Govt hints at revising Guthi Bill

Published On: June 16, 2019 06:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

- Ruling MP gives government two days to withdraw the bill, warns of massive protest in Kathmandu from Wednesday

- Ruling lawmaker seeks government spokesperson's resignation for wrongly portraying Guthi culture

- Main opposition Nepali Congress warns of obstructing parliamentary procedures

KATHMANDU, June 16: The government has hinted at revising the Guthi Bill registered at the National Assembly due to widespread protests by the supporters of the traditional Guthi [trust] culture, demanding the withdrawal of the proposed law from the parliament.

Dismayed by some provisions of the bill, especially the formation an authority to oversee the Guthi properties which have been looked after by the locals since centuries, the main opposition Nepali Congress has been obstructing parliamentary business since a few days. It has vowed to continue to obstruct the parliament until the bill is withdrawn. Pro-Guthi supporters, cultural activists and other stakeholders including some lawmakers from ruling Nepal Communist Party have warned of stern protests against the government.

Considering the possible fall out over the contentious bill, the ruling leaders themselves have started to reach out to the agitating parties and cultural activists aimed at addressing their concerns in the proposed bill.

Acting Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokharel during an interaction with media persons a few days ago assured of revising the controversial provisions of the Guthi Bill, admitting that its provisions have annoyed many people. His assurance comes after anti-Guthi bill protests garnered widespread support from the locals in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.

Speaking at a program organized in Kathmandu on Saturday, Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota acknowledged that the bill courted controversy because of the issue related to land as well as cultural and religious aspects.

“Since the Guthi Bill covers major issues like culture, tradition, religion and social behavior of certain community and production, as well as the ownership and rights of peasants, these issues will be discussed separately,” Baskota said at a function held in Kathmandu on Saturday hinting at addressing the concerns related to the bill.

The government is under pressure to revise the Guthi Bill or shelve it for now after strong protests from within and outside the party.

While defending the bill, Minister Baskota, who is also spokesperson of the government, had termed the Guthi tradition a symbol of feudalism.

A section of the ruling party lawmakers have demanded minister Baskota's resignation and warned of toppling the government if it does not withdraw the bill and the minister doesn't correct his controversial remark over Guthi.

Pro-Guthi supporters are annoyed following the minister's disputed remark and more people are joining anti-government protests.

“Either the spokesperson should correct his views [terming Guthi as feudal practice] or resign from the position,” said ruling NCP lawmaker Rambir Manandhar on Saturday, giving a two-day deadline to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to withdraw the bill.

“The protests will take a nasty turn if the prime minister doesn't address the issue by Monday.”

PM Oli is returning home on Sunday after a week-long Europe visit.

Lawmaker Manandhar warned of launching a decisive protest on Wednesday if the minister does not apologize for uttering the words that have defamed the Guthi tradition and if the PM doesn't correct the government's wrong move.

An informed source at the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation said that the ministry is holding informal meetings with the concerned stakeholders aimed at revising the bill.

“As the bill has already been registered at the parliament, efforts are underway to address genuine concerns raised from all quarters mainly those related to culture, religion and tradition,” said the ministry's Spokesperson Janak Raj Joshi.

Spokesperson Joshi said Minister for Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Padma Aryal will begin formal discussions with the stakeholders from Sunday.

“The ministry has already expressed its commitment to address genuine concerns of stakeholders while informal talks are underway,” said Joshi, “The minister will begin formal discussions and measures will be taken to address their concerns as per the parliamentary practices.”

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