The government has set a bad precedent by sacking the governors appointed by the previous government
All seven governors of the provinces, who were appointed by the Deuba-led government of the Nepali Congress two years ago, have been removed following a Cabinet decision that came out of the blue on Sunday. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari “relieved” them of their posts in accordance with Article 165 (1) (b) of the constitution, which allows the posts to become vacant prior to the expiry of the term of usually five years. The government gave no explanation for removing the governors from their posts, and the decision has taken everyone by surprise. The Cabinet had suddenly sat on Sunday, the first time since Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was taken ill last week, and there were wild speculations that the PM was stepping down or appointing an heir as he now needs to undergo regular haemodialysis. Instead the Cabinet took a decision to sack the governors and another one to appoint the vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University and chairperson of Nepal Medical Council. The decision to remove the governors comes in the wake of severe criticism of the government for keeping the public guessing about the condition of the PM’s health after his transplanted kidney failed. So the decision on the governors could be nothing more than a ploy to divert the people’s attention elsewhere from the health of the prime minister and prove that he is hale and hearty.
Deuba had appointed the seven governors after the election results that gave the constituents of the present ruling party – the CPN (UML) and CPN-MC – a near two-thirds majority. The two parties had told the Deuba-led government to appoint the governors only with their consent, but it refused to heed them. Thus removing them immediately after coming to power might have been excused, as some UML leaders had threatened to do. But why it waited so long – almost two years – to do what it did on Sunday without assigning any reason whatsoever does little justification at this stage. Were the governors a hindrance to the functioning of the provincial governments or were they not being cooperative, coming as they do from a different political ideology? The people have every right to know. A governor’s post is largely ceremonial, and he or she is responsible for upholding the laws and the Constitution. Also just like the President, the governor’s post cannot remain vacant even for a while. Was the government unaware of this provision?
The government has set a bad precedent by sacking the governors appointed by the previous government. Given the reactionary politics that our parties engage in, each successive government will be tempted to replace the governors with their people without allowing them a full term, thus weakening the institution. This is bad for federalism. If the relieved governors were unworthy of their posts, the government should let the public know. Although the government has the power to remove governors, any appointment or dismissal should be justified. The government has made its pick of the new governors, and the people will be closely watching to see if they have better credentials or if they have been appointed based on bhagbanda. Let the new appointments not disappoint the people of the provinces.
Not a single day passes without a person or two being killed in a road accident in Nepal, particularly in the hills, where the condition of the roads is below the national standard. As many as 17 people, mostly minors, were killed when a crowded passenger bus heading towards Kathmandu from Dolakha’s Magadeurali plunged into the Sunkoshi River from the Araniko Highway at Sukute on Sunday. Police said 55 others sustained injuries, some of them critically, after the bus fell about 400 metres below the road.
An estimated 2,200 people die in road accidents every year in Nepal, which is the highest in South Asia. Over speeding, driver’s carelessness, overloading and poor condition of the roads are usually blamed for the fatal accidents in the hill areas. Physical inability of a person due to the accident and financial burden incurred to the family are beyond anyone’s imagination. Considering the frequency of tragic road accidents, the Department of Transport Management must set a strict criteria for the drivers operating public buses in the hills. It could introduce a provision that requires drivers to pass an extra test before license is issued to them. This can help minimise road accidents in the country.
A version of this article appears in print on November 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.