THT 10 YEARS AGO: SPA to withhold largesse for MPs

Kathmandu, February 4, 2008

The coordination committee meeting of the seven-party alliance today decided to withhold a budget of Rs one million to be provided to each of the parliamentarians under the Constituency Development Fund till the April 10 Constituent Assembly election.

In his fiscal budget speech for the current fiscal year 2007/08, Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat had proposed to provide the budget to the MPs to carry out development works in their respective constituencies. The SPA meet decided to revoke the government’s decision after receiving flak from various quarters, arguing that the budget could be misused to influence the voters during the CA polls.

The government would have to allocate Rs 330 million for the 330 MPs of the interim parliament under the Constituency Development Fund. Besides, the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission also bans carrying out any development work once the code comes into force.

The SPA coordination committee also decided to postpone election of the Free Students’ Union (FSU) scheduled for February 28. “We seriously discussed the issue of FSU election and decided to postpone it keeping in mind the gravity of the CA polls,” said United Left Front leader CP Mainali.

The CPN Maoist had proposed to postpone the FSU election. The SPA coordination committee also decided not to revive the defunct local bodies and allow them to remain as they are. A SPA task force headed by Local Development Minister Dev Gurung could not reach a consensus on the issue of local bodies.

Bhutan refugees to leave for US in March

Kathmandu, February 4, 2008

The first batch of the Bhutanese refugees is scheduled to leave for the United States in March as part of the resettlement programme, and numbers are expected to increase by July. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Geneva has welcomed the government’s decision to issue exit permits to Bhutanese refugees who voluntarily opt for resettlement.

The UNHCR, in a statement released to the media today, welcomed the government’s decision of granting exit permits to Bhutanese refugees for third country resettlement as a breakthrough in mid- January. It said the government’s decision has paved the way for the large-scale movement of refugees who decide voluntarily to be resettled after spending up to 17 years in Nepal’s camps. The exit permit allows refugees to leave the Jhapa and Morang camps for third countries once their cases are accepted.

The UNHCR said the group resettlement process has been gaining momentum in the camps since it started late last year. While the US has offered to consider resettlement for at least 60,000 refugees from Bhutan, Canada has indicated it will accept up to 5,000.