Parties revive deal to give momentum to ParliamentA subcommittee will iron out the differences among the major parties on the disputed transitional justice bill.
The ruling and the opposition parties on Sunday agreed to stick to their last month’s deal on sharing the leadership in the parliamentary committees and endorsing various bills.
The top leaders of the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) had on April 23 agreed to give leadership of three House committees to the main opposition in return for its support in endorsing the bills. However, the first session of the House of Representatives was prorogued without endorsing them after the UML wanted changes to a bill on amending the Constitutional Council Act.
There are ten thematic committees in the House of Representatives and two joint committees involving members of both the houses of parliament.
The UML didn’t agree with Clause 10 of the amendment bill which says the Council’s chair, which is the prime minister, and a majority of the members present at the meeting can pick nominees for appointment to constitutional bodies. The main opposition party said the bill cannot be endorsed as the clause, which gives the prime minister a final say on the nominations, needs revision.
The last meeting of the winter session concluded on April 28 without endorsing a single bill owing to differences between the ruling and the opposition parties.
Ruling party leaders took the UML’s stance on the bill to amend the Constitutional Council Act as a breach of the April 23 agreement. Talking to the Post last week, Hitraj Pande, the Maoist Centre’s chief whip, had said they were not obliged to allocate the leadership of three House committees to the UML as the party had gone back on its word.
However, on Sunday a cross-party meeting called by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ahead of the government’s preparations to present its policies and programmes, ended on a positive note. “The meeting was very positive about making the budget session productive,” said Pande.
The leaders who participated in the meeting said parties agreed to complete the House committees immediately by appointing members and allocate the leadership of three committees to the UML. The main opposition will have five lawmakers in the 15-member Parliamentary Hearing Committee.
The hearing process of chief justice nominee Hari Krishna Karki has not commenced as several members have yet to be appointed to the committee. “We also agreed to form a subcommittee under the Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee of the House to expedite amendment to the transitional justice Act,” Subas Nemang, a UML vice-chair, told the Post. “All parties have agreed to make the upcoming House session effective.”
Along with amending the Constitutional Council Act, the government on April 28 wanted to form a Special Committee to forge consensus on the amendment to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act.
The government on March 9 registered a new bill in the House of Representatives by incorporating the same controversial provisions as the previous one, which couldn’t get through the House the last time. A Supreme Court verdict in 2015 struck down around a dozen amnesty provisions in the Act, directing the government to amend it in line with international standards and practices. It asked for the categorisation of violence as ‘serious’ and ‘non-serious’ and ‘worthy of amnesty’ and ‘unworthy of amnesty’, depending on their severity.
Successive governments made little effort to amend it, for years. It was only in July last year the government registered an amendment bill to the Act, purportedly to address the court’s ruling. However, it had several provisions which the victims and human rights defenders claimed would deprive the victims of justice. It couldn’t get through Parliament.
Eight months later, the government introduced a similar bill in the House, retaining most of the controversial provisions. Except for allowing for an appeal of the Special Court’s verdict in the Supreme Court and increasing the statute of limitations for filing cases from six months to a year, most other provisions remained the same. The bill has listed ‘cruel murder’ or murder after torture, rape, enforced disappearances and inhuman and cruel torture as serious rights violations.
The bill did not get through the previous House as the UML stood firmly against the provision to grant amnesty for murder. “The subcommittee will work to find bridging points among the parties,” said Nembang.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons have been vacant since last July as the government extended their terms but bade farewell to its chairpersons and members by not extending their tenures.
Conflict victims say they also want endorsement of the bill without delay, but only after ensuring that the existing problematic provisions are revised. “We won’t accept the bill in the present form. Any provisions intended at granting amnesty will be rejected,” Janak Raut, a former general secretary of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, told the Post.