Oli insistent on passing MCC pact via House’s winter sessionThe resistance to the MCC’s Nepal compact is not coming from a dissenting faction or the opposition, but from the ruling party’s top leadership itself.
After failing to quell the ongoing dispute within the Nepal Communist Party regarding the Millenium Challenge Corporation’s Nepal compact, party Co-chair Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has issued a strongly worded directive to his Cabinet members to refrain from making any negative comments regarding the US-led project.
“I have heard that some senior party leaders and even ministers are speaking out against the MCC,” Oli said, according to a minister who was present at the Monday meeting. “If someone needs to speak, try to read the Nepal compact carefully before making any statements.”
The ruling party is sharply divided over the MCC and whether it should be passed by the House. Although the MCC is being pushed by the Oli administration, most dissent is largely internal, as even the primary opposition Nepali Congress is in favour of the MCC. Top ruling party leaders, including Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Bhim Rawal and Dev Gurung have visibly opposed the MCC. The dissenting faction has argued that the MCC is part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which has military components that are aimed at countering China, a friendly neighbour. They have also opposed the compact’s requirement of parliamentary approval, as the pact says that it will prevail over Nepal’s existing laws in case of conflict.
The government, on the other hand, has continued to insist that the MCC will ultimately be passed via this winter session of the federal parliament.
“Once the House resumes, the MCC proposal will take the due course. It will be discussed there and if it needs to be corrected, it will be presented in the House,” Oli said, according to the minister. “Let there be no misconception—it will be approved.”
According to the minister, Oli’s instructions were akin to a party whip, directing its members not to speak against the MCC.
After a heated debate within the party, a Standing Committee meeting, which concluded last month, had forwarded the issue to the nine-member secretariat. Discussions among members, however, have yet to take place.
Oli appeared visibly distressed at the Cabinet meeting and expressed dismay at the manner in which some party leaders had expressed their reservations, said the minister. Oli has now decided to take the issue to the Parliamentary Party, which is likely to meet soon, according to Gokul Baskota, the minister for communication and information technology.
The MCC has divided the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), but not necessarily along factional lines. Even former UML leaders like Nepal and Khanal have expressed reservations over the MCC. But it is the former Maoists, who were once very wary of “imperialistic” tendencies of the great powers, who have been especially vocal.
Bhim Rawal, one of the most stringent opponents of the MCC, even accused Oli’s press advisor Surya Thapa of threatening him for propping up the issue of “nationality” against the party’s ideology and principle. Baskota, during a regular press briefing on Thursday, denied that Thapa had issued any such threat.
During the Cabinet meeting, Oli also said that the MCC was an old agreement and that his government only wished to give it continuity. The MCC agreement was first agreed to when Krishna Bahadur Mahara was finance minister and the government was led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, said Oli. The MCC’s Nepal compact was ultimately signed in 2017, during the prime ministership of the Nepali Congress’ Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Oli is even mulling over issuing a white paper to clear the air. A white paper is generally issued in cases of national debate in order to concisely state the government’ position.
However, Thapa, Oli’s press advisor, does not believe that will be necessary.
“The MCC agreement itself is white so the government does not need to issue a white paper,” said Thapa. “But as there are differences among the top leadership, the government is thinking of holding a discussion at the Parliamentary Party meeting.”