Governing party bulldozes medical bill through House

  • The forceful move will have far-reaching consequences, Congress warns 
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Jan 26, 2019-

The ruling Nepal Communist Party on Friday used its two-thirds majority and hundreds of marshalls in Parliament to endorse the National Medical Education Bill, refusing to acknowledge the main opposition Nepali Congress and trampling on an earlier agreement reached with Dr Govinda KC. 

Friday’s forceful move by the ruling party, in which House Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara looked very much siding with the government going beyond his brief which calls for a non-partisan role, will have far-reaching consequences—in terms of politics as well as the future of the medical education sector, said the main opposition.

“The ruling party has moved ahead in an authoritarian style to push the bill through the House. The Speaker failed to maintain dignity of his post,” NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba told reporters, warning of more protests in coming days—both from the streets and Parliament. 

KC, who has been staging his 16th hunger strike for the last 17 days, had written an open letter on Thursday, calling on NCP lawmakers to abide by the agreement Prime Minister KP Oli had reached with him on July 26. The move of a parliamentary committee, where the ruling party controls majority, of amending some crucial provisions in the bill, which was earlier prepared in line with recommendations of a commission led by Kedar Bhakta Mathema, had prompted KC to launch his 16th hunger strike. 

KC had been demanding that the bill be endorsed in its original form. Supporting KC’s calls, the NC had obstructed House proceedings on Monday and Tuesday to stop the bill.

But on Friday, the ruling party came all prepared to the House, and Mahara increased the number of marshalls in what appeared to be a well-coordinated move. 

After NC’s Pushpa Bhusal aired her views, demanding that the two hospitals named after the party’s late leaders—GP Koirala and Sushil Koirala—be run by the federal government and that the medical bill be passed in line with the demands of KC, fellow Congress lawmakers started shouting slogans and moved towards the well. 

But just as Speaker Mahara allowed Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel time to present the bill, more marshalls moved in. 

Mahara’s call for “yay” votes got immediate response from the NCP lawmakers while there was no response for “nay” votes call, with NC lawmakers continuing their protests.

Mahara declared the “bill has been endorsed by majority votes”. NCP lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai, the most vocal critic of KC of late, hailed the endorsement of the bill. “I would like to call on Dr KC to ‘celebrate’ this achievement, as all his demands have been met,” said Bhattarai. Dr KC does not need to stage such a difficult hunger strike anymore.”

The NCP, however, has been claiming that the bill addresses 95 percent of KC’s demands.

Bhattarai went on to say that “time to do politics in the name of Dr KC is over now”, referring to all those including the NC, who have stood by the fasting surgeon demanding reforms in the medical education sector. “Now, Dr KC need not thing of such a difficult hunger strike anymore.”

But NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa, a former health minister, accused the NCP of playing politics of negation. 

Thapa also took exception to the role played by Mahara as the House Speaker.

“The Speaker failed to keep his word; he had vowed to seek a solution through dialogue,” said Thapa. 

Following the incident, the NC held an emergency parliamentary party meeting where the main opposition decided to continue similar obstructions also at the National Assembly. “We have decided to continue our protests against the government both inside and outside Parliament,” said Thapa, warning of a stir also against the Speaker’s behaviour.

After Friday’s development, KC held a brief press meeting, which barely lasted eight minutes, at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital where he is staging his hunger strike. Reminding the government of six demands other than the medical bill, KC clarified that he would continue his struggle. He also demanded that Prime Minister Oli should now resign on “moral grounds”. 

Later in the evening, the NC organised a press meet and expressed its serious concern about Friday’s incident in Parliament. “Through today’s act, the government and its leadership have finally shown their wish to run an authoritarian regime. It has become clearer that they still are fully committed to their classical belief of opposition-less system of ruling,” said NC Spokesperson Biswo Prakash Sharma in a statement.

Published: 26-01-2019 07:14

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