Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Amendments against expert panel registered

KATHMANDU, Nov 16: The three-party deal to form an expert panel to recommend a model for state restructuring has received a jolt, with CA members mainly from the Janajati caucus standing against passage of a bill tabled in parliament to make the required amendments to the interim constitution.

On Tuesday, altogether 104 lawmakers, mainly from the UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-UML, registered amendments to the bill scheduled to be tabled for final approval by the House on Wednesday.

The CA members from the Janajati caucus raised objection to the content of the bill, saying the expert panel should not have the power to infringe upon the decisions of the CA State Restructuring Committee. The CA committee has decided to propose 14 provinces, most of them based on the ethnic identity of the dominant groups of the various regions.

Altogether eight amendment proposals have been registered by groups as well as by individuals. The group of 78 CA members led by Maoist lawmaker Suresh Ale Magar has proposed that the jurisdiction of the panel should be limited to "assisting with the recommendations of the report prepared by the CA Committee on State Restructuring and Distribution of State Powers."

The leaderships of the major parties had agreed to form a powerful expert panel to assist the task of state restructuring after a constitutional state restructuring commission to make recommendations to the CA State Restructuring Commission could not materialize.

CA members Sapana Pradhan Malla and Prithvi Subba Gurung from the UML, Urmila Thapa and Kumar Rai from the NC, and Santosh Kumar Budha Magar and Tilak Pariyar, among others, have undersigned the amendment proposal registered with the CA secretariat. Some non-Janajastis including Maoist lawmakers Pampha Bhusal, Ashok Kumar Rokaya, Bharat Kumari Regmi and Dama Sharma have also signed the proposal.

Most lawmakers from the Maoist hardline faction are against the formation of such a panel.

"The constitutional committee itself should form a technical team to assist the task of restructuring. But the proposed panel seeks to usurp the task of the CA committee," said Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar from the UCPN (Maoist), who has registered a separate amendment proposal, besides signing the proposal registered by Ale Magar.

Similarly, another Maoist lawmaker, Shivaram Yadav, has registered a separate amendment proposing removal of any expert panel or commission from the constitution.

UML lawmaker Sapana Pradhan Malla said that she has pressed for the amendment to safeguard the spirit of the report prepared by the CA committee on state restructuring

"The CA committee has delineated the provinces based on identity and economic viability. So we registered the amendment to save the spirit of the CA committee´s decision," said Pradhan Malla.

A few NC lawmakers including Urmila Thapa and Kumar Rai have also signed the amendment proposal. Asked to comment, NC Chief Whip Laxman Prasad Ghimire said that they would abide by the party´s decision. "We have already informed the party president about it. We have issued a whip and they will comply with the party decision," said Ghimire.

Sarbadev Ojha, who has also registered a separate amendment, argued that the government bill is against the spirit of the seven-point deal.

"The party may issue a whip but I also have the right to express my opinion in the House," he said.

Similarly, Indrajit Tharu, Gopal Thakur, Rukmini Chaudhary and Biswendra Paswan have registered separate amendments of their own.

Asked to comment on the move by the hardliners of his own party against party establishment decisions, Maoist Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha said that the issues would be settled through intra- and inter-party talks on Wednesday morning.

"There are some communications gaps. We will settle the issue Wednesday morning," he said. Shrestha, who is also deputy prime minister and foreign minister, stated that the expert panel is not meant to replace the CA committee altogether, but to help in the task of state restructuring. "Hence the misunderstanding," he said.

The Maoist party has postponed its ongoing Central Committee meeting for two days to settle the inter- and intra-party row over the bill.

Following the seven-point deal, the government registered the amendment bill in parliament on Nov 4.

On Nov 12, senior leaders from the major parties planned to endorse the bill through suspension of a provision in parliamentary regulations that provides a 72-hour timeline for lawmakers to register any amendment to the bill, but Maoist Chief Whip Dev Gurung, who is from the party hardline faction, opposed the move, saying the bill should not be endorsed in haste.

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