Pandit plays truant, MPs livid

Kathmandu, November 28

Minister of Federal Affairs and General Administration Lal Babu Pandit chose not to appear before the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives today to avoid possible grilling over the government’s preparation to bring an ordinance to adjust civil servants in the three tiers of government.

Although the minister sent a message through MFAGA Secretary Dinesh Thapaliya that he was not feeling well, lawmakers of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) were not convinced.

NCP lawmaker Krishna Gopal Shrestha said, “I hope the minister does not appear on TV today.” His remarks evoked laughter in the panel.

Another NCP lawmaker Nawaraj Silwal said the minister “fell sick” because the Cabinet meeting had been scheduled for tomorrow. He was referring to a possibility that the Cabinet might okay the ordinance tomorrow. A source said Pandit was unhappy that he was called by the panel over this issue. He claimed that when the panel was debating the issue, Pandit was meeting people in his minister’s chamber in Singha Durbar.

The ruling and opposition parties’ lawmakers said the government was indulging in undemocratic practice by trying to bring an ordinance, escaping the parliamentary route. Krishna Gopal Shrestha told the panel that the government was planning to call the new session of Parliament only in mid-January.

Another NCP lawmaker Yashodha Subedi Gurung said the government’s decision to bring the ordinance without waiting

for the next session of the Parliament had created doubt in the minds of the public. She wondered why Pandit decided not to appear before the panel without informing it.

MFAGA Secretary Dinesh Thapaliya attended the meeting on behalf of Pandit, but was tight-lipped about the contents of the ordinance. He said he would reveal the contents tomorrow at the Cabinet’s committee on bills. He added that there was a shortage of 14,000 civil servants in the civil service.

Subedi said people would raise questions about the ordinance and the government should clarify its position on the issue. “Bringing the ordinance will be an undemocratic act and against the spirit of federalism. The minister has committed a grave error by not appearing before the panel,” she said. NCP lawmaker Maheswor Gahatraj said the government should not evade the Parliament to bring ordinance. He added that the ordinance was wrong since it proposed automatic promotion to the next level for employees.

“The provincial and local government have not been able to spend their budget due to staff crunch. The government still has unitary mindset. How can such a mindset help the federal set-up?” he wondered.

Nepali Congress lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh said the government should not bring the ordinance. “Current political system will collapse if provincial governments fail,” he said. Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal lawmaker Ram Sahay Yadav said provincial governments should be allowed to recruit staff.

The ordinance will be forwarded by the Bills Committee to the Cabinet following which the Cabinet will take a final call.

Following the Cabinet decision, the ordinance has to be endorsed by the president before it is implemented.

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