President consults parties as Parliament ignores her concerns on Citizenship billHouse committee plans to endorse the bill without change Wednesday.
Anil Giri & Tika R Pradhan
President Bidya Devi Bhandari has expressed concern over the lower house’s endorsement of the amendment bill on Citizenship Act without discussions on her suggestions.
On Monday, Bhandari invited office bearers of the ruling Nepali Congress and the main opposition CPN-UML separately and expressed her concerns about the bill which she had returned to the House of Representatives for a review.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also the President of Nepali Congress, had reached Sheetal Niwas along with some office bearers of his party on Monday afternoon.
Leaders including party vice-president Dhanaraj Gurung, General Secretary Gagan Thapa and Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki accompanied Deuba.
“On the Citizenship bill, the President said she had sent the bill back to the House with her views and she had expected that parties would discuss them,” Thapa said. “She also said by returning the bill she had no intention of doing any political stunt.”
Prime Minister Deuba, however, told the President that he has taken no issue with her suggestions as she had just exercised her constitutional authority, according to leaders who attended the meeting.
“We are positive about the 15-point message,” a leader quoted Deuba as saying to Bhandari. “We only tried to address the problems faced by citizens [children of parents who were granted citizenship by birth] who are unable to exercise some fundamental rights due to the lack of citizenship.”
According to Thapa, the Congress leaders had said some issues including the concerns raised by the President were left out in the bill due to time constraints.
Congress leaders said they also told the President that the current bill is no different from the citizenship ordinance brought by the KP Oli government last year.
Tika Dhakal, expert advisor to President Bhandari on Information and Communication, said that during the meeting with Congress leaders, Bhandari expressed her dismay at the parties’ ignoring her recommendations.
After her meeting with Congress leaders, President Bhandari discussed the citizenship issue with CPN-UML leaders as well and communicated similar concerns.
UML Senior Vice-chair Ishwar Pokhrel, Vice-chairs Subas Nembang and Ram Bahadur Thapa, and General Secretary Shankar Pokharel had jointly met Bhandari on Monday.
“The President said the issue relating to citizenship has been raised for the last 70 years and it should have been resolved once and for all, but that’s not happening,” Nembang told the Post. “We briefed the President about our role in Parliament to ensure that her concerns are discussed. But we also apprised her of the fact that we failed.”
The lower House on August 18 endorsed the amendment bill without change ignoring the President’s call for a review. But on Sunday, the National Assembly sent the bill for discussions to the Legislative Management Committee. Since the ruling parties dominate the parliamentary committee, its members said the bill would be endorsed on Wednesday without any change, which will then be passed by the upper house, then to the lower house and finally back to the President for authentication.