Nepal Maoists unleash midnight mayhem over budget

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Saturday, November 20, 2010

KATHMANDU - Nepals opposition Maoist party has backtracked on its pact with the ruling parties to allow a new budget, unleashing chaos in parliament, attacking the finance minister and derailing the budget as well as the prime ministerial election.

A grim caretaker government called an emergency meeting of the council of ministers early Saturday and announced it would combat the Maoist obstruction by pushing the budget - already delayed by four months - in the afternoon through an ordinance issued by President Ram Baran Yadav.

The 17th round of prime ministerial election, shelved twice this month, will now be held Dec 2, said Information and Communications Minister Shankar Pokhrel, who is also the government spokesman.

The former Maoist guerrillas, who had in the past waged a 10-year war to get the current parliament constituted, trained their guns on their own baby Friday, storming the rostrum and surrounding Finance Minister Surendra Pandey when the latter tried to table his over Nepali Rs.300 billion budget.

The unexpected obstruction came after the Maoists had held three rounds of talks with the cash-strapped caretaker government of Prime Minister Madav Kumar Nepal and agreed to allow the budget.

However, the former rebels changed their tune, saying the government had violated the pact to table a special budget and was instead seeking to sneak in a full budget. The opposition party has kept a full budget blocked, saying the caretaker government, which resigned in June, has no authority to do that.

They say the agreement hammered out this month with the ruling parties, decided that the new budget would continue with the old policies and programmes. However, they allege the government violated norms by trying to get around it by getting a speedy clearance from the president instead of going through parliament.

The disagreement Friday delayed the house from convening by almost seven hours and derailed the prime ministerial election.

After 10 p.m., when the cabinet decided to table the budget despite warnings by the Maoists, the finance minister was surrounded by slogan-shouting Maoist lawmakers who snatched away his briefcase and manhandled him as well as Energy Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat.

In an unprecedented turn, the budget session was prorogued after midnight and the prime minister called the ministers to an emergency meeting that lasted till almost 2 a.m. Saturday.

The emergency meeting decided the budget would be pushed through, despite Maoist objections, through a presidential ordinance this afternoon.

It would then have to be endorsed by parliament within 60 days.

The midnight chaos in the house further tarnished the image of the Maoists who are already in a deep controversy for refusing to disband their guerrilla army with its nearly 20,000 fighters.

On Saturday, members of civil society and the media flayed the former guerrillas strong-arm tactics and urged parliament chairman Subas Nembang to take action against the culprits.

The top leaders of the Maoists are retreating to a crucial meeting starting in western Nepal from Monday where they will formulate the future strategy of the party.

The meeting, where Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is expected to cross swords with his two deputies, has become controversial even before it started due to the former rebels’ insistence that over 1,200 commanders of their People’s Liberation Army would attend the political meeting.

The prime minister has issued a warning, saying such a move would hit the peace agreement badly and a concerned UN, that is entrusted with supervising the Maoist army, has also urged the former rebels to drop the plan.

Filed under: Politics

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