Nepal | April 23, 2019

Speaker fails to set House in order

Lawmakers scuffle as Mahara asks minister to present controversial bill

Rewati Sapkota

Nepali Congress lawmakers shouting slogans in the well of the House of Representatives, in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Photo: RSS

Kathmandu, January 22

Lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties today scuffled in the Parliament leading to adjournment of the proceedings, as both sides remained firm on their stands on the National Education Medical Bill and the government’s decision to scrap two hospitals named after two former prime ministers.

The situation came to such a sorry pass, with lawmakers using foul language, that Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara had to announce the adjournment of the House till Friday through a notice on the notice board. The speaker had earlier adjourned the House twice, for 15 minutes each.

Chief Whip of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Dev Prasad Gurung said Nepali Congress lawmakers didn’t even allow the speaker to enter the House chamber from his office.

“NC lawmakers staged a sit-in at the entrance of the chamber and even used foul language against the speaker,” alleged Gurung. “They also moved to the well before the start of House proceedings in violation of parliamentary norms, values and procedure.”

NC lawmakers, however, said they obstructed the speaker’s path as he failed to uphold values of the House. “Mahara tried to move ahead with House proceedings despite the opposition’s protest,” said NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa.

When the House met after the first 15-minute hiatus, opposition lawmakers stood up from their seats and went to the well to protest though the House proceedings had not yet started.

Shouting from the well of the House, NC lawmaker Minendra Rijal said, “The speaker should act like a speaker. He cannot go against the House’s norms and values.” Mahara requested NC lawmakers to take their seats, but they did not listen.

All hell broke loose when Mahara requested Minister of Education, Science and Technology Girirajmani Pokharel to present the National Education Medical Bill in the Parliament while the NC protest was on. NC lawmakers barred the minister from reaching the rostrum to present the bill.

“I was even manhandled and elbowed by NC lawmakers,” Pokharel told mediapersons after the incident. “What kind of parliamentary norms and values are NC lawmakers following?”

NCP lawmakers, including Chief Whip Gurung, tried to escort Pokharel to the rostrum, but could not get past NC lawmakers who had joined hands to form a chain. Mahara then adjourned the House for the second time for 15 minutes, after which the House could not convene.

Gagan Thapa said the speaker acted like a ruling party cadre. “He was being instructed by a senior NCP leader through SMS,” Thapa alleged. He said the speaker should apologise for his behaviour. “We’ll continue to obstruct the House until the speaker apologises.”

Gurung, on the other hand, claimed that NC lawmakers violated parliamentary norms by obstructing the House twice over the same issue. “The NC is encouraging Dr Govinda KC to stage hunger strike, while barring the government from presenting the medical bill that addresses Dr KC’s concerns,” he said. “This shows its double standards.”

However, NC’s action today should not have surprised ruling party lawmakers. It had vowed to stall House proceedings yesterday. When the House met today, NC lawmakers stood up right after Speaker Mahara started the House proceedings, and allowed NC’s Prakash Man Singh to speak. Singh said the opposition would continue to obstruct the HoR until the government decided to bring  GP Koirala National Centre for Respiratory Diseases in Dulegauda, Tanahun, and Sushil Koirala Prakhar Cancer Hospital in Khajura, Banke, under the federal government. NC had obstructed the lower and upper houses yesterday on the same issue.

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A version of this article appears in print on January 23, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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