Causing disruptions to the parliamentary proceedings has been a common occurrence in Nepal, with the opposition political parties resorting to making parliament hostage of indecision frequently on one pretext or the other. The main opposition CPN-UML has obstructed the federal parliament continuously for more than two weeks. The party has demanded the formation of a high-level parliamentary panel to probe into the recent smuggling of 100 kilograms of gold into the country through the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). The smugglers were successful in passing that much precious yellow metal through the customs office located at the airport despite a mandatory provision in place for all the imported goods to go through gold detectors as well as thorough manual checks. However, a team deployed by the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) was able to seize the gold based on a tip-off following its clearance from the customs office. The contraband was brought to Kathmandu from Hong Kong.
Initially, the DRI proceeded with the investigation. But since the matter is connected with various racketeers, including international ones, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) under the Nepal Police has now taken over the task of investigating gold trafficking. The government is not in favour of forming any probe panel to look into this matter as the CIB is the appropriate agency to carry out this responsibility legally. The government has said that the formation of any other committee could hinder the CIB’s investigation process. The UML’s insistence on a parliamentary committee indicates that the party intends to disorient the issue because it has nefarious nexus with the traders suspected of being involved in the smuggling of gold. When the UML was in power in 2020, the country witnessed a 33-kg gold smuggling scam. But the party did not feel it was necessary to constitute any parliamentary team to probe into the case. The then government failed to conduct any thorough investigation into the scam. No key players involved in that crime were exposed. Only some ‘carriers’ were arrested. One of them was also murdered. The scam still remains an unsolved mystery.
But why is this responsible political party working irresponsibly once again? The party’s move to obstruct the House must have been guided by some hidden interests. In a parliamentary democracy, parliament is the supreme body of the people’s elected representatives. The House is the most important forum for such representatives to raise their voices over numerous issues of national and public importance. They are supposed to play a crucial role in seeking a solution to the problems and force the government to act in favour of the nation and the people. The present moment is very tricky for the people in view of the ongoing economic crisis coupled with exorbitant price rise in consumer goods and rain-induced disasters like flash floods, landslides and inundations.
A rapid spread of dengue and other viral diseases is also taking its toll on the lives of people. Media reports have it that the number of dengue cases has reached nearly 11,000 in Dharan Sub-metropolitan City alone. The local hospitals are reported to have been full of patients suffering from this mosquito-borne illness. Considering such a worrying scenario, the Sunsari district administration has drawn an urgent attention of the federal government towards declaring a state of public health emergency, and intensifying efforts to bring the epidemic under control in no time. The local government has also been trying its best to contain the spread of this illness. It has continued to generate public awareness against the dengue infection and destroy the larvae of mosquitoes. However, its initiatives alone are not adequate to deal with this fast-spreading disease.
In addition, a large number of farmers across the nation have also been in difficulties because of less than average rainfall. A lot of arable land has remained barren due to this, hinting at a possibility of less paddy yield. The outbreak of the lumpy skin disease has also caused an additional problem to the farmers as around 50,000 cattle have so far died of this communicable disease. Though the farmers have been voicing their concerns over such a serious problem since the beginning, the government seems to have been unable to prevent the spread of the disease. Hundreds of thousands of cattle are now reported to have caught this illness across the nation. With the eruption of this disease, farmers have incurred a huge loss. But all these issues have not come to prominence because of the lingering impasse in the House. Such activities only help weaken democracy, hindering the nation from having the rule of law and sense of accountability.
Some small political parties, including the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), have also flayed the UML for the latter’s tactics to cause deadlock in the parliament. They have said that the continuous House obstruction put even the major public concerns in the shadow. Those forces had joined hands with the UML when the latter had opposed the government’s policy and programmes, and budget. Other parties have also expressed their utter dissatisfaction over the main opposition’s unreasonable step.
Obstacle to law-making
The UML’s strategy of repeated House obstructions has posed an obstacle to the important undertaking of lawmaking. This, however, does not mean that the party alone is responsible for not formulating the laws required for implementing the federal constitution that was formulated about eight years ago. Other political parties as well as the successive governments are also equally answerable to this.
The nation still needs to have as many as 180 laws in order to enforce the constitution in full force. The federal parliament that was elected in 2017 formulated a total of 102 laws while the one formed in November last year has amended only one law to criminalise the practice of usury. According to a study conducted by the National Assembly’s legislature management committee, the efforts being made by both the government and the parliament have remained very slow and deficient. So, it is high time that all the three-tier governments and legislatures paid more attention towards devising necessary laws so as to implement the inclusive federal constitution in an effective manner.
(The author is a deputy executive editor of this daily.)