KATHMANDU, April 14: Refusing the proposal to hold virtual meetings of the various house committees, the federal parliament on Monday held an informal virtual meeting among the upper house chairperson, political party leaders and chairpersons of the upper house committees.
Although Finance Committee Chairperson Krishna Prasad Dahal and Education Committee Chairperson Jaipuri Gharti sought permission for a virtual meeting on Sunday, the parliament secretariat declined the request citing the lack of parliamentary regulations on holding virtual meetings.
National Assembly Chairperson Ganesh Prasad Timilsina convened the meeting with the chiefs of political parties represented in the upper house and committee chairpersons through a video conference.
Chairperson Timilsina and Vice-Chairperson Shashikala Dahal attended the meeting from parliament secretariat Singhadurbar while other committee heads joined the virtual meeting from their homes.
In the informal virtual meeting, leaders and house committee heads suggested to the government to extend the lockdown, stating that it is the only effective measure to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) parliamentary party leader for the upper house, Dinanath Sharma suggested to extend the lockdown and expand the test capacity simultaneously. Chief whip of the party for the upper house, Khimlal Bhattarai, too, stood in favor of extending the lockdown stating that it is a great precautionary measure to prevent a virus outbreak in the country.
Parliamentary party leader of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) Shekhar Kumar Singh suggested to the government to extend the lockdown by 15 days to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
Main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) leader for the upper house, Radheshyam Adhikari suggested to the government to consult also with the opposition parties while taking crucial decisions including enforcing a lockdown. Adhikari also insisted the need for easing the supply of seeds and fertilizers keeping in view the harvesting season in the country.
House committee chairpersons including Ram Narayan Bidari, Tara Devi Bhatta, Parshu Meghi Gurung, Dil Kumari Rawal including others suggested to the government to intensify tests after tracing the contacts of the infected individuals.
Bidari sought strict direction from the government to the private hospitals to admit patients without any reluctance at this time of crisis.
The leaders also urged the government for proper care and management of Nepali citizens living in quarantine in India and other countries.
Upper house chief Timilsina said that suggestions from the leaders would help parliament and the government to take proper decisions and formulate appropriate policies to fight COVID-19.
"The government should consider whether to enforce a nation-wide lockdown or just in certain areas in the days to come," said Timilsina while concluding the meeting.
He also urged the government to inform the house leaders if any relief or health assistance is needed at the local level, so that they can convey the information to the government agencies.
"We can mobilize other development budget which is unspent so far for COVID-19 response activities because fighting against the disease should be our top priority," he added.
Meanwhile, speaker of the House of Representatives, Agni Prasad Sapkota has scheduled a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee for Tuesday to discuss the role of parliament in the fight against the virus.