Nepal government passes budget, Maoists to resume parliament siege

Kathmandu, Nov 25 ( Nepal’s embattled coalition government rushed to pass the stalled budget in parliament Wednesday, the last day of a truce called by the Maoists, and clamber out of a deep financial crisis while the former guerrillas vowed to resume the siege to parliament.

On Wednesday, the three-day truce called by the Maoists to enable the cash-strapped government to pass the budget ended.

Finance Minister Surendra Nath Pandey rushed through three financial bills while the Maoists, the largest party in parliament, let them be passed unopposed to keep their pledge to show their “commitment” to the people.

Though Pandey had tabled the budget in July, it could not be passed due to the Maoists obstructing parliament, triggering an acute financial crisis for the coalition government.

Finally, moved by the plight of the remote districts running out of food, state hospitals running without medical supplies and civil servants and security forces going without their salaries for two months, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda last week announced the siege to parliament would be lifted for three days to allow the budget to be passed.

But the biggest party virtually boycotted the budget, sending only a token number of its lawmakers for the sake of protocol that demands the presence of the opposition parties as well.

Now the former insurgents will resume their blockade of parliament Friday, when it convenes again.

The Maoists have also announced fresh street protests against the government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal from Dec 1, culminating in a three-day general strike nationwide from Dec 20.

Prachanda has warned that if the government did not address his party’s concerns within this period, it would call an indefinite general strike soon after.

The Maoists are demanding a debate in the house on the conduct of President Ram Baran Yadav.

Yadav prevented the former guerrillas from sacking the chief of the army and triggered the collapse of the Maoists’ eight-month government.

The renewed clash between the ruling parties and the Maoists – who had signed a peace deal three years ago – has raised fears about the peace process, especially the fate of the Maoists’ guerrilla army that was to have been merged with the national army.

It has also raised doubts about the government’s ability to write and promulgate a new constitution by May 2010.