EDITORIAL: Inept Speaker

Regardless of why Mahara chose to adjourn Monday’s House meeting, the ultimate sufferers are the people affected by the natural disasters

It is a matter of utmost regret that the meeting of the House of Representatives has been adjourned till July 23 at a time when it should have been holding intense debate and discussion on ways to expedite rescue operations and provide relief to those affected by the natural disasters. The monsoon was late by almost a month this year, but the torrential rains since Thursday evening have led to heavy loss of life and property across the country due to the inundation and landslides. By official count, at least 80 people have died in the natural disasters while 30 have gone missing. The rains have affected at least 33,000 people in Provinces 1, 2 and 3 alone. Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara should take full responsibility for adjourning the meeting that was scheduled for Monday to discuss the impact of the natural disaster. Actually, the House has not met since July 9 as the two opposition parties – the Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal – have been obstructing the House proceedings over a demand for the formation of a parliamentary committee to probe into the police firing that cost two lives in Sarlahi in south-east Nepal.

The two parties had, however, registered a motion of urgent public importance at the House Secretariat Monday morning, the day the Home Minister was to brief the Parliament on the destruction caused by the natural disasters in the country. According to the NC, Speaker Mahara had been positive about the proposal earlier in the day, but the lawmakers were shocked to see in a text message that it had been cancelled and adjourned till July 23. There are many speculations as to why the Speaker did what he did, with one lawmaker from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) even blaming Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for instructing Mahara to call off the meeting because “the government was in no mood to discuss the issue”. Others think letting the meeting discuss the NC-proposed motion of public importance would have allowed the opposition to take centre stage in the discussion and overshadow the government’s briefing in the parliament. But by acting thus, Mahara has failed to take the opposition into confidence that he acts from neutral ground, especially given that he was a senior communist leader. At least on two previous occasions, Mahara has been accused by the opposition of being partisan and toeing the government line.

The Speaker has a great role to play in conducting the business of the House smoothly, and this can happen only when the opposition is convinced that he or she is not there to promote the interests and agenda of the party in power. When opposing parties are unable to agree on an agenda, the Speaker must prove his negotiating prowess by bringing the two to a compromise, which Mahara has shown to lack. Allowing the House meeting to convene on Monday would have helped reap suggestions on ways to make the relief operations more efficient and rehabilitate the flood and landslide victims as quickly as possible. Regardless of the reasons why Mahara chose to adjourn Monday’s House meeting, the ultimate sufferers are the people who have been affected by the natural disasters. Parties take note.

Supply crunch

The price of vegetables and fruits has been rising in the Kathmandu Valley since the last few days owing to road blocks and pesticide residue tests at the customs points following the order of the Supreme Court. Around 850 tonnes of vegetables and fruits are supplied to the Kathmandu Valley every day from different parts of the country and India. The recent floods and landslides triggered by the incessant rains have blocked the roads, causing a short supply of the daily consumptive items.

Officials at the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market Development Board said vegetables and fruits have become dearer by up to 72 per cent since last week. The continuous rainfall has also damaged vegetables in the Tarai region from where large amounts of them are supplied to the Valley. This situation is expected to continue until the floods recede and the roads are repaired. The government should focus on repairing the major highways and rural roads so that agro-products can be supplied to the urban centres. Until the situation becomes normal in the Tarai region, the concerned authorities should find alternative ways to supply vegetables from the hilly areas least affected by the monsoon rains.