Nepal Today

Friday, June 7, 2013

NPC ARMY PLAY IN SECOND QUARTERFINAL OF GURKHA CUP Kathmandu, 7 June: Nepal Police Club (NPC) plays Tribhuvan Club of Nepal Army in the second quarterfinal of Gurkha Cup Saturday at Dashrath Rangashala.. MMC was first club to qualify for the quarterfinal Friday. Nnnn HLPC STILL DIVIDED ON MAJOR ISSUES Kathmandu, 7 June: Even as the ultimatum given by Chairman of Interim Election Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi expired on Friday, major parties are nowhere near agreement on the contentious issues related to fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) election, Republica reports.. A meeting of the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) held on Friday ended inconclusively after the major parties refused to budge from their respective stances on the eligibility threshold for proportional seats and the proposal to bar candidates with criminal background from contesting election. Despite a series of bilateral and trilateral negotiations among the four parties, the nearly six-hour long HLPC meeting failed to resolve the issues. According to UCPN (Maoist) Vice Chairman Narayankaji Shrestha, UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) have reached an understanding on resolving the contentious issues in line with the 25-point ordinance on resolving constitutional difficulties and the 11-point political deal. “We will hold a meeting with Chairman Regmi tomorrow [Saturday] before sitting for the HLPC meeting,” said Shrestha. The parties´ latest initiatives to resolve contentious issues related to election laws forwarded by Election Commission (EC) come in the wake of Chairman Regmi warning that the government would take a necessary decision on the election ordinances and send it to the Office of the President for endorsement. Though EC has already suggested to the government that November 14 or 15 would be suitable for conducting the CA poll, the failure of the parties to reach an agreement has delayed announcement of the poll date. According to leaders participating in the HLPC meeting, while UCPN (Maoist) and UDMF stood against eligibility threshold for PR seats and barring candidates with criminal background, NC and UML leaders were in favor of the proposal. “We plan to sit with Chairman Regmi for talks tomorrow to discuss the contentious issues in detail,” said a leader participating in the meeting. The leaders will then hold a meeting in the afternoon to find ways to resolve the disputed issues. Sources said NC and UML are ready to be flexible on reducing the eligibility threshold from 1 vote to 0.7 percent votes and revise the proposal on candidates with criminal background so that the Maoists leaders charged with crimes during the conflict will also be allowed to contest the election. “We are in favor of seeking a middle path solution,” said an NC leader. Earlier in the day, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had separately held a meeting with Regmi. The major parties, however, have already agreed on 491-seat CA. As President Dr Ram Baran Yadav has clearly told the party leaders that he would not invoke Article 158 of the Interim Constitution 2007 to resolve the constitutional difficulties, sources said parties are trying to reach agreement in line with the 25-point ordinance endorsed earlier by the president to resolve constitutional difficulties. Nnnn PROBE INTO TENDER TAMPERING STARTS Kathmandu, 8 June:: Amid complaints from aspiring international bidders that the tender specifications for the multi-million dollar national ID project were manipulated to suit the interests of one specific company, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has initiated an internal investigation, after suspending a senior computer engineer involved in the preparation of the tender documents, KOsh RajKoirala writes in Republica.. Highly-placed government officials said MoHA initiated a ‘quiet’ investigation after suspending second class gazetted officer Anil Dutta, who was closely involved in the preparation of the global tender for the mega project announced by the National ID Management Center (NIDMC) at April-end. There is suspicion that Dutta could have been involved in the manipulation of the tender specifications as the specifications approved by the home-ministry level meeting and those that appeared in the global tender notice were found to be slightly at variance. Officials at NIDMC have remained tight-lipped about the matter. Sources said the internal investigation is being started under a strong directive from Home Secretary Nabin Kumar Ghimire, who says he is determined to punish anyone involved in manipulating tender specifications. The multi-million dollar project to distribute biometric national ID cards caused controversy after several international bidders knocked at the doors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), complaining that the tender specifications were manipulated to suit the interests of one particular company. They have sought amendments in some of the specifications mentioned in the global tender so that all qualified international companies can compete in the bidding process. Earlier, during a pre-bid meeting held at the NIDMC office in Singha Durbar last week, 44 of the 45 companies interested in bidding for the ID project had demanded amendments to the tender specifications. Government officials, however, told them that they would issue clarifications over the tender requirements but “not make amendments”. In the wake of complaints from aspiring international bidders, the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) also sought details from MoHA about the specifications of the national ID project. “We have asked the Home Ministry to furnish details as to what had happened in the tender specifications after we received a written complaint that there was some foul play involved,” said a source at OPMCM. Meanwhile, the CIAA is also planning to ask NIDMC to furnish all related documents for investigations as they have received a formal complaint. “We have received a formal complaint about it. We are planning to seek all related documents once our decision is approved by the commissioners,” said a senior CIAA official. “Since tomorrow [Friday] is a public holiday, the decision is likely on Sunday.” The national ID project is the most ambitious ever undertaken by the Nepal government. The first phase of the $117 million project is being undertaken under a grant assistance of $8 million from the ADB. The first phase includes development of necessary infrastructure, including development of software and hardware systems, and distribution of 110,000 national ID cards to Nepali citizens of 16 or above. While the World Bank will lead the funding arrangement for the second phase, the government will also invest a portion of the cost of the project that aims to distribute national ID cards to over 20 million Nepali citizens in the next few years. Nnnn STRIKES FUEL CAPITAL FLIGHT Kathmandu, 8 June:: At a time when the country is trying to attract investment to propel economic growth, frequent disturbances in operating industries will, however, help fuel capital flight from the country, according to private sector leaders, The Himalayan Times reports.. “Politically motivated strikes will force industries to close down and fuel capital flight,” said president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Suraj Vaidya, here, today. Private sector has always been used as a bait by political parties to bargain with the government, he said, urging the agitating trade unions to come to the table for talks, if they have any problem with employers. “Any solution should be found through legal and democratic means and not by resorting to unlawful means like vandalism and threats.” The frequent attacks will discourage the private sector, forcing them to close down industries that are generating employment for thousands, added Vaidya. The strikes by politically motivated trade unions have also been curtailing the right of economic freedom of other workers, who are working to earn a living for their family. Economic freedom — that is also a basic human right — is a personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete in markets, and protection of person and property. But lack of law and order and over politicisation of trade unions have not only curtailed the right to economic freedom but also defamed trade unions that were instituted for collective bargaining power of labourers. Private sector condemns forceful strikes and donation terror that have been disturbing industrial relations, though we respect the right to protest and collective bargaining through lawful means, Vaidya said. “The trade unions should be made to pay compensation for the damages they cause if they resort to vandalism.” Director of Lomus Herbal Research Centre Prajjwal Jung Pandey, on the occasion, briefed about the attacks on his research centre yesterday by the CPN-Maoist affiliated All Nepal Revolutionary Federation of Trade Union, that had called for a two-day strike, curtailing the right of protection against unemployment of other workers. However, physical attacks, intimidation, threats and forceful donation drives have become a common feature recently also due to the government’s failure to enforce law and order. “The current proposed minimum wage hike is 50 per cent more than the average inflation of the last two years,” the private sector players said, adding that Minimum Wage Fixation Committee — that has members representing employers, employees and government — had recommended minimum wage after a series of consultations with trade unions. “Any trade union that does not agree with the recommendation has a right to protest but they have no right to resort to vandalism.” The umbrella organisation of the private sector has asked the government to take strong action against the attackers and treat them as criminals for breaking the law of the land by attacking industries and destroying property. Nnnn 30,000 PERMIYS TO LEAVE SAUDI ARABIA Kathmandu, 7 June:: As many as 30,000 Nepalis staying illegally in Saudi Arabia have taken “out-pass” from Embassy of Nepal in Riyadh so as to return home, The Himalayan Times reports.. Some 11,000 Nepalis living in Jeddah, another 2,500 residing in eastern provincial capital Dammam and 16,000 living in Saudi capital Riyadh had applied for the exit pass and have already received it, the Embassy’s Deputy Chief Harish Chandra Ghimire told THT. Earlier, the Saudi government had given an opportunity to an estimated 3.5 million foreigners living or working in the Gulf state illegally to acquire legal status as per Saudi rules by July 9. Nepali mission estimates that up to 90,000 Nepali migrant workers could be labelled illegal if they fail to announce their status and initiate due process to get legal status. Thirty thousand people wishing to return home are among the workers staying ‘illegally” in the Gulf region. Changing workplace without informing the employers can make a migrant worker illegal in Saudi Arabia, and this is one reason many Nepalis are labelled illegal. According to the embassy, others have earned illegal status for overstaying or losing their passports. Up to seven lakh Nepali migrant workers are living in Saudi Arabia — one of the most-preferred destinations for Nepalis to work. Officials opine that returning Nepali workers might face shortage of air tickets or may have to pay through the nose for the tickets, as thousands are aspiring to return home at the same time. Besides Nepalis, thousands of Indians, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis staying illegally in Saudi Arabia are also planning to return to their home countries, prompting travel agents to hike ticket prices. Meanwhile, Nepalis living ‘illegally’ have initiated due process to legalise their stay in Saudi Arabia. Earlier, MoFA had dispatched 5,000 passports to Nepalese Embassy in Saudi Arabia to rescue Nepalis staying in the Gulf country with illegal status. nnnn


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