NA revokes endorsed motor vehicle agreement

Assembly: The National Assembly resolved to review the resolution it had “endorsed” on Tuesday after the opposition pointed out yesterday that at least 24 votes and not 22 were required to ratified the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement.
A special committee comprising members from the ruling and the opposition parties was formed to review the resolution. “The committee has already met and it will present its findings in the house  tomorrow,” MP Ritu Raj Chhetri said.
The decision was reached after opposition members contested the validity of the earlier resolution, which was passed by a simple majority of members present in the House.
The motor vehicle agreement provides for mutual cross-border movement of passenger and goods in the four countries. The opposition members had expressed concerns that the agreement could have negative impacts on environment, economy and security of the country and that its ratification should be deferred.
On Tuesday, 22 members had voted for ratification of the agreement and 14 were against it. Three members had abstained.
Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said the resolution should be nullified since it could not garner the required majority. He said a bill can be passed only by a simple majority of the total number of members of the House and not the number of members present during the voting, which he said was 24 out of 47 members.
He cited Section 4, Article 13 of the Constitution, which states, “A bill shall be passed by a simple majority of the total number of members of the respective Houses or by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses present and voting, in the case of a joint sitting.”
He also cited Section 189 of the National Assembly Act, which prescribes, “A Bill shall be passed by a simple majority of the total number of members of the National Assembly.”
Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said the National Assembly’s Rules of Procedure did not prescribe whether the majority vote was counted based on the total number of MPs of the house or the number of members present during the voting. He said it was the assembly’s practice that only members present during the voting were counted while calculating the majority.
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said he was willing to put the agreement on vote if the members agreed that the house would henceforth follow the new rule. “If all agree that a majority should be calculated on the total number of members of the house, I am ready to go for a second vote,” he said.
Leader of Opposition (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said the opposition was not against the agreement but wanted it to be deferred until concerns relating to the agreement were clarified. He said the issue did not feature during the first parliament since the opposition comprised only two members.
“There are concerns with respect to the agreement to be addressed,” (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said. The leader of opposition said that more consultation should be held with stakeholders before the agreement is passed.
Deputy Speaker Chimi Dorji said the agreement was passed according to the norms the assembly has been following to date. He said bills were passed on the basis of the number of members present and not based on the total number of members of the house.
“Most of the bills in the past were passed by show of hands,” he said.  This meant that only members present during the voting were counted and not the total number of MPs present in the House.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said while bills were passed by casting votes, conventions and agreements were ratified by show of hands, both during the first and the second parliaments. “No record of how many raised their hands was kept,” he said.
Lyonchoen suggested that a special committee be formed to study the issue before tabling it in the parliament. “The committee will comprise members of both the ruling and opposition parties,” he said.
By MB Subba

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