‘Govt formed through democratic system is transforming Nepal into communist state’
By The Himalayan Times
Published: 10:00 am Aug 05, 2019
The House of Representatives has not been able to hold its meetings since July 10 except on July 24 when discussions on devastation caused by floods and landslides were held after the opposition Nepali Congress registered a motion of public importance. The House meeting has been obstructed for almost a month with the NC and another opposition party, Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, demanding formation of a parliamentary panel to investigate two cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Sarlahi district. Opposition parties have insisted that a panel be formed by the House itself because they are cases of human rights violation, whereas ruling party members say the existing parliamentary committees should take up these issues. Jagdishor Panday of The Himalayan Times met NC Whip Pushpa Bhusal to discuss these matters. Excerpts:
The lower house meetings have been disrupted for almost a month. When will the deadlock end?
We want the House to form a panel to investigate deaths of three people in Sarlahi. Sarlahi district in-charge of the Netra Bikram Chand-led group Kumar Paudel was killed in an alleged encounter with police on June 20. Then, an 11-year-boy died in a pond created by people operating illegal crusher and sand mining businesses. When peaceful demonstrations were held to protest the boy’s murder, Saroj Narayan Singh was killed in police firing in the East-West Highway on June 30. People have the right to protest in a peaceful manner. But an innocent person has died, which is a gross violation of human rights. The government cannot do whatever it wants simply because it has the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers. It cannot say the matter need not be investigated further simply because compensation has been provided to the family of the deceased. What we want to do is build a robust system so that nobody can get off scot-free. That’s why we are demanding formation of a panel by the House. Some of the ruling party lawmakers are saying that issues related to killings fall under the jurisdiction of the parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee. But the SAGGC has not started investigations into these cases. Since the issue has been raised in the full House, we have asked the House to form a panel because we want to protect human and other fundamental rights and ensure peace and security, which, ultimately, will strengthen governance. But the ruling Nepal Communist Party has been ignoring our calls simply because they were raised by opposition parties. This is not a good thing in a parliamentary system.
The NC and the RJP-N have allied to exert pressure on the speaker to form an investigation panel. How long will this alliance last?
The two opposition parties will work together whenever the government takes a regressive step to undermine democracy and the constitution. The government cannot remain indifferent to problems of corruption, bad governance, violence against women and infringement of press freedom. If the government goes against democratic norms and values, the oppositions will collaborate to defend the rights of citizens. But the government has been turning a deaf ear to issues raised by the opposition in the Parliament, which is the height of irresponsibility. Government ministers and even the prime minister have never taken issues raised by the opposition in zero and special hours of the Parliament seriously and neither have they bothered to answer questions raised by lawmakers in the House. It appears the government is intent on weakening the system. That’s why the government is registering controversial bills, one after another, in the Parliament. But we will not tolerate this and put the gains of democratic movements at stake.
What is your party’s stand on controversial bills registered in the Parliament?
Provisions of the bills should not contradict constitutional provisions. But the incumbent government thinks it can circumvent constitutional provisions because it has support of two-thirds of lawmakers. This is where the problem lies. Take a look at the Guthi Bill, which tried to undermine Nepali culture. The Security Council Bill, on the other hand, included provisions that allowed the prime minister to mobilise the army at his own discretion. Whereas the National Human Rights Commission Bill made an attempt to transform an autonomous human rights commission into a government wing. The government also tried to curtail media freedom by registering the National Media Council Bill. These moves prove that the government wants to weaken democracy and make Singha Durbar more powerful. This can be dangerous for a fledgling federal republic nation like ours.
Nepal is a signatory to various international treaties and a member of various international organisations. They are watching our moves. But the government formed through a democratic system is transforming Nepal into a communist state because of its centralist mindset.
The House endorsed laws related to fundamental rights last year. Why aren’t those laws being implemented properly?
The laws related to fundamental rights should be implemented by three tiers of the government. The constitution has spelled out exclusive and concurrent powers of federal, provincial and local governments. However, for provincial and local governments to exercise those powers, the federal government should draft umbrella laws. Unfortunately, the bills drafted by the central government are aimed at usurping powers of provincial and local governments. We know the local government is closest to people, but bills have not been drafted to make local governments accountable to people.
Of course, it is not easy to implement all constitutional provisions. For example, the public has been guaranteed around 80 types of social security programmes. It is difficult to implement all these programmes at once because Nepal lacks financial resources. But small steps can be taken. The constitution, for instance, says every citizen shall have the right to appropriate housing. This does not mean the government should start building houses for all the people at once. However, we must start somewhere and that initiative needs to be taken by the state because social security and social justice are linked with the overarching goal of making the country prosperous. Prosperity cannot be attained unless we have a robust economy, but the budget has not prioritised these issues
Lastly, is the 33 per cent quota guaranteed for women of every political party representing the Parliament adequate to empower them?
The constitution says women shall have the right to participate in all state bodies on the principle of proportional inclusion. Proportional representation means 50:50 ratio participation of women to men. However, the constitution has said at least one-third of the total members elected from each political party representing in the Parliament must be women. Now, one major post of either chair or co-chair in the local government has also been given to a woman.
This is a good start, as people in a patriarchal society have started accepting the leadership of a woman. But we are still not sure whether women can win in elections, as polls are becoming dangerous and expensive because of violent activities in the run-up to election day and the practice of bribing voters.
I think we should dedicate a constituency to women or Dalits. If constituencies are dedicated to women on a rotational basis, more women leaders will emerge. This will increase the number of female leaders. Besides politics, more women should also join the bureaucracy.