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Misplaced priorities 

In a classic case of misplaced priorities, president Bidya Devi Bhandari introduced an ordinance on Monday which will make it easier to split political parties. The President’s Office informed through statement that president Bhandari has issued two ordinances to amend the Constitutional Council Act and the Political Party Act as per Article 114 (clause 1) of the constitution.

One major highlight of the ordinance is that a political party can be split with the support of 40 percent of lawmakers or the party’s central committee, while the erstwhile provision necessitated both. The move comes just hours after a cabinet meeting approved the two ordinances and forwarded it to the President’s Office for final approval.

Monday’s sudden and unexpected development has raised many eyebrows as it comes amid growing internal tussle between the former Maoist and UML factions over the issue of governance and power sharing.

Many think that the ordinance could be the beginning of the end of the Communist Party of Nepal which was formed through the merger between the then UML and CPN (Maoist) in 2018. The party has not yet been able to conclude the merger process due to increasing power tussles between chairman KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Responding to the development, the Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal have called these irresponsible and objectionable steps, especially given that the government should be focusing on far more pressing concerns at the moment. 

30K tested  

More than 30,000 people have been tested for Covid19 as of Monday, the Ministry of Health and Population has said. MoHP spokesperson Bikash Devkota said that the tests were conducted through Rapid Diagnostic Method and PCR method. There have been no new cases of the virus on Monday.

Devkota added that 152 samples collected from Udayapur have been brought to the National Public Health Laboratory for a final confirmation. According to him, testing is still a priority and the government is working to screen more people this week.

Panel to hash job plans

On the behest of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the government has formed a multi-stakeholder panel to hash out strategies to tackle unemployment in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic. The panel, which will be led by the Industrial Investment and Promotion Division at the MoICS, will furnish a detailed plan to employ returnee and prospective migrants in internal job markets within 15-days, according to MoICS minister Lekh Raj Bhatta.

Tens of thousands of workers have returned from India and other countries since the Covid19 outbreak, while many more are expected to follow suit as countries relax restrictions on international flights. More than 70 percent of Nepali households have at least a member working abroad and remain highly dependent on remittances for survival.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has announced plans to boost internal tourism. On Monday, PM Oli told Rastriya Samachar Samittee, the state-owned news agency, that the government would soon come up with substantive measures to revive economic activities, although the current focus was on conducting more testing and effectively enforcing the lockdown.

Mosques, madrasas asked to provide details of Jamaatis

The Nepal Muslim Commission has asked the Tablighi Jamaat to furnish a detailed information on foreign Jamaatis taking refuge in madrasas and mosques across the country. NMC believes that around 100 Jamaatis could be stranded in various parts of the country due to the lockdown. The NMC has also formed a seven member team to monitor mosques and madrasas to enforce the lockdown.  

On Sunday, Muslim leaders had spoken against what they called “concentrated efforts to defame the Nepali Muslim community by linking it to the Covid19 outbreak”. 

Mosques and madrasas have come under the government’s radar after 13 people taking refuge at a mosque in Udayapur and two men at a Birgunj mosque tested positive for Covid19. The Tablighi Jamaat is a large scale Muslim missionary organisation that has become infamous for carrying out mass gatherings across South and Southeast Asia, defying social distancing guideliness and causing the coronavirus to spread.

Russians taken home 

On Monday, Russia repatriated over 100 Russian citizens who were stranded in Nepal since the country went into lockdown on 24 March. According to the Nepal Tourism Board, the Russians were flown home on a chartered flight. There are still over a 100 Russian nationals in Kathmandu who will be repatriated later this week. The NTB, in collaboration with various governmental agencies and embassies, has been rescuing foreigners stranded in various parts of the country. More than 4,000 tourists, including European, British, American, Canadian and Chinese, have been repatriated in the last three weeks.