UML leaders silent on President’s moveThe party’s members in general support the head of state’s moves but the UML has yet to make its position public.
The CPN-UML has remained silent on the unconstitutional move by President Bidya Devi Bhandari on the citizenship bill which she rejected by not endorsing it within the constitutional deadline of Tuesday. While the ruling alliance—except for Rastriya Janamorcha, which is against the bill—along with the civil society, termed the President’s move unconstitutional, the UML has not made its position public yet.
The alliance said in a statement on Wednesday that the President attacked the constitutional provision of the duty to follow and protect the constitution by refusing to authenticate the citizenship bill, which was endorsed by both Houses.
The statement undersigned by leaders of the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre), the CPN (Unified Socialist) and the Janata Samajbadi Party was issued following a meeting on Wednesday.
“The President has shirked her constitutional duty by not endorsing the citizenship bill, which was meant to be endorsed within the 15 days after both Houses sent the bill to her for authentication,” reads the statement by the ruling alliance.
The UML had voted in Parliament against the citizenship amendment bill introduced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government. The party also defended the move of President Bhandari who had returned the bill to the House for review with a 15-point suggestion on August 14.
The President’s major concern on the citizenship bill was the cooling-off period before granting naturalised citizenship to foreigners married to Nepali citizens.
UML chair KP Sharma Oli often voiced his dissatisfaction at the ruling coalition for not considering the suggestions forwarded by the President. The lower house passed the bill on August 18 without addressing any one of the President’s concerns. The bill passed by the House for the second time was subsequently endorsed by the National Assembly in the same form.
After Parliament re-sent the bill to the President for authentication, she only had the constitutional option of endorsing it within 15 days. The period ended on Tuesday night.
While most of the political parties and the general public termed the presidential inaction “unconstitutional”, UML leaders opted not to speak on the matter. Party leaders who earlier vocally supported Bhandari’s move of returning the bill for reconsideration by Parliament hesitated to speak on the latter move.
Some of the office bearers of the UML who the Post approached for their views refused to comment on the President’s move. They either claimed to be sick or said that they were not authorised to speak on the matter. UML vice-chairs Surendra Pandey and Subas Nembang both said they were sick when asked to speak on the matter.
Party Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai also said the issue in question was beyond his authority. “I am not supposed to talk on the matter, better talk to the head of the publicity department of the party,” Bhattarai suggested. The publicity department chief, Prithvi Subba Gurung, did not receive the Post’s repeated calls.
Other leaders including General Secretary Shankar Pokharel, Deputy General Secretaries Pradeep Gyawali and Bishnu Rimal, Secretaries Gokarna Bista and Padma Aryal, and former chief whip of the party Bishal Bhattarai could not be reached for comments either.
UML leader Sher Bahadur Tamang, however, said there was no point in linking the President’s steps with the party’s policy. “The President's move of not endorsing the citizenship bill has nothing to do with our party position,” Tamang told the Post.
“The President is the defender of the Constitution of Nepal. When the ruling alliance tried to breach the constitution, it was her duty to defend it.”
According to Tamang, the ruling alliance has two options now. One is issuing a citizenship ordinance or waiting for the new parliament to take up the matter.
Bhandari had earlier authenticated the citizenship ordinance introduced by the Oli government. However, the ordinance was later challenged at the Supreme Court and was nullified.
The UML was also dissatisfied when the government withdrew the citizenship bill that was prepared after a long period of deliberation in the parliamentary committee and introduced a new one.
Following deliberation, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the lower house prepared a report recommending a number of provisions, among them a cooling-off period for foreign nationals who marry Nepali residents. The seven-year period that the committee had previously proposed was removed from the bill introduced by the Deuba government.
The committee had suggested a seven-year period before granting naturalised citizenship to foreigners married to Nepali citizens.
The citizenship bill introduced by the Oli government was withdrawn and a new one introduced on July 9. On July 22, Parliament approved the bill for the first time.
During a meeting with Prime Minister Deuba on August 24, UML chair Oli expressed his disagreement on the citizenship bill introduced by the government. Oli is learnt to have said that the government should have taken the suggestions and recommendations forwarded by the President’s office into consideration.