It is surprising that no one showed any concern when the posts in the constitutional bodies had been lying vacant for a long time

A recent press release issued by three global bodies demanding the withdrawal of a December 15 ordinance related to the Constitutional Council Act has provoked the ire of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), labelling it as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. A NHRC statement issued on Monday states that the press release not only interferes in the internal affairs of a sovereign friendly country but it also 'questions the sanctity and credibility of the NHRC, which is a party to most of the fundamental international rights treaties'.

What's more, the press release, jointly issued by Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International on March 1, had tacitly urged the international community not to cooperate with the NHRC. While it is not uncommon for international rights bodies to comment on political and other developments in Nepal (and elsewhere), one might question if it is proper to dictate terms on issues such as the appointments to constitutional bodies, which are purely the domestic affairs of Nepal. True, different political parties and even a faction in the then ruling Nepal Communist Party had cried foul over the appointments, and writs have been filed at the Supreme Court demanding nullification of the ordinance that has allowed the appointments. But these are matters to be sorted out by the sovereign people of this country, not outsiders.

It is surprising that no one showed any concern when the posts in the constitutional bodies had been lying vacant for a long time, thus hampering effective implementation of the rule of law and service delivery. This happened because, as per the provisions of the Constitutional Council Act, five of the six members of the Constitutional Council, headed by the Prime Minister, must be present to convene its meeting. The other members of the council are the Chief Justice, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, National Assembly chair and leader of the main opposition. Since there is no Deputy Speaker, absence of any of its members meant a meeting could not be held. With the new ordinance, majority of the Council members could sit for a meeting. Following the December 15 ordinance, three members of the council had made 38 nominations to vacant positions in the constitutional bodies, just days before the PM dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20. The three global bodies have called the appointments illegitimate as they were made without parliamentary approval.

It is apparent that the press release was issued by the global bodies at the bidding of their local chapters here. And this is not the first time that rights activists in Nepal have sought outside support in sorting out our internal problems. But such interventions time and again do not go down well with the people here, especially when they undermine the country's sovereignty. While the three global bodies talk about lack of transparency in the appointments to the constitutional bodies, one could also question how transparent the elections or appointments to the rights-based bodies in Nepal are, where the same faces keep repeating year after year.

COVID-19 impact

With the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination drive across the country since January 27, cases of infection caused by the coronavirus have been gradually declining, bringing daily life to normal.

Still, the economic activities in the service and tourism sectors, which provide job opportunities to thousands of youths, continue to standstill due to its after-shock for almost one year. More than 3,000 people have already died of the virus so far though the recovery rate seems to be higher than projected earlier.

Against this backdrop, the Finance Ministry is holding discussions with the stakeholders to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the national economy.

The ministry has come up with a number of recovery plans, including refinancing package for the troubled sectors, like tourism and manufacturing industries, as per the suggestions of the concerned stakeholders.

In order for the national economy to fully recover, the government needs to make a policy level decision to provide loans to those who need them at single-digit interest rate for a certain period of time. If this policy is applied in a hassle-free manner, it can give some sort of respite to those industries that have suffered a setback due to the pandemic.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 10, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.