‘Nobody should force their agenda on Parliament’

Nepali Congress and some civil society members have accused the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) of showing totalitarian tilt. The government also faces criticism for bringing some key government agencies under the prime minister’s control and its decision to change the provisions of the ordinance of the new medical education bill. The government also faces the accusation that it is undermining the independence of the judiciary.  Ram Kumar Kamat of THT caught up with Deputy Parliamentary Party leader of the NCP (NCP) Subas Chandra Nembang to know his views on some of the key contemporary issues. Excerpts:

The main opposition party has accused the government of being authoritarian. What’s your take on it?

The government has faced charges of authoritarianism right from the day it was formed. Those who are labelling this charge are doing so without any evidence and therefore, the charges are totally baseless. The opposition party has the right to criticise the government of the day and the government should take their criticism positively. The government should make corrections if the opposition parties’ criticisms are fair.

Our opponents began to accuse us of being authoritarian right from the day we went to polls. Such criticism should be based on evidence. I do not think that the time has come to comment on the performance of the government. I also heard criticism about some government agencies being put under the PM’s direct control. Bringing a few government entities under the direct control of the Prime Minister’s Office cannot be termed authoritarian act because in the prime ministerial system all the ministries and government offices are automatically under the PM.

NSU Vice-chancellor was prevented from flying to Canada. A Bir Hospital doctor was summoned to the home ministry and reprimanded there. How do you react to criticism of the government on these two issues?

As far as the incidents are concerned, I hear conflicting versions. Such things should not happen. I heard that the NSU Vice Chancellor violated laws by refusing to attend meetings (with the PM) and not seeking leave of absence. He also faces the accusation of manhandling the Registrar of NSU.

Your party gave the slogan of political stability and development. Are you convinced that your party will be able to achieve those goals?

I am confident that we will be able to achieve these goals. The problems in our society are that we do not convey a positive message to the public.

Suppose the government has performed 50 tasks out of which two or three may be questionable. The problem in our society is that we do not talk about the majority of good things. We tend to highlight bad things. One is free to raise questions about the government’s performance and criticise the government if there is the reason for the same.

Don’t you think the decision to ban protest at Maitighar Mandala has given the public reasons to believe that the government is restrictive?

We have seen in the past that protests around Singha Durbar were banned and we also faced such bans in the past. As far as the ban on the protest at Maitighar Mandala is concerned, I have many things to say but I do not want to talk about them right now because the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court and the court has already issued a stay order. This issue cannot be debated in the Parliament at this stage. I urge all, including opposition parties and civil society members not to comment on a sub-judice issue.

Critics say ruling party leaders are undermining the independence of the judiciary.

Personally speaking, I am glad that opposition parties are advocating the independence of the judiciary, an issue that I always fought for. In the past, when we were advocating the issue, others’ did not listen to us and even filed impeachment motion against the chief justice. Now I am satisfied that we were successful in making people understand the importance of the issue. There should be no dispute that every stakeholder, including the ruling and opposition parties, should respect the independence of the judiciary.

Don’t you think demanding judges to make their assets public and seeking a probe against judges for passing orders contradict the principles of independence of the judiciary?

I am not sure who made such remarks, but I agree that restraint should be maintained about some sensitive organs like the judiciary. We should be very sensitive about such organs as well as the Parliament. If somebody tries to exert undue pressure on the Parliament to incorporate certain provisions in certain bills, then that cannot be justified. Parties should not have double standards.

What can be the solution to issues related to medical education bill?

The government had brought a bill to replace the medical education ordinance, but the NC demanded that the government contain the exact provisions of the ordinance in the new bill. The NC said it wanted the government to bring a fresh bill and it could register amendment proposals if necessary. Therefore, the government brought a new bill with a view to reaching a conclusion after discussing the bill’s provisions. This is the right way to settle issues related to the bill.

What is your message to Dr Govinda KC who has demanded that provisions of the ordinance be incorporated in the new bill?

I respect Dr KC for his commitment to democracy and democratic norms. He has the right to raise issues but he should not think that all his demands will be fulfilled.

How can one expect the Parliament — which is a sovereign body of elected representatives — to fulfil his/her demands? How can one say if his/her demands are not met by the government or the Parliament then he/she will not accept the decision of the House? If somebody says he won’t accept the decisions of the Parliament, then will it not be an attempt to make Parliament helpless? I am sure that Dr KC is not trying to do this.

Socialism may entail nationalisation of some institutions. Some say your government may not be able to nationalise some key health and education institutions as they are owned by party leaders.

This constitution does not allow a government to choose the authoritarian path. We have stated in the preamble of the constitution that this country is oriented towards socialism and its characteristics are the rule of law, inclusion, secularism, competitive democracy, independence of the judiciary and periodic elections.

We are committed to socialism, but our opponents say that we are marching towards communism. The entire nation has accepted the constitution and all parties have taken part in the elections. In India, the southern part accepted the constitution only after 10 years from the date it was adopted. In our country, the entire nation has accepted the constitution within three to four years.

What do you have to say about Madhesi parties’ demand for the amendment to the constitution?

It is natural to be dissatisfied with the constitution. I respect Madhesi parties’ sentiments. I am also not fully satisfied with the constitution. We adopted the bottom up approach while framing the constitution. All parties were involved in framing the constitution. For example, the NC advocated Westminster model whereas we advocated reformed Westminster model. And in the end, we adopted a reformed Westminster model which prohibits moving no trust motion against the PM for the first two years. The PM cannot dissolve the House of Representatives. The former CPN-MC had advocated presidential system whereas we advocated directly elected prime minister. What I want to say is that all parties have compromised on their issues. We even debated whether the country’s name and the flag should be changed. In this constitution, we have adopted a very flexible approach. If a political party can win people’s confidence, they can effect amendments to the constitution. Nobody says that nothing, not even a comma or full stop, should be changed in this constitution which was often said about the constitution of 1990.

The constitution of India has been amended 122 times and there are still some people who are dissatisfied with their constitution.

With an almost two-thirds majority, do you think the constitution will be amended in the next five years to address Madhesis’ demands?

In the past, we said it was time to implement the constitution and not amend it. We implemented the constitution by holding local, provincial and parliamentary polls. We were against amending the boundaries of the provinces when the provincial governments had not been in existence. Now we can amend the constitution on the basis of necessity and rationale. The constitution can be amended if the stakeholders reach a consensus for the same. I cannot say for sure that the constitution will be amended nor can I say that the constitution will not be amended.