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Editorial: Don’t hold the House hostage

The Speaker should intervene more effectively to end the House standoff

Editorial: Don’t hold the House hostage

Like many other words, ‘Parliament’ has more than one meaning. An assembly of a species of nocturnal birds of prey is one of them.  

‘Democracy’ has several strains the world over. But in a real democracy that does not run as per the whims and fancies of a ‘benevolent dictator’, two or one too many such figures, Parliament refers to one of the three organs of the state consisting of elected representatives, whose main task is to make laws. It is but natural for birds of a feather to flock together even at midnight and those populating our Parliament—one of the state organs—show such traits once in a while, not necessarily for the country and the people. Whether such an act is permissible or not, let the ‘Nepali lok’ decide. 

But no dictionary, legal or otherwise, has referred to words like ‘bedlam’, ‘chaos’, ‘anarchy’, ‘setting’  as synonyms of ‘Parliament’. 

In a democracy, the opposition bench has an important role in the Parliament. A strong opposition can do so much to make the government accountable, given that even in democracies that are not under tinpot dictators the executive shows tyrannical tendencies because of its right to exercise legitimate authority or violence over a given territory. 

The Parliament should belong to the opposition in the larger interest of the country and democracy. 

This does not mean, though, that the opposition should not play by the rules. In its conduct within the Parliament and outside, the opposition, as a vanguard of the democratic system, should also uphold the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Its failure to do so will give the government a carte blanche to trample on the principles of separation of powers as well as checks and balances, and turn democracy into ‘demoncracy’. 

For about a fortnight, the main opposition has effectively stalled the Parliament demanding the formation of a high-level parliamentary committee to investigate as to how a 100-kg gold consignment passed through a high-security Tribhuvan International Airport. It has demanded that the Home Minister and the Finance Minister also be brought under the purview of the investigation, reasoning that the Central Investigation Bureau under Nepal Police may not have the wherewithal to grill the sitting ministers. Opposition parties like the Rastriya Swatantra Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party have also stood in favor of a high-level probe committee. Have they thought about the possible impact of their stance on the morale of the law enforcement? 

On its part, the government has asked that the CIB be given about a month for a credible probe into the case. With both the right and the left flank toughening their respective stances, the House has become a battleground of sorts and the Speaker has not been able to make peace. 

RSP and RPP have made one more point worth pondering over. They have accused the top brass of the three major parties of opting for a ‘setting’, a comfortable arrangement for opening and shutting the House at will.  

It is clear that the powerful troika cannot hold the sovereign body hostage forever. While a free and fair probe into the quintal-heavy gold cargo is important, the Parliament has a number of other important issues to deal with. Throughout the country, rain-induced disasters have wreaked havoc while troubles are brewing in the neighborhood and beyond. They all will have a huge bearing on an ill-governed and instability-plagued country. 

Both the government and the opposition must give up their my way or highway attitude. The Speaker should have read the riot act in time. Still, who else can act as a peacemaker and end this standoff if not him?