May 9, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
It all started with one statement from Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli: I will answer all questions but ignore the statements loaded with suppressed anger and frustration. Prime Minister was addressing the Parliament responding to the concerns raised by various lawmakers on plans and policies unveiled by the government on Friday and several other issues. And all hell broke loose. Lawmakers from main opposition Nepali Congress objected to the use of “demeaning” expression and drew the attention of the Speaker to remove these words from the parliament’s record. They shouted slogans against ‘demeaning remarks’ and refused to settle down though the Speaker was asking them to. The PM did not relent either. Instead, he accused the lawmakers of asking demeaning questions. ‘You are free to question, I am here at the rostrum to answer your questions, but proper decency should be maintained while asking questions as well,’ he went on. Then he answered few questions and returned to his seat. The Speaker allowed the House to proceed with business amid altercation and the House passed government’s policies and programs.
What happened on Tuesday in the House of Representatives is not the first of its kind in Nepal. Nepal’s parliamentary history has an ugly precedent of a lawmaker throwing shoes at the speaker in the 1990s. Most recently, in 2015, during the deliberation on constitution in Constituent Assembly, some lawmakers ran roughshod and created mayhem in the CA (which also served as the legislature parliament then) throwing chairs and breaking the microphones. Tuesday’s exchanges of words does not compare with these two incidents in any way but if the lawmakers of both ruling and opposition parties do not restrain themselves and keep breaching the decorum, we might be headed toward repeating the ugly practice. The Prime Minister may have thought the opposition lawmakers intended to insult him by using the words like ‘the prime minister of president’s government’ and alleging him of promoting corruption. Yes, the lawmakers did not present themselves in as much polite and civil manner as they should have while questioning but the Prime Minister should not have been provoked by the words of the lawmakers. Lawmakers from opposition party tend to be little more aggressive in their posturing and expressions—that’s what the opposition party usually does in Nepal—but the head of the government, by virtue of the position, is expected to present himself calmly and in more decent way.
Besides, this is not the first time, Prime Minister Oli and his cabinet colleagues (especially government spokesperson and minister for information and communication) have been harsh in describing (even denigrating) opponents. In December, 2018, in a televised show, Prime Minister appeared to mock Nepal’s intellectual communities and journalists for making “uncivilized and cheap comments” against him and his government and indirectly threatened against making such comments. We, in this space, have been reminding the prime minister and his colleagues of importance of decency. We want to reiterate: Part of the reason the government has become unpopular is Prime Minister’s reckless use of words and dismissive attitude toward public criticism, including from opposition party and the media. It would help salvage his public image if the prime minister maintained decorum, while speaking at the parliament or in other public forums. To maintain the dignity of the parliament as an institution both opposition and ruling parties need to conduct themselves decently. The ruling party and its leaders need to maintain that decency even more.