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House resumes; parliamentary committee to investigate killings

The fourth session of the House of Representatives resumed Monday, August 5 after a special parliamentary committee was formed to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killing of Kumar Poudel, Sarlahi in-charge of the banned Communist Party of Nepal led by Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’, and the killing of Saroj Narayan Singh during a protest in Sarlahi, in separate incidents in June. The opposition Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal had obstructed proceedings since July 9, demanding a parliamentary panel. The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) refused to do so for weeks, arguing that it would set a bad precedent and infringe on the jurisdiction of independent bodies like the National Human Rights Commission. An all-party meeting agreed instead to form a special parliamentary committee to recommend ways to arbitrate dispute over these killings and similar disputes in the future to ensure smooth functioning of the House. The seven-member panel led by Subash Chandra Nembang, former speaker and NCP deputy parliamentary party leader, must submit its report within a month. Parliament has been unable to carry out its usual business and deliberation on several bills has been on hold due to intermittent disruption from the opposition bench in recent months.

Draft bill to reform civil service

The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the federal parliament has incorporated a provision in a proposed civil service bill that would allow the government to approve mass resignation of civil servants. It is one of the several radical provisions introduced in the bill that deals with the formation, operation and condition of service of the federal civil service. Critics say the bill seeks to tighten government control over the services. Civil servants including doctors and teachers have long used the threat of mass resignation as a bargaining tool due to trade union rights. If the bill were to pass as law, it will lead to the curtailment of collective bargaining power. Punya Dhakal, chairman of Nepal Civil Service Employees’ Association, has warned of protests if the clause is not removed before the bill is endorsed through the parliament. Periodic obstructions of parliament by the opposition has led to delays in deliberations of bills.

Nijgadh airport will move forward this year: civil aviation minister

Yogesh Bhattarai, recently sworn in as Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, has vowed to build Nijgadh International Airport without further delays. The multi-billion-dollar “national pride” project is in limbo, as conservationists, environmental and civic activists call for transparency in the project and consideration of the environmental impact of the proposed site. The current proposal requires that around 2.4 million trees be felled over an area several times larger than the sites of either Singapore or New Delhi airports.

Bhattarai said that all dissenting groups would be taken into confidence and that the foundation stone for the airport would be laid this year. “The government will take all necessary efforts to reduce environmental impact and address the grievances over the construction of the airport,’’ Bhattarai told lawmakers during a briefing by parliament’s international committee. Bhattarai was responding to Sarita Giri, an MP of the Socialist Party Nepal, who argued that the ministry should focus on smaller projects, rather than investing in megaprojects.

The new minister had a busy first week, examining  plans to reform the ailing Nepal Airlines Corporation and monitoring the progress of ongoing projects including Bhairahawa international airport.

Outlawed CPN urges public to “donate” to its cause

The Communist Party Nepal led by Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’ has urged the public to donate to support its “people’s rebellion”. “It is not possible for our party to remain active without people’s support,” CPN spokesperson Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma said in a statement last week. The five month-long fundraising drive is expected to last until November 16, but has failed to gather momentum. It is underway against the backdrop of a crackdown on the party. Since the government banned the CPN on March 12, security forces have arrested more than 600 CPN leaders and cadres. Four have been killed, allegedly in government action. The ban includes legal action against anyone extending any support or assistance to the former Maoist rebels.

Nepal Communist Party must apologise for taking public land: Congress 

The Nepali Congress has said the ruling Nepal Communist Party must apologize for allegedly encroaching on public land. The main opposition party was responding to media reports that the NCP had broken land use rules and regulation. Reports say that after the Balkhu headquarters of what was then the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), or UML*, was damaged in the 2015 earthquake, the UML moved to a rented building belonging to the Pasang Lhamu Memorial Academy in Dhumbarahi. The academy acquired the use of public land from then Prime Minister Monmohan Adhikari in the mid-1990s; regulations prohibit the lease of such land by users.

In a statement issued on Thursday, August 8, NC spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma said that his party was “baffled and sad” over such “illegal and immoral” use of public land, and urged the ruling party to vacate the building at the earliest.

The controversy, coming on the heels of some NCP leaders being found complicit in multi-billion rupees land scam, is a blow to the government of Prime Minister KP Oli, which is facing increasing criticism for not delivering on election promises, including a pledge to uphold good governance.

* The UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) merged in 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party after the 2017 general election.

Dahal warns former king of “unimaginable consequences”

Nepal Communist Party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has warned former king Gyanendra Shah and his loyalists to “correct themselves” or be prepared to face “unimaginable consequences”. Addressing a gathering of party cadres in Ramechhap on Sunday, August 4, Dahal accused “the former king and his servants” of scheming to restore the Hindu monarchy in Nepal.

“The people will oust him from Nagaarjun if he doesn’t correct himself,” he said. Nagarjun is one of the few former royal palaces the former king was allowed to retain when the 240-year monarchy was toppled through a popular uprising, the Jana Andolan of 2006. Since the Interim Constitution of 2007 that followed the people’s movement, Nepal has defined itself as a secular federal republic.  

Although Dahal’s statement is not new in content, its timing is significant. A day before Dahal’s remarks, Kamal Thapa, chairman of the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party had said that Nepal’s problems could be resolved only through a change in the system, not through the change of government. Calls to declare Nepal a Hindu state have grown louder in the years, especially with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in neighbouring India. Two vocal leaders of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Subramanian Swamy and Tarun Bijaya, reiterated the call for Nepal to revert to being a Hindu state. However, royalist and monarchist parties and leaders have gained little power in the three general elections since 2008.

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