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Two Unacceptable Ordinances

Issue April 2020

Two Unacceptable Ordinances

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar


On Monday, April 20, 2020, the two amendment ordinances the president suddenly and instantly issued amid the coronavirus crisis in the world not only shocked the opposition political parties but also the ruling communist party and the entire Nepalis. The two ordinances were for easing the breaking up the political parties and for making appointments to the vacant positions in the Constitutional Council denying the opposition presence in it. Some political pundits called it a mini coup that Prime Minister Oli dared to stage but backfired. Mr. Oli recommended the president to revoke both the ordinances not even surviving five days after the entire nation rose up against it. Does the opposition parties need to demand the no-confidence vote against the prime minister and the impeachment of the president for involvement in issuing so controversial and unacceptable ordinances going against the people’s aspiration for the rule of law following the constitution?


All the folks in one voice stated that when the country needed a stimulus package to offset the lost opportunity of the fast economic growth caused by the shutdown the coronavirus had forced on the entire populace rather the prime minister had brought in the two amendment ordinances probably to meet his ambition to be an authoritarian ruler. The entire economy had been in the doldrums for already over a month; nobody knew how long it might continue in the future. So, the Oli administration needed to do some homework to introduce a stimulus program to pick up the economic growth after the shutdown would be lifted. Obviously, the Oli administration had not even talked publicly about any stimulus program so far.


Is it really a coup d'état to minimize the role of the opposition parties and the opposition in his own party and to display how powerful Mr. Oli had been? Certainly, it might be but it could not last even five days whereas the coup of Gyanendra lasted one year and of his father Mahendra 30 years. It indicated how smart the Nepalis had been and it also proved that nobody could kill democracy anymore no matter what majority any political party garnered. It also must have been a good answer to those people who might be thinking that Nepal would lapse to the dictatorial regime and somebody would put monarchy back again. Carrying monarchy on his back, BP Koirala wasted his entire political life after being the elected prime minister for eighteen months. His brother GP Koirala took off the burden of the monarchy from his Nepali Congress party and ultimately worked on ending the monarchy forever, as the monarchy had been obstacle to the democracy and development and Nepalese youths had to shed blood again and again to restore democracy, as GP Koirala said.


The president in conjunction with the prime minister screwed up and issued the two ordinances instantly. The president did not take even a few minutes probably even to read not to mention about seriously thinking about whether the ordinances were pursuant to the constitution or not but she signed off the ordinances and made them the temporary laws probably knowing that those ordinances were necessary for the prime minister to cope with not the fatal coronavirus but with the deadly political development that threatened to end the time of Mr. Oli in office. So, the president probably even did not care to flip some pages of the fundamental law of the country but hurriedly put her seal of assent on the two ordinances that had not to do anything with the emergency of coronavirus. Probably, the president and the prime minister knew that what they were doing not pursuant to the constitution, which stated that ordinances could be issued only when a state of emergency warranted an ordinance to make decisions immediately on something urgently needed to cope with the emergency when the parliament was not in session. Obviously, Nepal was not in a state of emergency even though the fatal coronavirus seized hold of the country for already over a month.


So, in one voice the entire population came out against the two ordinances that would have made the prime minister probably a dictatorial; and the prime minister could have run the administration without facing any opposition in his party and the opposition party in the parliament. To the great dismay of the prime minister and probably of the president, too, and unfortunately for both of them, the prime minister had to recommend the president to rescind the two ordinances not even passing five days. Thus, the ordinances that had probably violated the constitution died without being able to help the prime minister and the president to see the unlimited power the prime minister would have wielded.


Before dying untimely, the two ordinances provoked the intense opposition and criticism from the entire population in general and the opposition in particular. The opposition party: Nepali Congress held all opposition-party meeting to fight against the two ordinances brought in defying the constitutional provision, and the entire private and public media dwelt on the so provocative ordinances. Everybody thought what Mr. Oli was thinking to do whether he was about to enforce a state of emergency and whether he would impose his dictatorship. Surely, from the very day of Mr. Oli taking office, his administration had been for curbing the people’s rights to the freedom of expression the constitution guaranteed. Muzzling the media was the first thing any dictator did in the past.


To convince the opposition in the ruling party, and probably others too that the ordinance was not for splitting up the ruling communist party but other parties, probably, the Oli administration put up a hostage drama sending a team of former IGP Sarbendra Khanal, Mahesh Basnet and Kishan Lal Shrestha: both are the lawmakers to apparently abduct a former health minister Dr. Surendra Yadav from his home in Terai to Kathmandu so that the quorum required for splitting the party following the amendment ordinance the president had just issued, would meet; however, Dr. Yadav managed to escape from the grip of the abductors, the TV news stated on April 24, 2020.


Some lawmakers belonging to the ruling party and the opposition parties had been demanding the prime minister take the strong actions against lawmakers and the former IGP for forcibly bringing Dr. Yadav from his home in Terai to Kathmandu, the TV news stated. They also had been saying that the prime minister needed to apologize for it if he had ordered or even involved in this dirty game of somebody forcibly bringing Dr. Yadav from one place to another.


Prime Minister Oli had been considerably weakened due to the undemocratic ordinances the president had issued instantly. Mr. Oli had never been for listening to anybody in the past; but after the botched ordinances, he had been suddenly soften to the opposition and invited the opposition leader: Sher Bahadur Deuba to his official residence at Baluwatar and talked to him for about one hour before calling on his college Prachanda to join them, the TV news stated on April 24, 2020. Deuba advised the prime minister to set up an all-party mechanism to fight against the coronavirus. Previously, Mr. Oli had opposed such a proposal in strong words. Deuba also made five-point suggestions to Mr. Oli.


Over the last two years, Mr. Oli had proved that he was the master of misinformation, and he was a great comedian. In fact, he would have been the most successful comedian in Nepal had he chosen the comedy as his profession, and he would have gone as a great comedian in the history of Nepal rather than becoming a not so doing-well prime minister. His administration had failed miserably, as his administration had not been able to even launch many ambitious projects what Mr. Oli said he would even after more than two years in office.


The Oli administration had been unable to timely procure the medical supplies for meeting the much needed facemasks, ventilators, testing equipment and PPE for the medics to work safely against the coronavirus that had threatened to eliminate anybody who came in contact of it. His administration had not only unable to purchase the medical supplies in time but also had not blacklisted the company that fetched the substandard medical supplies, and had not seized the security deposit of the company, yet, the administration had declared would do. The Oli administration had turned over the procurement of the medical supplies to the Nepal Army, as his administration obviously could not do. Both purchasing the low grade medical supplies at high prices and then turning over the authority of procuring the medical supplies to the army also provoked the extreme criticism of the Oli administration from the media and the people in general.


Not long ago his cabinet minister for communication and information technology Gokul Prasad Baskota had incidentally let the local agent recorded the negotiation he had with the local sale agent on how much “we” would receive the commission on purchasing the security printing press. That audio went viral on the social media. The poor minister had to quit the highly rewarding job to save his face and probably his boss, too. Prime Minister Oli attempted to cover up the heinous crime of his favorite former infamous minister Baskota doubting the reality and reliability of the video.


Even without such ordinances probably fatal to democracy, the Oli administration had been using the draconian social media law his administration had crafted and his majority lawmakers had passed in both the Houses of the parliament to arrest the former top bureaucrat Bhim Upadhyaya for posting his comments on how irregularities had been in the recent purchase of medical supplies for coping the coronavirus. Mr. Upadhyaya had been in the police custody for the last few days for posting the materials critical of the prime minister and his health minister. The opposition Nepali Congress party demanded the immediate release of Mr. Upadhyaya.


Even without the ordinances, the Oli administration could do such things denying the fundamental rights to expression but what he would have done if the two ordinances were to go on effect without the opposition of the entire people and the opposition political parties. The nation is not of the president, the prime minister and the health minister only but of the entire population; so every taxpaying citizen has the right to demand to know how the national resources the prime minister and his ministers have been using. So, nobody should be subjected to the victims of the strong actions of the administration for using his or her fundamental rights to query the whereabouts of the national resources.


The Oli administration had arrested another youth named Gyanendra Shahi, who had distributed relief packages to the folks stuck at home without having anything to eat and drink following the shelter-in-place order the Oli administration had issued to safeguard the entire population from the possible infection of the coronavirus. Mr. Shahi had been in the police custody for investigation into reportedly collecting donations forcibly. Mr. Shahi had been highly vocal against the corruption and irregularities in the Oli administration. Probably, Mr. Shahi had been the hurdle to the Oli administration. Harassing and possibly eliminating such folks had been probably the tactics of the Oli administration.


The Oli administration had promised to provide migrant workers and daily wage earners with foods and drinks, as they were denied to work during the shutdown period, and even the administration told them publicly to contact the police and the officials of the local administration so that the police and the local officials would be able to take care of those folks shut at home. The reality had been that as soon as any person came out even to buy medicines and other essentials then the police hit them with batons on sight without questioning why s/he came out to the street. Then, how could any folk contact the police and the local officials for any relief material or foods and drinks so urgently needed? That had been the publicity of the Oli administration and the reality.


Hundreds of migrant workers had been stranded in the Kathmandu Valley. Some of them from Rolpa publicly demanded their elected representatives Burshaman Pun and his spouse to provide them with the smooth passage from the Kathmandu Valley to their respective homes otherwise next time they would not vote for them at all they clearly stated in the video posted on social media. Probably, Burshaman Pun and his spouse must have watched the video and then Mr. Pun came out to the street even defying the shutdown order of his Prime Minister Oli to reserve some buses for their constituent to go home. That was how the democracy worked not the monarchy or any other dictator.


The president and the prime minister of any democratic country would have quit office after the messed-up attempt on imposing the ordinances that had been issued probably defying the constitutional provision. Unfortunately, Nepal had not given birth so far to such morally sound politicians that would have high morals to quit the most lucrative jobs for their serious mistakes but produced the politicians most of them became prone to be infected by the corruption endemic in the administration. The vibrant private media and the politically highly charged folks had been exposing every corrupt practice of the state administration.


The call for the no-confidence vote against the prime minister and for the impeachment of the president has not come from the opposition political parties, yet. The ordinances had been so serious, as they could bring political instability, and push the country again to chaos. So, the opposition political parties needed to hold the president and the prime minister accountable for such ordinances that could cause disaster to the country again. So, the opposition parties needed to do something to prevent such ordinances promulgated in the future rather than sitting aside, and needed to protect the constitution from those trying to overstep it.


April 25, 2020

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