Public Relations Officer of NRNA Australia).
Asked what happens to the massive membership funds collected every two years, Mr Kharel said $5 from each membership fee goes to Social Welfare Fund which this year would come to over $40,000 while the rest will go the NRNA’s International Coordination Council in levy (US $5) and the rest will be distributed evenly among the respective state and national councils.