EDITORIAL: Undemocratic move

If the lawmakers are barred from putting questions to the PM, it will undermine the parliamentary supremacy

In parliamentary democracy, the Parliament is the supreme body elected by the people. The constitution has clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of the three organs of the state – legislature, executive and judiciary – all of which function independently. As the chief of the executive body, the Prime Minister is accountable to the Parliament. A government is formed by the majority vote of the Parliament. Therefore, the Prime Minister and his council of ministers have to take informed consent of the sovereign body on every decision they take. The government runs its administration and executes its decisions based on the laws enacted by the federal Parliament. That is why the PM and his/her ministers are directly accountable to the legislature. This ensures checks and balances in a democratic system.

However, this did not happen on Sunday when PM KP Sharma Oli addressed the House of Representatives for the first time after the winter session of the federal Parliament commenced on December 26. He was giving a written speech on the issues of “public importance”, highlighting the “achievements” his administration had made over the last nine months in office. During his hour-long speech, the PM claimed that the country was moving towards a higher growth trajectory, that corruption was under control, that the law and order situation was improving, and that a number of development projects were being executed as per schedule. He also painted a rosy picture of the country’s economy, which, according to Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, had been in “tatters” when Oli took office nine months ago.

The lawmakers from the opposition bench had lent their ear patiently until he finished his speech. Once the PM left the rostrum, the main opposition Nepali Congress sought explanation on a number of issues from the PM, who refused to take questions from the opposition lawmakers. Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara did not allow them to ask questions on the PM’s speech, which, they said, were full of factual errors regarding the country’s economy, thus misleading the general public. The PM’s statement failed to satisfy the opposition lawmakers, creating a ruckus in the Lower House. First, the Speaker refused to allow the lawmakers to ask questions to the PM. When the lawmakers started shouting, he relented, and allowed only five lawmakers to raise questions with the PM. Opposition lawmakers said it was an insult to the lawmakers, who, they said, had every right to ask questions to the PM on his speech of public importance. After the main opposition gheraoed the well, the Speaker adjourned the meeting for 15 minutes, only to put it off till Wednesday. It all seems that the PM wanted to have his version heard while shunning criticism from the opposition. In this case, Mahara did not play an impartial role as Speaker. When the Business Advisory Committee meeting was held, the Speaker was against the lawmakers raising questions over the PM’s speech. It is an undemocratic move to bar the lawmakers from raising questions with the PM. If the lawmakers are barred from putting questions to the PM it will undermine parliamentary supremacy. The PM should be accountable to the sovereign Parliament.

Garbage disposal

The decision of the Ministry of Urban Development to prepare a blueprint to build the necessary infrastructure for a landfill site at Banchare Danda is long overdue, given that the Sisdole landfill site at Okharpauwa is already up to its neck with garbage. The key to lengthening the lifespan of a landfill site is to recycle as much waste as possible. Since 80 percent of the waste generated in the Valley can be recycled, only 20 per cent will land up at Banchare Danda that spreads over 792 ropanis of land. The $50 million Integrated Solid Waste Management Project is, thus, expected to solve Kathmandu Valley’s refuse disposal needs for the next 50 years.

Attractive as the scheme may sound, small irritants should not be allowed to obstruct the project. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has 1,100 staff working in its waste management sector and about 150 trucks and other equipment. The KMC has demanded that the new project take over their management. Since the project is to be developed under the private-public partnership model, its success could very well be worth emulating for other municipalities.