South Asia

Nepal Briefing: Lag in Earthquake Reconstruction; SC Refuses to Block Constitutional Amendment Bill

A round-up of major happenings in Nepal in the last week.

Nepal earthquake reconstruction work has hit a lag. Credit:Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

Nepal earthquake reconstruction work has hit a lag. Credit: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

Earthquake reconstruction work hits a lag

Meanwhile, the earthquake reconstruction process moves at a snail’s space, with the cabinet seeking a clarification within seven days from Sushil Gyawali, the head of the Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) about his “failure” to produce any results.

Supreme Court clears decks for tabling second Constitution Amendment Bill

With the Nepal Supreme Court refusing to pass an interim order on two separate writs to declare the second Constitution Amendment Bill as unconstitutional, decks were cleared for the tabling of the contentious legislation that has been blocked for a month by the main opposition party, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).

According to The Himalayan Times the verdict of the division bench said, “The right to make a decision in accordance to the constitution after examining and determining the Constitution Amendment Bill’s appropriateness is in the legislature-parliament.” This puts additional pressure on the UML to relax its rigid position, with all parties welcoming the Supreme Court decision, the Kathmandu Post reported.

However, a meeting held by the three parties on Monday to find a breakthrough did not result in a consensus yet again. My Republica reported that the UML had obliquely indicated that they could end their obstruction in the parliament after holding its rally against the constitutional amendment on Friday.

In its year-end editorial, the Kathmandu Post opined, “So 2016 appears positive mostly because 2015 was catastrophic.” But, there was a long list of “missed opportunities.”

“To start with, throughout the year of 2016, very little was done politically to address the concerns of the Madhesi parties about the new constitution, and the disagreements over the amendment seem to deepen. As a result, a large section of the population feels alienated from the state. In addition, the impasse over the amendment has made it uncertain whether elections can be held by January 2018, the deadline mentioned in the constitution,” it read.

The last month has witnessed a heightened level of political activity, with the Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal negotiating with the Madhesi groups on one side and UML on the other end to break the stalemate in the parliament. The Madhesis agreed to take part in the trifecta of local, provincial and parliamentary polls and support the election related bills based on the commitment from Dahal that the constitutional amendment would be first endorsed by the parliament.

Pushpa Kamal Dahab. Credit: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar/Files

Pushpa Kamal Dahab. Credit: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar/Files

Dahal apparently held talks with the UML leader and former prime minister K.P. Oli at an “undisclosed location” on Sunday, but it didn’t soften the second largest political party in Nepal. UML apparently suggested that it would agree to parliamentary discussion only if the demarcation of provinces was left up to the federal commission, but it didn’t get a very positive response from Dahal, Kathmandu Post reported.

According to The Himalayan Times, in order to hold the local polls by mid-May – as agreed by the big three parties – the Election Commission has said that five election-related bills and administrative centres of restructured bodies “will have to be in operation within 15 days.”

All eyes are now on speaker Onsari Gharti Magar to hold talks with all parties to find a way to let the parliament function.

Sources told The Kathmandu Post that this move is “intended to ‘sack’ Gyawali as Prime Minister Dahal has been expressing dissatisfaction at his works”. Two years after the devastating earthquake, the second tranche of compensation is yet to be disbursed completely for survivours to reconstruct their houses. In an editorial, My Republica castigated the NRA and Gyawali for the sluggish implementation, but stated that removing the CEO may not be wise “as it could mean another protracted battle over the appointment of a new NRA head, and more delays in reconstruction.”

Insensitive to China?

Meanwhile, the Nepal government had to again defend itself against accusations that it has not been sensitive to Chinese concerns, after Mongolian foreign minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil was in Kathmandu on the same day as Liu Qibao, a member of Communist Party of China’s Politburo.

The two trips had taken place when China had imposed a blockade against Mongolia following the visit of the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. “While we continuously struggle to balance India and China, recent moves by the government and former prime minister Deuba have put our relations with China in jeopardy, with as yet unimaginable consequences,” wrote My Republica’s editor, Subhas Ghimire.

Foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat called a press meet to respond to the criticism, where he described the timing as a “mere coincidence” and claimed that China had not registered any objection.

Nepal, China agree to manage Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point

With the Tatopani-Khasa border point still not having been opened after the 2015 earthquake, China has apparently relaxed its rules of entry permits for Nepali importers through the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point. China has also asked Nepal to step up border security due for Dalai Lama’s visit to Bodh Gaya for the Kalchakra Puja, which could fuel Tibet protests around the region.