Oli wants to prove House irrelevant, critics sayThe prime minister neither attends meetings nor does his government provide any business to the House of Representatives.
During the first meeting of the reinstated House of Representatives on March 7, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was supposed to table an ordinance to amend the Constitutional Council (Functions, Duties, Powers and Procedures) Act-2010.
Parliament officials had prepared the agenda for the meeting accordingly. However, by the time the meeting started, Oli had already left. In his absence, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Lila Nath Shrestha tabled the ordinance amid sloganeering by opposition parties.
On Friday, Oli was supposed to table the annual reports of the National Human Rights and the Public Service commissions. He, however, didn’t show up. Oli hasn’t attended any meeting of the ongoing session of Parliament. Though he visited Parliament on March 7 and March 10, he chose not to attend the meeting claiming that Speaker Agni Sapkota couldn’t convene the meetings on time.
Bishal Bhattarai, chief whip of CPN-UML, said Oli’s has been unable to attend the House due to circumstances beyond his control. “He couldn’t attend Friday's meeting because of some minor health issues,” he told the Post. “Earlier, he wanted to attend the meeting, but Sapkota couldn’t convene the meeting on time.”
But Oli, who couldn’t attend the House because of his poor health, took part in an interaction with the business community even when the House was sitting.
Opposition parties say Oli’s absenteeism is deliberate as he doesn’t want to face the House. They say it is because of Oli that top leaders from various political parties haven’t addressed the reinstated House yet despite there being a tradition to do so.
Bal Krishna Khand, Nepali Congress chief whip, said his party chief Sher Bahadur Deuba was preparing to address the House on Friday expecting that Oli would do it first.
However, Deuba asked Khand to do it after it became clear that foreign minister and CPN-UML Spokesperson Pradeep Gyawali was going to speak on Oli’s behalf. “It is clear that Oli doesn’t want the House to function effectively. He is not only absent during the meeting, he is even reluctant to provide business to Parliament,” he told the Post. “Oli is making every attempt to devalue the House.”
On March 7, the government was obliged to present before the House the eight ordinances it had issued in the absence of Parliament. However, only one could be presented due to obstruction from the opposition. The succeeding meetings ended merely by endorsing condolence motions.
It is the responsibility of the government to provide the business to the House. Political experts say Oli is making every effort to create an environment to demonstrate that the House is not necessary and therefore, the country should go for fresh elections.
“It is clear that Oli has no respect for this House,” Surendra Labh, a political economist, told the Post. “He is making and will continue to make every attempt to dissolve it go for early elections.” Oli during Tuesday’s meeting called by President Bidya Devi Bhandari had said the House has failed to perform its duties and therefore, it needs to be dissolved. Bhandari also reportedly told leaders that the move to opt for fresh elections shouldn’t be taken otherwise.
Oli’s ministers also have been making similar comments. In his address on Friday, Gyawali said the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate the House has compelled the government to seek stability through the House, though the government wanted a fresh mandate. “However, the way the initial meetings of the House have gone, it shows we are not heading in the right direction,” he said.
Experts say the government is committing fraud by not giving business to the House. Shyam Shrestha, a political expert who follows leftist politics closely, said Oli and his ministers can’t blame the House for being ineffective when the government is reluctant to cooperate with it.
Shrestha said government reluctance to provide business to the House is unheard of in parliamentary democracy. He said though Oli said he respects the verdict of the Supreme Court, his behaviour shows otherwise.
“The actions of the government are a curse to parliamentary democracy,” he told the Post. “Oli, in an attempt to prove his move to dissolve the House was right, is crossing all limits. Backed by the president, he is trying to establish that the House has become irrelevant and the election is the only solution.”
Experts say the opposition should also be blamed for the present situation as it has been able to exert necessary pressure on the government. Labh said he is surprised that the opposition parties haven’t been demanding that Oli attend the House and provide necessary business to it. “The arbitrariness of the Oli government is increasing because of weak opposition,” he said. “It is the job of the opposition to hold the government to account.”