News Digest – Democracy & Governance (October 15-21)

Democracy & Governance, News Digest 0 Comments

Democracy

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): In the most recent cabinet reshuffle, Ishwor Pokharel was stripped off of Defense Ministry, whereas Bishnu Poudel was handed the Finance Ministry. Oli’s confidence in Pokharel seems to have declined because of his involvement in the Omni scandal, irregularity in military procurement of medical supplies, dispute with the military in choosing international contractor for the fast-track project as well as a power clash with Oli.

According to NCP leader Subhash Nembang, there will be another extensive cabinet reshuffle after Tihar.

PM Oli’s unilateral decision in constitutional/political appointments as well as the cabinet reshuffle, despite past agreements that sought Oli’s adherence to party processes, has again planted a seed of suspicion and displeasure in NCP chair Dahal and leader Nepal.

Following a vote of no confidence against Karnali’s CM, Dahal and Nepal met the CM and provincial leaders close to them to get briefings of the most recent development. They ensured that the dispute would be solved after cabinet reshuffles at both provincial and federal level.

Experts criticized the moves of NCP senior leaders for intervening in the provincial matter and claimed that federalism and elected representatives have no value if they continue to be dictated by party leadership in Kathmandu.

Provincial governments, ministers and lawmakers in Janakpur, Bagmati, Karnali, and Far West expressed strong disagreement with PM Oli’s statement where he claimed that ‘provincial governments are the administrative units of the federal government.’ Many accused Oli of being anti-federalist.

NCP’s Central Committee meeting scheduled for October 31 to November 2 in Kathmandu seems uncertain due to the ever-growing COVID-19 cases in Kathmandu Valley.

While PM Oli and Dahal’s disagreement over Karnali government continues to grow, Oli sought Nepal’s support in one-on-one meeting that ended their three-months-long communication gap.

Nepali Congress (NC): In the investigation related to the Baluwatar scandal, NC leader Gachchhadar’s entire property has been frozen.

Dubbing the government’s most recent decision to not bear COVID-19 patients’ cost of treatment extremely irresponsible, the opposition Nepali Congress has demanded that the government make COVID-19 tests and treatment free of cost.

In a rare occurrence, even NCP leaders and lawmakers have criticized the government for retreating from its responsibility to control the virus and its consequences.

Miscellaneous: Following a widespread criticism for receiving Dashain allowance at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed the country, political parties and the lawmakers decided to return the bonuses.

Only after the lawmakers decided to not take Dashain allowances, due to a growing moral, political, and legal pressure, did the Speaker break his silence and came forward to thank them. He also admitted that it was a learning opportunity for him to act more responsibly in the future.

Sajha and Bibeksheel party have begun their preparation for a party re-unification.

Governance

Human Rights Violation: The National Human Rights Commission publicized a list of 286 individuals involved in serious human rights violations. To put pressure on the government, right after Nepal was reelected a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, the constitutional body made the list public, which includes senior ex-government officials and workers such as Pyar Jung Thapa, Narayan Gopal Malego, and Kuber Singh Rana.

The Budhigandaki Project: Dr. Baburam Bhattarai alleged that senior leaders of Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress shared NRs. 9 billion as commission while awarding the Budhigandaki project to the Gezhouba Group, whereas the two parties refuted the allegation. Despite the allegations and rebuttals, Budhigandaki project’s construction remains uncertain and who received the commission remains unclear.

Responding to the allegation, PM Oli said that Dr. Bhattarai’s comments were inappropriate and irresponsible.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet: In the current administration, most ministers are usually unaware of cabinet decisions because PM Oli takes most of the shots unilaterally. This was demonstrated by Minister for Land Reform and Cooperatives Padma Aryal’s lack of knowledge about cabinet discussion on reopening the country for tourists.

Despite a strong administration that could help strengthen the country’s civil service, PM Oli keeps transferring secretaries ‘without giving them time to settle down at one place.’

The government decided to make the use of face shield mandatory for long route passengers. The Department of Transport Management made this decision after the government received widespread criticism for allowing long-route vehicles to operate with full capacity.

Experts question Bishnu Poudel’s appointment as the Finance Minister at a time when the country’s economy is facing a big challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Poudel’s appointment is seen as a result NCP’s internal power struggle.

COVID-19: The government has been widely criticized for breaching the social contract by deciding to not treat COVID-19 patients. On the other hand, furious COVID-19 patients are refusing to cooperate, which has increased the risk of further spread of the virus. While crying for the lack of fund to treat the patients, the government has spent NRs. 191 billion under ‘general expenditure’ in three months.

High School Education: Private schools have expressed their discontent to the government’s circular which seeks to implement the revised curricula for grade 11. The government had decided to make it compulsory for grades 11 and 12 students to have to study six subjects instead of five.

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