Nepali Times
Constitution Supplement
"They are afraid of destroying their vote banks"

The industrial town of Hetauda is dominated by workers from a mix of ethnicities and languages. This heterogenous society in the middle of the country desires equality above all in the restructuring of the state. Himal Khabarpatrika spoke to residents on the challenges of constitution writing and federalism.

Himal Khabarpatrika: Why has constitution-writing not been able to gain momentum?
Sobin Thing (Secretary, Tamsaling Volunteer Front): There is a conspiracy underway to make the Constituent Assembly meaningless by obstructing the constitution-writing process.

Surya Chandra Neupane (Nepal Red Cross Society): The Maoists think that they have the right to all the power and that "the losers should run away" while the other parties say, "so what if they are the biggest party in the CA, they didn't get a majority". This has affected the constitution-writing process.

Pratap Bista (Central Member, Federation of Nepalese Journalists): The parties don't understand the political realities. They are still thinking in terms of who lost and who won. Each group is thinking of a constitution that suits their interests rather than a good constitution.

Are the political parties incapable of writing the constitution or is it just that they haven't been able to focus on it?
Rita Khanal (Nepal Trade Union Congress): Not all the parties act according to the commitments they have made. Civil society has not only been unable to raise its voice but has also been influenced by political interests. Why hasn't the media been able to expose the Maoists' lack of interest in writing the constitution?

Rajan Mainali (Human Rights and Peace Society): It's not fair to say that all civil society is politicised. The political parties themselves tend to call on civil society when they need to but neglect them otherwise. They are dishonest.

Kumar Tamang (Tamsaling Freedom Front): Ethnicity-based political parties have mushroomed, and the mainstream parties fear they will have to grant ethnic autonomy. There is a suspicion that this is why the parties haven't given priority to constitution-writing.

Bhagwati Pudasaini (Village Women Service Centre): The pessimism of the leadership has killed the hopes of the people that the constitution will be written. The people have to pressurise the parties.

P.B. Gole Tamang (Nepal Democratic Tamang Society Front): There is no doubt that the parties are committed to writing the constitution. They managed to write the interim constitution, hold Constituent Assembly elections, and declare a republic. And recently they elected the chair of the Constitutional Committee and the army integration committee. This gives us hope.

Everyone is committed to restructuring the state. But they haven't been able to come to an agreement. Why is this?
Shiva Prasad Koirala (Civilian Support Front): We only have 7-8 months to complete the constitution but the parties are not clear on what kind of federalism they want. The people understood that cross-party agreement was necessary - this is why they didn't give any of them an absolute majority. Federalism should also be based on a similar division of power.

Sobin Thing: The Maoists used ethnic and regional slogans but once they were in power they resigned rather than fulfill their promises. The song speaks of a garland of a hundred flowers but some are still trying to ensure the garland is made up of a single kind of flower.

Mukunda Prasad Adhikari (Bar Court, Hetauda): History shows that haste makes a hash of things. We should learn this from the interim constitution. The other thing is rather than the political parties directing the ethnic groups, there is a risk the ethnic groups may control the parties. This could lead to conflict.

Krishna Prasad Dahal (UML): The confusion of the parties regarding federalism has slowed the constitution-writing process. Truth be told, they are afraid of destroying their vote banks.

If federalism leads to trouble is there a possibility of a return to a unitary state?
Keshab Prasad Kafle (Principal, Hetauda Campus): The nation has already decided to go for federalism, there is no going back.

Amrit Kumar Lama (Lawyer): We cannot turn our backs on federalism and democracy. It is because the state did not consider the peoples of Magarant, Tamsaling, Limbuwan and the Madhes first and foremost Nepalis that this problem arose. But these people should also think of themselves as Nepali.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)