Parliamentary hearing for ambassador nominees set for todayThe parliamentary committee has already deferred the hearing twice in the absence of a quorum.
The incumbent government on September 21 recalled 12 ambassadors appointed under the political quota by the erstwhile KP Sharma Oli government. A month later on October 28, it recommended diplomats in three countries.
Shankar Sharma was picked as ambassador to India, Sridhar Khatri to the United States America and Gyan Chandra Acharya to the United Kingdom. However, their appointment process has been delayed as they have not gone through the mandatory parliamentary hearing yet.
Article 292 of the constitution says parliamentary hearings shall be conducted as to appointments to the offices of the chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court, members of the judicial council, chiefs and members of constitutional bodies, who are appointed on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council under the Constitution, and to the offices of ambassadors, as provided for in the federal law.
The Parliamentary Hearing Committee of the federal parliament had slated the hearing of the three ambassadorial nominees for November 21. However, the hearing was deferred after only five of the 13-committee members showed up in the meeting. There should be at least seven members to start the proceeding of the committee.
Not a single member from the ruling Nepali Congress and the CPN (Unified Socialist) was present in the meeting prompting the committee chair, Laxman Lal Karna, to postpone the hearing for Friday.
But Friday's meeting too was deferred until Monday as the Congress lawmakers in the committee said they were unable to attend the meeting citing their busy schedule.
“We postponed the meeting at the request of Congress lawmakers,” Karna told the Post. “Hopefully they will be present at Monday's meeting.”
Congress lawmakers are currently busy as the party is busy preparing for its 14th general convention, which is kicking off on December 10.
The parliamentary hearing needs to be completed within 45 days after the recommendation and it has already been 39 days since the government picked the three ambassadorial nominees.
Experts on parliamentary affairs say the responsibility to ensure quorum in the House and its committees lies with the ruling party and that it is the responsibility of every lawmaker to perform their duties.
Som Bahadur Thapa, a former secretary at the parliament secretariat, said frequent deferral of the House committee meetings in the absence of quorum was unfortunate.
“The delay in the hearing means our diplomatic missions will be remaining vacant for a longer time,” he told the Post. “It is the responsibility of the ruling parties to ensure the House and its committees function smoothly. But here we have the ruling party lawmakers delaying the hearing process of ambassadorial nominees due to their absence in the committee meeting.”
As many as 11 of 33 diplomatic missions were without ambassadors even before Sher Bahadur Deuba government’s decision to recall those diplomats appointed by the Oli administration. Currently 23 diplomatic missions are without their heads.
Sharma, Khatri and Archarya were recommended in the positions that became vacant after Nilamber Acharya, Yubaraj Khatiwada and Lok Darshan Regmi were recalled.
Diplomatic experts say the trend of successive governments recalling the ambassadors appointed by the previous administration has created instability in foreign missions, and the delay in the appointment of ambassadors has only fuelled this instability.
Deep Kumar Upadhyay, a former ambassador, said keeping embassies without their heads shows the immaturity of the government. He said ambassadorial presence in foreign missions is crucial to maintaining diplomatic ties, especially in those countries with which Nepal has a close working relationship.
“Not just the government, even the parliamentary committees that aren't mature in their actions and delayed ambassadorial appointments is just an example,” he told the Post. “We don’t know how long we will have to wait to see them improve.”