KATHMANDU: The country’s main opposition party in the parliament, Nepali Congress, has reiterated its commitment to support the government in the fight against coronavirus pandemic.
Party Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma justifies his party’s reiteration as a gesture based on humanitarian grounds. The party is, however, not satisfied with the government as it has not been able to make necessary preparations to combat the crisis.
Khabarhub talked to Spokesperson Sharma to find out what his party, as the main opposition party, has been doing during the crisis. Excerpts:
What has the Nepali Congress been doing during the lockdown imposed to curb the coronavirus crisis?
Nepali Congress launched an awareness campaign against the corruption prevalent in the government. We adopted precaution against the coronavirus and appealed to everyone for it.
The party appealed to the government for the timely arrangement of the most essential medical and health security kits to combat the pandemic.
Though the government responded late, we offered collaboration with the government. Putting the political differences aside, NC backed up the government in every effort it took to curb the pandemic.
To reiterate on the need to work for national unity, our party deposited 5 million rupees in the government initiated COVID-19 Prevention and Control Fund immediately after the government announced the Fund.
Our party has mobilized its wings to ensure that all the needy people get relief materials. We discussed with the economy after coronavirus.
Nepali Congress is the main opposition party as well. How do you evaluate the government’s performance during coronavirus?
We asked the government to work for the timely procurement and delivery of the most essential health kits. We also asked the government to strictly seal the border on time.
But, the government turned deaf ears to all our call. The government committed four mistakes during the procurement of the most essential health kits and protective materials.
It didn’t arrange for the timely procurement of the materials. It failed to ensure transparency in the procurement bid.
It paved room for transparency by agreeing to purchase the materials in the rate higher than the everyday market price, this led to corruption. And fourthly, it procured the non-standard materials which don’t meet WHO standards.
Congress asked the government to collaborate. We said: Let’s combat against coronavirus first, we can discuss the politics later.
But the government wanted otherwise. It seems to say ‘let’s cause unrest and chaos first, we can think about the coronavirus later.’
The government is inducing unrest and chaos everywhere. To divert everyone’s attention away from the corruption the government is involved in, to take attention away from its inefficiency the government tried to introduce ordinances making room for party splits.
It tried to undermine the role of opposition parties. The government is not serious about threats posed by the pandemic. But the government has been complaining about the siege?
Why did the government introduce and later withdrew the ordinance instead of focusing more on the strategies needed to fight against coronavirus?
The government withdrew the ordinance only after our protest. We have not put the government in a difficult situation, rather it is heading towards a vicious circle of the corrupt and corruption.
We have appealed for joint efforts against coronavirus. We are acting like the most responsible opposition party. We want to siege the virus.
There had never been such a responsible opposition party in our history. Pandemic outbreak calls for joint efforts forgetting all past differences.
In a moment when the government should have appealed for ending the differences, the government introduced the ordinances inducing split. We are acting very responsibly.
The government has been the subject of scandals like corruption in the procurement of medical equipment, attempts to split the political parties and even the ruling NCP has demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister.
Does it mean the government has failed?
The way the government has been indulged in corruption and criminal activities hint at the fact that it has lost moral and political ground to rule the country.
Considering such activities, the Nepali Congress has concluded that the government has lost the moral and political ground to rule any more. However, resignation is not our concern.
Not everyone in the hospital has the right to put on the doctor’s gown. Not all doctors can examine all patients. The experts have to handle the cases under their department.
Changing the Prime Minister is the task of the ruling Nepal Communist Party as it has a majority in the parliament. It’s the NCP’s responsibility.
We have just pointed out the grave errors the government has been committing quite often. So, the Nepali Congress, evaluating the performance of the government, has concluded that the government has no moral and political ground to rule anymore.
Our observation found about the illness of the government, it’s all up to the ruling NCP to find out whether to give medicine only or to go surgery.
The NCP should decide whether they execute the minor or major surgery. It stank and we informed that it’s stinking. They should do the rest.
The NC had demanded the session of parliament. The President has called for it. How is NC presenting itself in the parliament?
Firstly, the forthcoming session of the parliament is the budget session. The main discussion there will be about Nepal’s economy after coronavirus.
Nepali Congress will present itself as a responsible political party. The government had tried to introduce ordinances, after much pressure from the political parties and public it withdrew the ordinances.
There are two issues related to these ordinances. Firstly, what was the motive behind the ordinances? Autocratic whims, causing rifts in parties, aren’t they disrupting the environment the country is in dire need now?
The ordinance to induce the party split, kidnapping of a member of parliament, the police refused to register the case against the kidnappers will also be discussed in the forthcoming session of parliament.
What about the irregularities in the procurement of health materials? Even after entrusting the responsibility of procuring health supplies to the Nepal Army, the materials have been delayed. What’s your opinion?
When the football players don’t get gloves, jerseys and boots, how can we expect them to perform their best? For better output, the health workers need safety kits like PPE, gloves, boots, goggles and the test kits.
There have to be isolation wards for the infected or suspected people. Ventilators are also needed. The government has to ensure the best arrangement of these things.
It’s all up to the government to discuss the possible suppliers and decide to procure those things. What we want is transparency. Transparency should be ensured all the time.
The government has been avoiding transparency and in an attempt to hide the details has lost its concentration on the main issue, fighting against coronavirus more aggressively, systematically and efficiently.
Let’s change the topic. NC has scheduled its General Convention in February. Coronavirus crisis has disrupted the scheduled programs to be done before the Convention. Will it be held on the scheduled date?
As per Sub-clause 4 of Clause 72 of the NC party constitution, the integration at the local level was undergoing, though not complete still.
The distribution of active membership was undergoing in 35 districts. Had we got enough time till mid-April, we could have finished inclusion and the distribution of the active membership would have been completed.
There is no room to blame the Party President for the delay in General Convention if it goes that way as well.
Distribution of active membership, inclusion at local levels are the tasks to be accomplished by the local level party committee, hence, party President can’t be blamed for the delay in those activities.
In such a situation, if someone blames the President for the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermaths if someone does that we can just pity that person.
As it is, provided everything comes back to normalcy by the end of May, we can still manage the General Conversation as we had kept the gap from mid-January to mid-March. We can use that time.
But there are some things beyond anyone’s control, neither under control of President Sher Bahadur Deuba nor under control of Ram Chandra Poudel, does this all depend on coronavirus.