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New Constitution In Making

Issue 15, April 12, 2009

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

A new constitution written by the people’s representatives would have been materialized in early 1950s, had all so-called popular politicians and the then rulers been sincere in holding an election for a Constituent Assembly (CA) then. Thanks to the committed and dedicated politicians, it is going to happen in 2010 after almost sixty years of the first commitment to craft a new constitution.

The first major step to crafting a new constitution of course was the election for a CA held on April 10, 2008. Until the election for a CA was held most of the political analysts were skeptical about whether it would really happen or not, as some politicians were resisting it as much as possible. However, they could not stand up against the great pressure exerted by the politicians opting for the election.

The election for a CA was a historic event in the sense that it brought representatives of almost all indigenous groups making it one of the most inclusive CA. Nepal have had so many elections in early democratic setup in 50s and then during the period of no-party system called ‘Panchayat’ that lasted for 30 years and then after the abolition of this system by the people’s movement in 1990, during the 15-year period of the parliamentary democratic system but none of the elections ever had represented so many under privileged people in any elected body.

After the election of the Chairman of the CA and formation of the new coalition government, the CA has made the schedule for crafting a new constitution. Following the schedule, it set up 14 committees including the main committee called constitutional committee. Every committee is well represented by all political parties and by all ethnic groups and communities. None of the CA members has the membership more than one committee.

Every committee has its own responsibility and the Constitutional Committee has the final responsibility to put together all the inputs provided by the subject matter committees, and formulate a draft constitution and then submit it to the CA. So, the Constitutional Committee has the leaders of all political parties represented in the CA as its members. Former Deputy Prime Minister and General Secretary of Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal leads it.

It is worth mentioning here that Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal lost the election for a CA seat in both the constituents: in Kathmandu and in his home district called Siraha. So, he told the reporters that voters rejected him and then resigned from the position of the General Secretary of his party. Despite the people’s rejection, his standing in his party made him the head of the Constitutional Committee. He has never put forward his vision of a new constitution. He has been very vocal in criticizing others and trying to correct the so-called mistakes of others rather than correcting his own mistakes. Judging from his political speeches and his often interaction with the reporters one could easily say that he has been a bit nervous of the latest political development and so he could not present the precise political vision of his own. So, some political analyst doubt about his ability to lead the Constitutional committee.

Recently, Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal said that attempts have been made to minimize the historical contribution made by Prithvi Narayan Shah. He has been the second person after Mr. Modnath Prasit of his party to advocate for keeping the memory of the Shah dynasty afresh whereas almost all the members of the CA had already rejected the Shah dynastic rule in Nepal. If he has read the history of the Shah dynasty he would realize what sort of man Prithvi Narayan Shah was. Prithvi Narayan Shah was the most cruel and inhuman person ever known in the history of Nepal. After the occupation of Kirtipur, he cut the noses of the Kirtipurians who had defeated him repeatedly from occupation. Do really all Kirtipurians want to keep the memory of such a person afresh?

The CA prepared a large questionnaire to collect the opinions of the people at the grassroots level. Some analysts say that the questionnaire is so long and so difficult to understand even to the better-educated people; so common folks would have hard to understand all the questions. In fact, some CA members have complained that the questionnaire is hard even for them to understand.

Then, the members of the various committees went to different districts and collected the people’s opinions about a new constitution. They brought a large quantity of opinions from the people. Then, the challenge is to analyze all those feedbacks and incorporated them in a new constitution. Some CA members said that the people at the grassroots level wanted to have the rights to elect a chief executive directly.

In the first week of April 2009, almost all major political parties have presented their proposals for a new constitution. Different political parties have presented their own version of a new constitution. Some opted for a presidential system others for a parliamentary system. Some so-called political leaders have even said that Nepal has not matured, yet, to follow the presidential system. The so-called political leaders do not bother to explain what maturity is all about.

Some politicians believed that the parliamentary system has failed in Nepal, as it had failed in 50s and then in 90s. The parliament elects a chief executive in the parliamentary system and s/he becomes the chief executive and is responsible to the parliament, in fact to them who elected her/him to the position of the chief executive. So, the tendency of such a chief executive is to keep the parliamentarians happy not the people.

As a matter of fact, Nepalis have seen how the elected Prime Ministers in 50s and then 90s had behaved. None of the elected Prime Ministers were concerned with the common people’s grievances. For example, as an interim Prime Minister of the Interim Government Girija Prasad Koirala never attempted to resolve the fuel shortage during the two year period of his term of office of the interim Prime Minister from 2006 to 2008. Another example of the disgusting performance of the elected Prime Ministers was the implementation of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project; neither Koirala nor his junior Deuba as the Prime Minister bothered to do the Melamchi Project rather extracted as much profits as possible from it during their term of office for almost 15 years after the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. Probably, because of such example, Nepalis want to elect the chief executive directly.

On April 5, 2009, five subcommittees formed under the Constitutional Committee of the Constituent Assembly have submitted the report on their respective subject matters to the chief of the Constitutional Committee Madhav Kumar Nepal. Mr. Nepal said that he would distribute the photocopies of these reports to other committees on Wednesday, April 8, 2009. The five subcommittees are on the subject matters such as preamble, name of constitution, constitutional amendment, emergency provision and political parties and miscellaneous.

The CA has the people’s opinions about a new constitution and the proposals of all political parties for a new constitution, and the reports of the subcommittees on preamble, name of constitution, constitutional amendment, emergency provision and political parties and miscellaneous. Then, it remains to incorporate the people’s desire in a new constitution, the political parties’ proposals and the reports of the subcommittees. Certainly, the people’s desire needs to be the first priority over the proposals of the political parties, as the political parties have their vested interest that might not coincide with the people’s desire.

A new constitution needs to contain what the majority of Nepalis want to not what the politicians or political parties want to. So, first of all the large quantities of the people’s opinions needed to put in order of the subject matters and then identify what the people want and then incorporate those things that majority of people want to incorporate in a new constitution.

Then, some expert analysts need to go through the proposals submitted by political parties for a new constitution, and single out the common things of all political parties and then incorporate such common thins in a new constitution, as all political parties have already agreed on these things. Then, they need to find out what the majority of the political are for, put them in order and then discuss with other political leaders to agree on such subject matters. If the CA members crafting a new constitution follow such a technical method, probably they would not have major difficulties in crafting a new constitution.

Such a constitution needs to ensure the rights of all Nepalis whether they are ethnic, communal, regional and religious groups or non-resident Nepalis, and should be of removing all the current political ills. This is a 21st century nobody would able to rule without the consent of the people. Political leaders not following the people’s mandate would surely be failures. Most of the so-called political leaders are not directly exposed to the people. A few thousand cadres elect them during their convention or even less when they are elected by the members of the parliament. So, many politicians rejected by the people in the election for a CA continue to be the vocal leaders of their parties and making so much noise in the politics of Nepal.

So, a new constitution to be crafted needs to have the provision for recognizing only the political leaders elected by the people in general, and for eliminating students’ organizations, civil servants’ organizations and other monopoly organizations such as organizations of vehicle operations, petroleum transporters and so on a few of them to name that had been so nuisance in Nepal.

Some political leaders have vested interest in delaying the crafting of a new constitution and then holding an election for the people’s representatives. For that reasons, they have been obstructing the session of the CA in April 2009. Certainly, Nepalese people will punish such political leaders and their parties for not following the people’s mandate for following the consensus politics and crafting a new constitution on time and then holding an election for the people’ representation in the state administration.

April 11, 2009.

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