News Digest – Democracy & Governance (November 26 – December 2)

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Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): In the fight between co-chairs Oli and Dahal, younger generation leaders are largely silent; their hesitation to rightly assess the situation and openly speak about it stems from a divided faction as well as a fear to be deprived of opportunities and benefits.

Both Oli and Dahal-Nepal faction worked on their decisive moves in the ongoing conflict. While the former group prepared to introduce their own political document, the latter has been seeking to decide the matter through majority-minority.

In a written appeal to the Nepal Communist Party, a group of 13 civil society leaders urged the sparring leaders to realize their responsibility and make a truce in the favor of national interest. Their letter included recommendations related to seven major issues: constitutional stability, check and balance, accountability of the ruling party, geopolitical concerns, leadership handover, governance and settlement, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

PM Oli submitted a 38-page long political document of his own in response to Dahal’s proposal in the party’s Secretariat meeting. Three of his main messages include: Dahal’s apology and withdrawal of his proposal, his unacceptance to any decision made by majority votes, and a refusal to claims that suggested he might declare emergency, dissolve the government, and bring up wartime issues. Oli’s document also had several accusations against Dahal, just like Dahal’s did against Oli.

In the party’s Secretariat meeting on December 1, the crisis seemed to worsen, as PM Oli walked out of the meeting with a clear message that he would not attend the meeting on December 2 because such meetings have “no meaning.” While Dahal is adamant to discuss the political documents submitted by both the chairs, Oli wants Dahal to withdraw his proposal and apologize. Madhav Nepal, on the other hand, continue to assure that NCP will not split along the lines of former NCP–UML and NCP-Maoist Centre.

Reacting to the latest developments, Central Committee member and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali suggested that the only way forward is returning to the September 11 agreement, which had assigned Oli and Dahal different roles—the former should handle the government, while the latter would be the party’s executive chief. Other Central Committee members such as Janardan Sharma and Beduram Bhusal, however, claim that any decision should be made through party’s committee, based of party procedures.

Pro-Monarchy Demonstrations: Under the leadership of Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and the participation of both NCP and NC supporters, November 26 saw a series of pro-monarchy demonstrations throughout the country, including in major cities such as Dhangadi, Butwal, Pokhara, Hetauda, Janakpur, and Biratnagar. Experts and analysist observe that the protests are due to the government’s and parties’ failure to act responsibly. On November 30, there was a pro-monarchy demonstration in Kathmandu.

RPP’s president Kamal Thapa claimed that there is no involvement of the ex-king or Nirmal Niwas in the demonstrations; instead, the protests were carried out largely by RPP supporters and those frustrated with the current government.

NC leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula observes that the frustration against the entire political system originates from the government’s poor performance. NCP spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha states that such ‘regressive’ protests have no meaning and are not a matter of big concern. Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal’s leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai also believes that these activities should not be given importance.

Nepali Congress: While the government discredited a Transparency International’s report citing an increased corruption scandal during Oli’s reign, the opposition Nepali Congress urged the government to study the report carefully and take the matter seriously.

Governance

Bribery cases: A Nepal Electricity Authority engineer was bribed to clear trees. Engineer Ishwori Prasad Jaiswal, working in Bharatpur-Badraghat at a 220-KV transmission line plan, was found guilty of taking a bribe of Rs one million in order to clear trees in the transmission line area. A case has been filed against Jaiswal. Similarly, forest ranger Prem Chandra Biswakarma was found to have been bribed to facilitate transport of wood. CIAA officials in Butwal found Biswakarma guilty of taking a bribe of Rs 12 thousand in order to facilitate the transport of wood in the area. A case has been filed against Biswakarma in the Special Court. Also, two police officers, Ludra Bahadur KC and Rajesh Bahadur Dahal, were bribed to facilitate transport of wood. They were appointed in Khajura Khudra, Banke, and have been found guilty of taking a bribe of Rs 13 thousand in order to facilitate the transport of mango wood into a mill and brick factory. The two have been punished with jail-time and a fine. A tax office employee was caught requesting bribe.CIAA officials in Itahari found Mohanlal Dhakal, an employee at a taxpayer service office in Illam, asking for Rs 10,000 in bribes in order to expedite the process of creating a PAN for a tax payee. Dhakal has been punished with a fine and jail time. A police officer in Mahotari was bribed to facilitate the transport of wood.  CIAA officials in Bardibas found Jawan Umesh Mahato Chauhan, a police officer in Mahotari, Gausala-Ramnagar, asking for a bribe of Rs 27,600, in order to facilitate the transport of wood for his client for household purposes. A case has been filed against Chauhan in the Special Court.

Officials inspect Urai border in Bajhang district for smuggling: Officials including Aakash BK and Prakash Snehi (house of representatives members of Bajhang district), Rajendra Dhami (chairman of Saipal Rural Municipality), along with Bajhang’s police and army forces reached Urai border in the district, which connects Nepal with Tibet in China, in order to set up a border security post and curb cases of smuggling of medicinal herbs and wildlife plants.

Department of Foreign Employment office limits labor permit tokens to 300 per day: The Department of Foreign Employment’s office has limited labor permits granted to outbound aspirant migrant workers to 300 tokens per day in order to minimise mismanagement.

Qatar manpower recruiting agencies’ licenses suspended for non-compliance: The Department of Foreign Employment suspended operating licences of three Kathmandu-based manpower recruitment agencies for not complying with rules while recruiting workers for jobs in the Qatar police. The licences of SOS Manpower Services Pvt Ltd, DD Human Resources Pvt Ltd, and Hope International Pvt Ltd have been suspended for the next six months.

Construction of bridge in Lamsuwaghat incomplete after 10 years: Swachhand Construction Services had agreed to construct a bridge over Arun River in Lamsuwaghat at the border of Sankhuwasabha and Bhojpur on July 9, 2010. However, so far, only six pillars have been built for the 167-meter bridge. The deadline was initially on July 9, 2013, which was then extended by a year. The contractor left, citing that they only found rocks while digging pits for constructing pillars.

Govt. lays foundations for new hospitals, but existing ones suffer: Although the government, on November 29, laid foundations for 396 five to 15-bed hospitals across Nepal, critics argue that existing hospitals and healthcare centers are suffering from lack of resources.

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