Nepali Times Asian Paints
Constitution Supplement
Gloomy verdict

Do you think the constitution-writing process will meet people's expectations?

Shiva Kumar Subedi (University Teachers Association): The events so far have frustrated the people. The political issues have taken central stage and the constitution-writing process is off-track. I doubt the new constitution will be written as expected by the people.

Dilliraj Dhital (lawyer):
The political parties have drafted their own constitutions. I don't understand whether people are supposed to endorse the draft by the political parties or write a new constitution. 40 million questionnaires were distributed for public opinion but only 400,000 were collected. Politics is becoming increasingly confrontational. We are not sure if there will be a constitution comparable even to the one of 1990.

Shreeman Neupane (civil society member):
The peace process is at risk. The constitution-writing process will not be completed until the PLA is in the cantonments. No effort was made to resolve the integration issue. The Maoists, NC and UML are all to blame for not taking the responsibility seriously.

Bishnu Mani Dhital (Appellate Court Bar):
The parties haven't agreed on the basis on which constitution-writing should begin. By overlooking the democratic norms and values, political parties are lobbying to make the constitution in their favour. Federalism was not the mandate of Jana Andolan. The political parties are still not clear about it.

Nanda Kumar Tharu (Tharuhat Autonomous Province Council):
The game of making and felling the government is on. I don't think the constitution will be written to meet the expectations of the people.

Huma DC (Single Women Concern Forum): These leaders were elected to write a new constitution but they forgot their main task. They probably think they'll spend the rest of their lives in parliament, but that won't happen. The political parties don't have the right to obstruct the constitution-writing process.

Sajida Siddiqqi (social worker):
Instead of ensuring the rights of various castes and communities, the parties are politicking in the name of people. It seems as though we're stuck in the 16th century. In this situation, how can the rights of marginalised communities be ensured in the new constitution?

Mohanlal Wali (NC):
The various committees of the CA are doing their tasks. I don't see any problem in the constitution-writing process. I believe the constitution will be written on time and will incorporate the people's aspirations.

What should CA discussions focus on?

Sarjan Gautam (Maoist):
The politicians should have a clear vision of the model of democracy and the basis of federal structure. They need to reach an agreement on the point. The political party should not raise unnecessary issues for the sake of their selfish interests.

Nirmal Nepali (National Dalit Alliance):
The discussion should be on the model of federalism. It is frequently argued that creating provinces on the basis of ethnicity would lead to the country's disintegration. It is time we better talk about the kind of representation of different castes and communities within a province. What about inclusiveness? What kind of state structure and election system? Who should be executive head of the state?

Pramod Dhital (Maoist):
The political parties never reached a consensus. The political parties seem to have realised this fact now. Because of their varying political ideologies, they have many differences on issues that really boil down to a clash of the classes. But the public has already endorsed a federalist republic. There is no need to discuss it.

Saugadbir Chaudhari (NEFIN):
The real big movement will come when the provinces are decided. The ethnic issues cannot be suppressed now. All Nepalis should take the single surname Nepali for true national unity.

Bin Bahadur Wali (associate professor):
All political parties have defined democracy in their own way. The democratic constitution cannot be written unless there is a single definition. We have a number of issues to discuss. Although we have already decided to go for a republic, we are not aware of its basic principles. We need to discuss these issues.

"We have no confidence in our leaders"'

BP Yadav, CA member MJF, Saptari

How have you spent the last year in the CA?

During the elections, we promised people we'd pay more attention to writing the constitution than to economic development. But that hasn't happened. We expected experienced politicians to guide us, but they haven't done so. We are new people from a new party, but even then, we're no less mature than the most experienced politicians, especially with regard to the constitution. We've also seen traditionalist thinking in the committees. This has cast the constitution-writing process into doubt. It's also been difficult because a few committee members double are also parliament members. And selfish politicians only make things worse.

Will the constitution be written on time?
I can't bear the flag alone. Only with agreement and reconciliation, not another political contest, will the constitution be made on time.

What is holding it up?
The Constitutional Committee, which has been without a leader for months, is the main problem. Without the brain, how will the hands work? Even if we, the subject committees, finish our drafts, it's the Constitutional Committee which will make them into law. There should have been senior leaders and people with legal backgrounds in the separate committees.

Aren't you satisfied with your work so far?
I'm sad that the committees haven't been effective. They haven't been because of our selfish leaders. Prachanda and Girijababu came to the committees only a couple of times.

Why did you meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala?
We wanted to understand why India hosted the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugees. We were appealing for general religious rights and freedom. We ask that the Nepali government treat Tibetan refugees just as we treat the Bhutani refugees. The Bhutanis get to go to the US, but the Tibetans get shot at. What kind of foreign policy is that?

"Selfish politicians have delayed the process"

Uma Karki Bista, CA member, Maoist. Sankhwasaba

What do you think about the CA's achievements this year?
We've declared Nepal a federal democratic republic. We've established the rules of the assembly, the work schedule and the committees. We have been to the villages to ask what the people want the constitution to be like. The analysis of their comments and the preparation of the drafts have begun. Four committees have finished their drafts, and others are still working to that end. They will finish in a matter of months.

So the constitution will be written on time?
Only if the politicians stop being selfish and work for the country.

We've heard your party has delayed things by constantly raising new issues.
We haven't done that. We asked for a people's assembly to enable
the people to realise the changes they want to see in Nepal. We proposed mandatory army-training for 18 year olds to rescue the state's integrity. We also said that the decade-long war, which we fought for the liberation of Nepalshould be called the 'people's war' and the fighters the 'people's army'.

So, you're not trying to derail the process because your party is out of power?
No. We're doing just the opposite. But selfishness, the challenges
of 'civilian supremacy', and the delay in army integration have all
been hurdles. Also, we can't finish the constitution when unelected people rule.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)