Kathmandu, July 15
Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s ability to play a neutral role in the Parliament has once again been questioned after he rejected a proposal made by opposition parties to convene the meeting of the House of Representatives today.
The two opposition parties — Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal — have been obstructing House proceedings since July 9 demanding formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate loss of two lives in police firing in Sarlahi. They had requested the speaker to call a House meeting today to discuss ways to support people affected by floods and landslides.
Natural disasters triggered by torrential rain from Friday to Sunday have killed over 60 people and affected more than 33,000 people in provinces 1, 2 and 3.
To discuss this issue, lawmakers of the two opposition parties today registered a motion on matter of public importance. The motion was registered by NC lawmakers Minendra Rijal and Whip Pushpa Bhusal along with RJP-N leader Raj Kishor Yadav at the Parliament Secretariat this morning.
“The joint team of the two parties had met Speaker Mahara before registering the proposal. At that time, Mahara was positive about our proposal. But later he cancelled the meeting,” NC Chief Whip Balkrishna Khand told mediapersons.
Many lawmakers, even those from the ruling party, including Madhav Kumar Nepal, were unaware of cancellation of today’s meeting. They had reached the Parliament at 1:00pm to attend the meeting. It was only then they received text messages stating the House meeting was adjourned till July 23.
“What we were thinking of discussing today in the House should have been a bipartisan issue. We wanted to give a message that we are together with the government in this difficult time,” NC President as well as NC parliamentary party leader Sher Bahadur Deuba told mediapersons. “But Mahara cancelled the meeting, preventing lawmakers from discussing the issue. This was surprising because he had agreed to convene the meeting this morning. I think the speaker got the instruction from somewhere else to cancel today’s meeting.”
RJP-N lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna was also not happy with the decision taken by the speaker. “People are suffering due to floods and landslides. Yet the meeting was adjourned,” Karna said.
Mahara said today’s House meeting was cancelled to facilitate lawmakers to visit their home districts to help people affected by floods and landslides.
But this move has been condemned by lawmakers of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). “It was wrong to cancel today’s meeting,” NCP lawmaker Ganesh Pahadi said. “The speaker should have allowed the House to convene today as it would have enabled the government to gather suggestions from lawmakers to work more effectively.”
An NCP lawmaker told THT that the meeting was adjourned, as the government did not want to discuss the issue in the House. “It was Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who directed the speaker to prevent the House from discussing this issue,” the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity. “This shows the Parliament is in the government’s control.” The Parliament regulation states that the government should “give business” to the House. But the government cannot ignore the speaker’s instruction to clarify certain issues in the House.
“The speaker is a former NCP leader. So, he will toe the party’s line,” the NCP lawmaker said.
Mahara has previously faced accusation of taking the ruling party’s side when the National Medical Education Bill was bulldozed through the Parliament despite warnings from the NC that the proposed legislation contained controversial provisions. He was also criticised when he did not give NC President Deuba an opportunity to express his views prior to calling PM Oli to deliver his speech when the controversial Guthi Bill was registered in the Parliament.
A version of this article appears in print on July 16, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.