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Delay in Constitution Crafting

Issue 46, November 16, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

It has been already seven months since the election for a Constituent Assembly was held on April 10, 2008 for crafting a constitution of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal; however, nothing has been done so far. The Interim Constitution has made provision for two-year time for writing a new constitution of Nepal; so, the life of the Constituent Assembly is of two years only; in an extra-ordinary situation, the tenure of the Constitution could be extended for six months. Leaders of political parties have been engaged in the blame game rather than assisting each other in crafting a new constitution. The most responsible person for writing a constitution of Nepal: the Chairman of the Constitution Assembly has been working as a Speaker of the legislature-parliament rather than the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. He has the excuse for not initiating the crafting of a new constitution is that the Constituent Assembly has not prepared any guidelines for writing a new constitution, yet.

Former Prime Minister and President of Nepali Congress (NC) Girija Prasad Koirala said that delay in crafting a new constitution would invite a disaster. On Friday, November 07, 2008, speaking to the representatives of Federation of Nepalese Journalists that went to the resident of President Koirala for presenting a memo stating to expedite the writing of a new constitution, President Koirala said, "My plan was to get the constitution framed within one-and-a-half years after the election for a Constituent Assembly was held." However, unexpected developments had hindered his plan, President Koirala said. [1].

Unexpected developments for him must be the defeat of his party in the election for a Constituent Assembly held in April 2008, and then the need for surrendering the power to the majority seat-winning party. However, even after his failure in permutation and combination of various political parties for forming a new government, he held on to power for four solid months before turning over the power to the six coalition parties for forming a new government. So, President of NC Koirala was solely responsible for delaying the writing of a new constitution then might be inviting a disaster.

Another unexpected development for President of NC Koirala might be that he could not succeed in getting elected to the first President of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. He could not bring all political leaders to agree to his election to the first president of Nepal despite his efforts on bringing some leaders to his terms offering some of them even the position of Prime Minister. Political leaders particularly the leaders of major parties such as Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) and Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) did not agree to elect him as the first President of New Nepal in view of his performances as the Prime Minister of the Interim Government, and his persistent resistant to declare Nepal a republic and his continued support for preserving the monarchy in Nepal.

On Saturday, November 08, 2008, speaking at an event of unveiling the statue of Supreme Leader of the People’s Movement of 1990 Ganeshman Singh at the B.P Koirala Museum at Sundarijal, outskirts of Kathmandu, President of NC Girija Prasad Koirala blamed the leaders of the CPN-Maoist for delaying the crafting of a new constitution creating unnecessary debate about the integration of the Maoists’ combatants with the Nepali Army. President Koirala also stressed the need for forging a unity among the democratic forces in the country and then put pressure on the Maoist-led government to draft the constitution on time. [2]

On Saturday, November 08, 2008, speaking at the function held to unveil the statue of prominent poet Chittadhar Hridaya at Kalimati in Kathmandu built in place of the statue of King Mahendra, Prime Minster Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ said that the unity between the republican government and the Nepalese people in general would pave the way for making Nepal a peaceful and prosperous country, and would also allow the Constituent Assembly to craft a new constitution well within the stipulated time of two years. “Some of the political parties that took part in the People’s Movement-II are still plagued with the old-mindset, making the constitution-crafting process really a challenging one”, said Prime Minister Prachanda. [3]

On Saturday, November 08, 2008, speaking at the Reporter's Club, youth leader of the NC and the member of the Constituent Assembly Gagan Thapa said that the prevailing disagreement on forming the Special Committee on integration of Maoists’ combatants with the Nepali Army and the lack of progress in the constitution drafting was due to a crisis of confidence among the political leaders. He said, "There is too much suspicion about intention among the political parties." "Let's all start anew," he said, "Leaders who have reached the age of retirement should not play with our future." He warned of a new conflict if the constitution were not written on time. [4]

On Friday, November 07, 2008, talking to media persons at the Nepalgunj airport, Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Janardan Sharma ‘Prabhakar’ said that the stand taken by the NC against the integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepali Army might land the peace process in the soup. Minister Sharma said that the integration of PLA (People’s Liberation Army) would be carried out respecting aspirations of the combatants. Minister Sharma said, "We will ask PLA soldiers what their wishes are. Based on their wishes, we will go for integration." Maoist combatants declared ineligible by the United Nations Mission in Nepal, will be given skill-oriented training,” the minister said. [5]

Leading a group of NC leaders, NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel met with Prime Minister Prachanda and submitted the memorandum with a nine-point demand to him. The demands are for the government to enforce the past agreements, immediately return properties seized by the Maoists during the decade-long insurgency, scrap the paramilitary structure of the Maoist youth wing called Young Communist League (YCL), reconstitute the special committee on integration of Maoist combatant into the Nepali Army on the basis of political consensus, and so on. Receiving the memo, Prime Minister Prachanda said that he was serious about the issues put forward by the NC and the government would look into them. Prime Minister Prachanda also said that the government and his party were in favor of building consensus among the parties on major political issues such as the constitution-making and peace process. [6]

On Saturday, November 08, 2008, Prime Minister Prachanda said that the political status quoits had been the hurdles in the peace process as well as the constitution-making process. Leaders of the main opposition party NC were the status quoits Prime Minister hinted at. They had voiced fundamental differences with the Maoist-led government over the peace process and other issues. Prime Minister Prachanda said that the government was determined to defeat the status-quoits and 'anti-change' forces and write new constitution on time and bring the peace process to a conclusion. [7]

On Monday, November 10, 2008, at the parliamentary party meeting held at Singhadurbar. Kathmandu President of NC Girija Prasad Koirala said that the NC gave the government today as the last ultimatum to meet the demands the NC had put forward; the NC was preparing for disrupting the sessions of the Constituent Assembly if the government did not meet the nine-point demands. Other NC leaders were unhappy forwarding the demands without proper discussion among other leaders and submitting the demands to the Prime Minister at the last moment on Sunday, November 09, 2008. So, the parliamentary meeting was called to satisfy other NC leaders. [8]

On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, addressing the delegation of Federation of Nepalese Journalists that reached the official residence of the Prime Minister at Baluwatar, Kathmandu to submit a memo that stressed the need for drafting a new constitution without delay, Prime Minister Prachanda said that the government was ready to face any challenges that come in the way of the peace process and the constitution-drafting process, as the country and the Nepalis people would need to pay a high price if these tasks were not done on time. Some political leaders have posed hindrances to the peace process and the constitution-drafting process repeating the past political activities not suitable to the current context, the Prime Minister said. [9]

On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, speaking at a press conference held at Udaypur district headquarters Gaighat Acting President of NC Sushil Koirala said that the CPN-Maoist had been trying to impose an authoritarian rule in the country; however, it would not last long, as the NC would take to streets to defeat the Maoists' attempt to do so. Acting President Koirala repeated the NC's negative stance on the integration of the Maoist combatants into the Nepali Army and hinted at the possibility of a civil war if the combatants were integrated into the national army. [10]

On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, speaking at an interaction event called ‘Sajha Sawal’ held by the BBC Nepali Service on the premises of Shaktikhor cantonment in Chitwan, Southern Nepal senior PLA commanders expressed their willingness to join the national army. "For over a decade, we fought the war as directed by the (Maoist) party," said Saral Poudel, commander of Anish Memorial Brigade of the PLA's third division camp in Shaktikhor. "We are ready to become a professional force but they (NA rank and file) have to embrace ganatantrik (republic) norms," said Umesh, commander of another brigade of the division. "I don't see any problem in a full-scale merger of the two armies from the professional point of view," said Prakash, commander of Pratap Memorial Brigade. Battalion commander Sunita Gautam too said, "As we fought for nationalism for a decade, our mission will be incomplete if we don't become a part of the national army." She also warned of civil war if the integration process was not carried out. [11]

On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, the main opposition NC took back its threat to stall the session of the Constituent Assembly following the statement made by Prime Minister Prachanda at the Constituent Assembly promising to meet the nine-point demand of the NC. The Prime Minister even said the government would provide them whose properties have not been returned with compensation for their properties if not returned by December 15, 2008. NC vice president Ram Chandra Poudel said that the promise made by the Prime Minister was positive; so, the NC would play the responsible role of an opposition. The NC had threatened to obstruct sessions of the Constituent Assembly if the government did not meet its nine-point demand. [12]

On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, addressing the legislative session of the Constituent Assembly and replying to each point of the nine-point demand put forth by the NC, Prime Minister Prachanda told that the government would enforce the nine-point agreement signed with the Nepali Congress (NC) and other past agreements as well. “The government promises to return the seized assets by December 15 and one of the parliamentary committees will monitor the process,” Prime Minister Prachanda told. If the government failed to turn over the property to the rightful claimants, the state would provide them with compensation and relief, he said. He also reassured of dissolving the paramilitary structure of the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL) soon. “It will also release and return all public and private properties that are in the YCL's possession,” he added. The government would remove the dual security arrangements for the Maoist leaders; the economic committee of legislature-parliament would regulate the activities of the cantonments and the Maoist combatants; the government would agree to allocate one million rupees for each lawmaker as local development fund; arrest the killers of businessman Ram Hari Shrestha, said the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also appealed to the Constituent Assembly chairman to wind down the budget session of the legislature-parliament and work as the Constituent Assembly for crafting a new constitution. [13]

NC has been selective in working for the people. For example, NC had been openly and seriously asking for finding the killer of Ram Hari Shrestha and even used its students’ organization called Nepal Students’ Union for blocking streets and causing inconvenience to the people for demanding the whereabouts of Ram Hari Shrestha: one time Maoist. However, various political activists including the activists of the NC have killed many Nepalis in the political vendetta; the NC has not been concerned for anyone of them.

Speaking to the State-run ‘Radio Nepal’, one of the NC leaders Arjun Narshing KC said that the nine-point demand the NC submitted to the Prime Minister was not acceptable to all NC leaders, as only a few leaders without consulting all the concerned leaders had prepared it and submitted it to the Prime Minister in haste; the government providing the compensation for the property seized by the Maoists from the taxpayers’ money was illegal. [14]

The Chairman of the Constituent Assembly said that crafting of a new constitution would be initiated on Sunday, November 16, 2008. This might come true, as the main opposition party NC got whatever some of its leaders thought it necessary to get from the coalition government. We hope that the NC would not find any other excuses for obstructing the sessions of the Constituent Assembly and let it craft a new constitution smoothly; and the Maoists would also not stall the constitution-making process even if integrating the PLA combatants into the Nepali Army (NA) did not go smoothly. The Maoists’ leaders have been telling in public that the constitution making and integration of PLA combatants are the two sides of the same coin of the peace process.


[1] The Himalayan Times online, November 08, 2008, “Disaster if Statute not drafted on Time: GPK”

[2], November 09, 2008, “Nepal-Constitution making process being ignored: Koirala”

[3], November 09, 2008, “Constitution-making process facing challenges: Nepal PM Dahal” The Himalayan Times online, November 08, 2008, “None Can Hinder Govt: Prachanda”

[4], Kantipur Report, November 08, 2008, “Parties asked to end mutual suspicions”

[5] The Himalayan Times, Online, November 08, 2008, “Prabhakar Vows to Wow PLA Fighters”

[6] mk Nov 09 08, “NC memo to govt: Act on past accords, reconstitute special committee”

[7] Nov 08 08, “PM sees threat to peace process from 'status quoits'”

[8], Kantipur Report, November 10, 2008, “NC preparing to disrupt House session if demands not met”

[9], November 11, 2008, Kantipur Report “Govt ready to battle with hindrances to constitution-making process: PM Dahal”

[10], November 11, 2008, Kantipur Report, “Maoist trying to impose totalitarianism: NC Acting Prez”

[11], November 11, 2008, “Maoist combatants eager to join NA”

[12] sd Nov 11 08, “NC withdraws its protest warnings”

[13] The Himalayan Times, November 11, 2008, “Prachanda bows to NC's demands”

[14] Radio Nepal

November 14, 2008.

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