Key items ‘vanish’ from House agenda as parties differParliament Secretariat had published tentative agenda for the House meeting including formation of committees.
Top leaders of the political parties represented in parliament had on Monday agreed to constitute a Parliamentary Hearing Committee, as well as a special committee to finalise the amendment bill on the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act. They also agreed on the panels’ composition in terms of the number of lawmakers from each party.
Based on the agreement, the Parliament Secretariat on Tuesday evening published a tentative agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the lower house which included the formation of the two committees. Also on the agenda was the plan to endorse the amendment bill to the Constitutional Council Act.
However, by the time the House meeting commenced on Wednesday afternoon, all those items were missing from the agenda.
“Why did they change the House agenda? When will the committees be formed?” asked Sumana Shrestha, a lawmaker from the Rastriya Swatantra Party. “The revelation came as a shock not only to most lawmakers, but also to those who were following the issues.”
The ruling and opposition parties are blaming each other for the agenda’s alterations. At Monday's meeting, the top leaders had agreed that the CPN-UML would nominate four of its lawmakers to the hearing committee. “But at the Business Advisory Committee meeting today [Wednesday], the CPN-UML demanded five seats on the hearing committee. Also, the party refused to endorse the amendment to the Constitutional Council Act,” Ram Hari Khatiwada, a Nepali Congress member in the Business Advisory Committee, told the Post.
He accused the UML of going back on its word. Besides settling the composition of the hearing committee, the parties had agreed that the UML would lead two thematic committees of the lower house and one of the two joint committees comprising members of both houses of the federal parliament.
The UML, however, claimed it was not responsible for the removal of the proposal to set up House committees from the agenda. Padam Giri, the party’s chief whip, said he already had the names of the lawmakers from his party who would serve in the respective committees. But the ruling parties were still undecided on their nominees.
“It is wrong to blame us for the delay when the ruling parties had not decided on their nominees,” Giri told the Post. However, he admitted that his party had reservations about the bill to amend the Constitutional Council Act.
The main opposition wants revision of clause 10 of the bill that says the chairperson of the Council, which means the prime minister, and majority of the present members can pick nominees for appointment to constitutional bodies.
“If the provision remains unchanged, the final decision on nominations will rest with the prime minister. In our view, whether the prime minister agrees or not, nominations should be made based on the decision of the majority members,” said Giri.
The six-member council led by the prime minister has the speaker and deputy speaker, chairperson of the National Assembly, chief justice and the leader of the main opposition as members. When nominating a chief justice, the law minister participates in the Council’s meeting.
Currently, the Council has not been able to nominate a new chief justice, although the position has been vacant for over a year now, as the Council law has yet to be amended. The acting chief justice has been heading the judiciary.
The amendment has to be passed by both houses of parliament.
Khatiwada said the ruling and the opposition parties would hold further discussions on Friday. “We hope there will be some agreement on Thursday,” he said.
The next meeting of the lower house has been called for Friday.
The ruling parties want to endorse the bill at the earliest.
“We want to get the bill endorsed and committees formed by Friday. And the upper house would pass the amendment on Sunday,” said Khatiwada. “The government wants to prorogue the current parliament session once the upper house endorses the bill.”