Parties agree on House panels’ leadership, key billsCongress, Maoist Centre and UML to discuss the disputed transitional justice bill in a special committee.
As the counting of votes of Sunday’s by-elections continued with candidates of new parties leading those from more established ones, a meeting of three major parties on Monday agreed to share among them the leaderships of various thematic committees of Parliament. They also agreed to work together to pass major bills including on transitional justice.
The main opposition CPN-UML agreed to discuss the long-awaited bill on Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the special committee after the ruling coalition agreed to give the leadership of three parliamentary committees including a joint committee and the Public Accounts Committee to the party.
Earlier, the meeting of the Constitutional Council held last Wednesday to discuss appointing a new chief justice was inconclusive after the main opposition leader KP Sharma Oli, whose UML party commands 50 percent of the total votes in the council, asked that the leadership of parliamentary committees be decided first. Although the council members met, they could not arrive at a decision as a bill governing the body has yet to pass the Parliament.
The main opposition has been insisting on holding a detailed discussion of the controversial bill on transitional justice in the thematic committee, while the ruling coalition wants to pass it through a fast-track process.
Later, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal floated a middle-of-the-road approach—endorsing the bill after discussing it in a special committee.
With the ruling coalition and the main opposition party forging an agreement, major bills—especially those related to the peace process and the Constitutional Council—are expected to move forward.
Now that they have settled the dispute over the leadership of parliamentary committees including the parliamentary hearings committee, the prime minister is expected to call a meeting of the Constitutional Council in a day or two, according to his aides.
One of the six members of the Constitutional Council, the chairman of the National Assembly Ganesh Timilsina, is currently on a Russia tour and is expected to return home on Tuesday evening.
“The Constitutional Council will nominate the chief justice soon,” said Govinda Acharya, press advisor to the prime minister.
The prime minister had a few days ago given deputy prime minister and defence minister Purna Bahadur Khadka the responsibility of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs as well. The law minister takes part in the meeting of the Constitutional Council as a member when it has to nominate the chief justice.
Padam Giri, the chief UML whip, confirmed to the Post that the parties reached an agreement on Monday to collaborate to pass major bills including those on transitional justice and Constitutional Council.
As per Monday’s agreement on the leadership of parliamentary committees, the Congress will head the joint 15-member Parliamentary Hearings Committee, while the UML will lead another joint committee—the State Directives Principles and Policy Monitoring and Implementation Committee.
Among the 10 thematic committees, UML alone will lead two including the Public Affairs Committee.
“We have decided to endorse the transitional justice bill by forming a special committee and the one related to the Constitutional Council through the House of Representatives,” Giri told the Post after the meeting.
According to the leaders at the meeting, all parliamentary committees could be formed within a few days.
Monday’s meeting of the three parties attended by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chair of CPN (Maoist Centre), Sher Bahadur Deuba, president of Congress, and UML chair Oli, also decided to allow the UML to nominate four members to the parliamentary hearings committee.
According to leaders of the Congress and the Maoist Centre, with its five members (including one from the upper house) in the 15-member hearing committee, the UML wanted to prevent the ruling coalition from having a two-thirds majority, which is a must to endorse constitutional and ambassadorial appointments.
With its five members and one member representing the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which is also an opposition party, together, the six members will be able to block constitutional appointments proposed by the ruling coalition.
Among the 16 committees of the federal Parliament, 10 are in the lower house, four in the upper house, and two others are joint committees of both the Houses.
Several crucial bills remain stuck in the parliamentary process as parties were at loggerheads over the composition of the hearings committee.
Likewise, the Constitutional Council has not been able to appoint a new chief justice as a bill to amend the Constitutional Council Act-2010 remains stuck in parliament.
The post of chief justice has been lying vacant for the past 14 months after the previous ruling coalition lawmakers registered an impeachment motion against the then chief justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana on February 13 last year. Rana retired on December 13 without the parliament deciding on the motion.
The top leaders of the three parties at Monday’s meeting were accompanied by their chief whips—Padam Giri of the UML, Ramesh Lekhak of the Congress, and Hitraj Pande of the Maoist Centre—besides UML deputy leader Subas Chandra Nembang. The meeting was held at the prime minister’s office at Singha Durbar.