EDITORIAL: Respect the House

It is regrettable to see the ruling party using the sovereign Parliament as its rubber stamp by deferring its meeting for weeks

Thirteen days have already passed since President Bidhya Devi Bhandari called the winter session, or bill session, of the Federal Parliament on December 20 upon the recommendation of the council of ministers and the Parliament Secretariat. But the House of Representatives (HoR) has failed to convene even a single meeting during those days, and it has been postponed twice, now till January 12. On December 27,  the Parliament Secretariat had postponed the HoR meeting by putting up a notice until January 1. The main agenda of the HoR is to elect the new Speaker following the resignation of then Speaker, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, on charges of attempting to rape an employee at the Secretariat. As the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has absolute majority in the Lower House, it should field its candidacy for the Speakership. But the party leadership is still undecided on who should become the Speaker’s candidate, largely because of the conflict of interest between the Co-Chairs – PM KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal – of the party. As a result, the HoR has been held hostage to the party’s indecision. PM Oli wants an ‘experienced’ person from the erstwhile CPN-UML while Dahal and his supporters want someone from the then CPN-MC to lead the HoR as per the earlier understanding reached between them before their unification.

It is unlikely that the HoR session will commence anytime soon unless the co-chairs break the ice over the Speaker’s candidacy. But their indecision has given a message to the public that the sovereign Parliament is under the shadow of the ruling party’s internal conflict. Both the leaders had held extensive discussion on Tuesday on electing members to the 18 vacant seats in the National Assembly and candidacy for the HoR Speaker. But they could not reach any deal on who should file the candidacy for Speaker as both stuck to their guns. In the meantime, the main opposition, the Nepali Congress, has accused the ruling party of disrespecting the Parliament by deferring its meeting time and again. Many had assumed that the winter session had been called after both the leaders had decided on the Speaker’s choice.

It will not augur well for both the ruling party and the government to defer the House session for more than three weeks simply because the party in power is undecided on who should become the Speaker. Since the Deputy Speaker cannot exercise the Speaker’s executive power, the election process of the HoR head should have taken place from day one of the commencement of the Parliament. Due to the absence of the Speaker, seven bills already passed by the previous session have not been certified by the Speaker. Likewise, the government has also tabled as many as 40 bills at the Secretariat to be endorsed by both the Houses. As the Parliament is a sovereign body, its functions and duties should be determined by the House rules, and it should not act like a rubber stamp of the ruling party. Everybody – the government and the ruling party in this case – must follow the due process of the constitution and long-held parliamentary practices. In this case, the ruling party has disrespected the Parliament by not allowing it to elect its leader on time as per its set rules.

Curbing sharp practice

Kathmandu is a melting pot, where people from across the country come to earn a living. Not everyone can afford to buy a house immediately, so they rent one or just a room so that they can have a roof over their head when they return from work in the evening. Nepalis apart, foreigners are also increasingly renting homes as they go about doing business in the capital. The government would not have had any qualms about people coming to the capital and living in rented houses were it not for the increasing number of crimes that are taking place here. From theft, robbery and sexual crimes to swindling, cyber crime and banking fraud, involving both Nepalis and foreigners, there has been no let up to criminal activities here, and it has become necessary for the government to know what the denizens are doing.

Against this backdrop, the Home Ministry’s bid to collect personal information of the landlords and their tenants, and the type of business or organisation they are operating is welcome. It is the duty of the landlords to furnish the required information so that the police can work on the record and improve the law and order situation in the capital.