Prime minister calls Constitutional Council meeting after talks with OliThere was no deal yet on ending the House disruption.
Despite a “positive” meeting between Prime Minister and CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, uncertainty looms over Monday’s meeting of the House of Representatives.
The House meeting remains postponed since last Wednesday after the UML disrupted the proceedings demanding formation of a high-level panel to investigate the smuggling of gold into the country. On July 18, assisted by the Armed Police Force, the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) seized gold estimated to be worth over a billion rupees and arrested six individuals from Sinamangal near the Tribhuvan International Airport. Police later arrested several others and raided various other places in the Capital in connection with the same case.
The main opposition has questioned the home ministry’s role, asking how the yellow metal supposed to be around 100 kilograms could get customs clearance at the airport without the knowledge of the ministry leadership.
The gross weight of the smuggled gold and accompanying metal items seized last week was found to be 155 kilograms, which included motorcycle brake shoes and electric shavers. The actual quantity of gold has, however, yet to be determined.
“The meeting between our chairperson and the prime minister was positive. They have agreed to give continuity to the discussion. However, the meeting didn’t result in any agreement,” Rajendra Gautam, chief of the UML’s publicity department, told the Post. “We are sticking to our demand for the formation of a high-level probe panel. Only such a mechanism can get to the root of the gold smuggling taking place at the Tribhuvan International Airport.”
Following the obstruction from the main opposition, Speaker Devraj Ghimire, on Wednesday, had postponed the meeting until Monday. The parties were given five days to find a meeting point. Govinda Acharya, press adviser to the prime minister, said the two leaders discussed at length on how to end the stalemate and allow the House to function smoothly. “The opposition has agreed to make Parliament vibrant. However, how the party will behave during Monday’s meeting is still unsure,” he told the Post.
Leaders from both the parties say Oli and Dahal could meet again to find a way out before the House commences at 1 pm. According to officials at the Parliament Secretariat, the Speaker wants the dissenting parties to find a solution through dialogue. “The Speaker hasn’t intervened hoping that the parties will find a solution before the House meeting on Monday,” Ek Ram Giri, spokesman for the secretariat, told the Post.
Generally, the Speaker calls for a Business Advisory Committee meeting whenever there is a problem in running the House. No meeting was called until Sunday evening.
According to Acharya, the two leaders had also discussed the urgency to convene the Constitutional Council meeting to nominate a chief justice candidate. Oli on Sunday reportedly expressed his dissatisfaction over Dahal’s reluctance to summon the meeting. Following the one-on-one, Dahal has scheduled the council’s meeting for Tuesday evening.
The constitution requires the council to nominate a chief justice candidate a month before the position becomes vacant. Had the prime minister-led mechanism abided by Article 284 of the constitution, it would have recommended Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki’s successor three weeks ago. Karki retires Saturday.
The Dahal-led council has the Speaker and the deputy Speaker, National Assembly chair, chief justice and the leader of the opposition as members. However, the law and justice minister replaces the chief justice in the council’s meeting when it has to pick the candidate for chief justice.
If the council doesn’t breach seniority, Bishowambhar Prasad Shrestha will be the new chief justice. His nomination needs to be approved by the Parliamentary Hearing Committee before the President appoints him. The entire process takes around a month. Shrestha will lead the judiciary as an acting chief justice starting August 6 until appointment of the chief justice by the President.