Parliament may endorse crucial pending bills now despite UML’s obstructionEndorsing the MCC compact was a turnabout by the government and the Speaker.
Except for endorsing the national budget on September 2o 2021, the House of Representatives has not endorsed a single bill until Sunday. Speaker Agni Sapkota and the ruling parties had been taking the regular obstructions by the main opposition CPN-UML as an excuse to stall the bills, some of which have been pending since the very first meeting of the Parliament in 2018.
However, the Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact, which became the most talked about issue in recent times, was discussed and endorsed from the lower house in a single day on Sunday. Cross-party lawmakers participated in deliberations and took part in the voting while the UML continued its obstruction.
Speaker Sapkota moved the House proceedings forward ignoring the obstructions. Sunday’s endorsement of the MCC compact was a turnabout by the government and the Speaker who were saying the House cannot function amid obstructions.
“We didn’t have time to wait further for its ratification,” Pushpa Bhusal, a whip of Nepali Congress, told the Post. Asked if Sunday’s move to endorse the MCC compact has opened doors to push other bills accordingly, she said: “The government is for putting the crucial bills in the parliamentary process despite obstructions.”
As told by Bhusal, the Parliament Secretariat has included two bills related to streamlining the civil aviation and enforcing safety regulations in the probable agenda for the lower house meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
If there is no change in the schedule, the House will complete deliberations on the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Bill and Air Service Authority of Nepal Bill on Wednesday.
The two bills are necessary to split the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal into service providing and regulating entities which is one of the conditions the European Union has set for lifting its blanket ban on all airlines from Nepal from flying in Europe.
“The bills were included in the House agenda in consultation with the government,” Gopal Nath Yogi, secretary at the House of Representatives, told the Post.
Officials at the Parliament Secretariat say the process to endorse the bills will move forward if the government wishes so. The federal parliament has 57 bills to endorse including 42 in the lower house. Bills to amend the Citizenship Act, Federal Civil Service, Federal Police Service, Federal Education and Public Service Commission are some of the crucial ones awaiting the House endorsement.
The UML has been obstructing the House meetings since its previous session that started on September 8, in protest against Sapkota’s refusal to take action against 14 of its lawmakers who later formed the CPN (Unified Socialist). The UML on August 14 recommended that Sapkota sack them as lawmakers. However, Sapkota waited until they formed a new party. He then issued a statement on August 29 saying it was not necessary to take action against them as they had already formed a new party.
The last session lasted 51 days but did not endorse a single bill, except for those related to the budget, owing to the continuous obstruction from the lawmakers in the opposition. Until Sunday, the ongoing session that began on December 14 too had not endorsed a single bill.
Roj Nath Pandey, spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat, said the House shouldn’t delay in proceeding with the ratification of the crucial bills, which if not endorsed on time, could bring about grave consequences. “The bills related to the split of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and amendment to the Citizenship Act must get through the House without delay,” he told the Post. “Endorsement of the bills related to the Act to implement federalism too should be a priority.” He said as a practice has already been set to put the bills to vote despite obstruction, it is possible that other bills will also be endorsed in a similar fashion.
The UML is adamant about continuing its obstruction on Wednesday as well, saying either the 14 lawmakers must be stripped of their positions or the Speaker must resign for the party to withdraw its protest. “There has been no change in our position,” Bishal Bhattarai, the party’s chief whip, told the Post. “Let the government forward the bills, we will continue to stage protests as well.”