Caution against preparations to amend constitution to allow even un-elected lawmaker to become PM
KATHMANDU, Jan 17: Expressing concern over prolonged delay in convening the House of Representatives because of differences within the ruling Nepal Communist Party over the choice of a speaker candidate, a group of 17 prominent civil society leaders have urged the parties in power as well as others concerned to work proactively to end the impasse.
Issuing a joint press statement on Thursday, they said that continuously subjecting the lower house to suspension notices because of the inability of the ruling party to elect a new speaker goes against parliamentary practice and indicates to the public a lack of accountability.
“We strongly believe that such practice and behavior should be discontinued in future and that the meeting of the House of Representatives called for 20 January must be held as scheduled,” they have said, while asking members of parliament in particular to exhibit a sense of urgency in this regard.
They also said that asking Deputy Speaker Shivamaya Tumbahangphe to step down at a time when no party has put up a candidate for the post of speaker would deprive the lower house of the leadership to chair its proceedings.
The signatories have stressed that as per the Constitution of Nepal, the post of speaker should be filled by a capable lawmaker of high moral standing, someone who is trusted by the public and eligible under existing laws, who does not have cases pending in the courts, and who is able to provide able parliamentary leadership.
The civil society leaders have also called on President Bidya Devi Bhandari to fulfill her duty as the custodian of the constitution and encourage the prime minister, the main opposition party leader, all parties represented in parliament and the deputy speaker who is chairing the lower house in the absence of the speaker, to end the ongoing parliamentary impasse.
“…we appeal to members of the public to raise their voice on the ongoing impasse in parliament in order to hold the political parties accountable,” they further said in their statement.
Those signing in the statement include Surya Prasad Shrestha (former chief election commissioner), Gaurishanker Lal Das (former member, National Human Rights Commission), Prof Ganesh Man Gurung (member of Constituent Assembly), Surya Dhungel (constitutionalist and advisor to former president Ram Baran Yadav), Purnaman Shakya (constitutionalist), Bipin Adhikari (constitutionalist), Tikaram Bhattarai (constitutionalist) and Sumitra Manandhar Gurung (social scientist).
Prof Saroj Dhital (doctor), Dambar Chemjong (social scientist), Sulochana Manandhar (litterateur), Dinesh Tripathi (constitutionalist), Dharmendra Jha (former president, Federation of Nepali Journalists), Sunil Ranjan Singh (lawyer), Phurpa Tamang (lawyer), Tika Dhakal (writer/political scientist) and Kanak Mani Dixit (writer/journalist) are also among those signing in the statement.
The civil society leaders have also expressed concern over preparations to bring an amendment to the constitution to allow even un-elected lawmakers to become prime minister of the country. “The Constitution is the basic law of the land. When amendments are contemplated on the basis of political calculations or according to the interest of one or more political parties, there is danger of the general public becoming disenchanted with our newly-established parliamentary republican system,” they said.
The signatories have also urged the government to ensure that there is open discussion among the general public when it comes to a matter as important as amendment of the constitution, and also to ensure energetic debate in both houses of parliament.