People’s suffering peaks but Nepali lawmakers’ focus is on their honorific titles

Parliamentarians of all major political parties band together to prioritize order of precedence at a time when the people are facing hardships.

Lawmakers attend Parliament’s meeting. (File photo/RSS)

Kishor Dahal

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Thousands of Nepali youths are leaving the country on a daily basis due to unemployment. Rising cost of living has literally choked the people. Economy has witnessed a slowdown. Health and education sectors are in dire need of reforms. 

Many people, including loan shark victims and the victims of war era crimes, are waiting for justice. 

It, however, appears that Nepal’s legislators are not touched by all these problems.  Except a few, they have not been involved in meaningful deliberation on such issues. They are not bothered by the bad governance. They are indifferent to the lack of accountability of the state mechanism. They don’t care about rising inflation. 

So what do they care about? 

On 19 March, eight members representing all powerful political parties in the National Assembly, Nepal’s upper house, came together to endorse the bill on order of precedence. 

On Monday, loan shark victims were compelled to sleep on the streets as the Kathmandu Metropolitan City did not allow them to enter the Khulla Manch (open ground) of Kathmandu. On the same day, the upper house started deliberation on the bill related to order of precedence. 

This is a clear indication that the parliament, as an institution, has failed to prioritize people’s issues. The move has created frustration among those who are demanding the public institutions to be accountable and pro-people. 

Legislators’ move to prioritize order of precedence bill indicates that some powerful politicians, bureaucrats and public officials want “special treatment”, observers and politicians told Nepal Live Today

In the proposed bill, as many as 22 categories are defined with the list of former and incumbent officials. The proposed protocol list has placed the president on the top of the hierarchy while secondary level teachers and second lieutenant in the 22nd place.

The bill tries to impose conventional protocol order by reviving the monarchy-era formalities.  According to the bill, the VIPs are to be addressed with the honorific of ‘right honorable,’ sammananiya, and special officials are to be accorded the title of ‘honorable,’ mananiya. The VIP category includes people such as the president, vice president, prime minister, speaker of the House of the Representatives and National Assembly and chief justice. The list of the positions to be accorded the title of honorable is long.

The move is being criticized as it seeks to treat people’s representatives as being way above and much more equal to the people.

Some of the former lawmakers are clearly unhappy with the move. Ram Narayan Bidari, former member of National Assembly, associates the title ‘right honorable’ with the remnant of feudal monarchy. “There are no such titles in republics like India, the US and China,” he said.   During his 2014 address to Nepal parliament, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed our House speaker as ‘honorable’ not ‘right honorable’ because they [India] don’t have that practice, he added.

According to Bidari, just about anybody in Nepal is seeking the title of honorable and the bill is trying to institutionalize this practice. “It is a global practice that only members of parliament use the title honorable because they are the elected representatives of sovereign people,” he said. “Here even those in jobs and pensioners seek that title.”

Interestingly, political parties stand on the same page on this bill that in no way helps to address the pressing concerns people are facing in the country. Ramesh Jung Rayamajhi, a lawmaker of Nepali Congress, who, among others, registered the bill said that they felt the need for such a law because order of precedence is being altered by home ministers according to their wish and discretion.

Former National Assembly lawmaker àBidari says this is not the priority issue for the lawmakers. “This is not something of a priority at the moment,” he said.

This bill, initiated by the lawmakers themselves by exercising their rights to bring private bills, is not at all about addressing the needs of people, improving their living standards and treating them with dignity.