NC lawmakers demand time for internal consultations
KATHMANDU, Sep 1: Friday's meeting of parliament's State Affairs Committee, which was scheduled to forward the stalled election-related bills after dropping some controversial amendment proposals that would allow corruption-convicted individuals to contest elections, could not make any headway after some Nepali Congress lawmakers sought more time to discuss the amendment proposals.
Though the election-related bills were set for endorsement by the committee on Friday, Committee Chairman Dil Bahadur Gharti postponed the meeting for two days after failing to persuade NC lawmakers not to incorporate their amendment proposals in the bill.
Election of Members of House of Representatives and Election of Members of Provincial Assembly bills have proposed barring those convicted of corruption from contesting polls again.
The bill had stalled in committee after as many as 18 NC lawmakers registered amendments demanding that corruption-convicted leaders should be allowed to contest elections three years after serving their jail sentences. Though the lawmakers had informed Gharti on Thursday about their decision to drop their amendments , they sought time on Friday for more discussions after coming under pressure from some party influentials, said sources.
NC Deputy Chief Whip Ishwari Neupane and lawmakers Ananda Dhungana and Radheshyam Adhikari are members of SAC. But Neupane and Adhikari failed to attend the committee meeting on Friday, which was convened to specifically discuss the issue .
In an interesting note, none of the NC lawmakers except Arjun Joshi opened their mouth during the two and half hour meeting. Joshi, who came late to the meeting, spoke about the vote recount provisions of the election bills. However, he also didn't touch the amendment issue. NC has 16 lawmakers in the 49-member SAC and 10 of them were present at the meeting Friday.
Committee Chairman Gharti decided to postpone the meeting till 3 pm for some internal discussions. NC lawmakers, however, demanded two days in the course of informal negotiations during the interval, said UML lawmaker Gangalal Tuladhar.
“It seems a month-long period was not enough for them for internal discussions. They demanded two days more to take a decision,” said Tuladhar. "Only a few members representing NC on the committee are for the provision but they are quite ready to drop the matter."
Emerging from the meeting, NC lawmakers declined to comment. “The committee will forward the two election related bills to the House before Monday's meeting," said NC lawmaker Purna Bhadur Khadka after the meeting.
Lawmakers from CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Center, Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and other parties speaking at the meeting opposed the amendment proposal. “We can't imagine any good governance in the country if we awarded the corrupt with the enactment of laws that pointedly favor them,” said UML lawmaker Rameshwor Phuyal at the meeting.
Maoist Center lawmaker Rekha Sharma also insisted on endorsing the bill in its original form and without incorporating the NC lawmakers' amendment.
Brijesh Gupta of RJPN, Chitra Bahadur KC of Rastriya Janamorcha, Prem Suwal of Nepal Workers Peasants Party, Lokmani Dhakal of Janagaran Party and other lawmakers also strongly protested the demand for allowing convicts to contest elections three years after serving their jail sentences.
They claimed that the demand contradicts Article 87 of the new constitution, the Local Level Election Act and the Act Related to Political Parties.