23-29 September 2016 #827

Ex-speaker speaks out

Bikram Rai

Interview with Subhas Nembang, Chair of the now-dissolved Constituent Assembly in Himal Khabarpatrika, 19 September

  Himal Khabarpatrika: How do you review the first year of the Constitution?

Subhas Nembang: We have failed to show the wisdom and capacity needed to implement the Constitution. The political parties that stood together to promulgate it are now divided, and it has hindered its implementation. A constitution gives us rights, outlines our duties and shows us the way to govern a country. But it does not give us the knowledge, wisdom and ability that we need to take the country forward.   Why are the parties that promulgated the Constitution not serious about its implementation?

They say they are committed, but their actions contradict this. The previous government had passed a timetable to implement the Constitution, but the new government has neither followed it nor replaced it with a new workplan. We are delaying the passage of key laws required for the smooth implementation of the Constitution. For example, the Election Commission needed election laws by mid-September to hold local, provincial and parliamentary elections by January 2018, but we have not even drafted the election laws yet.   The new Constitution was amended shortly after its promulgation, and is likely to be amended once again. Is that normal?

The Constitution can and should be amended from time to time, and we are not against that. But it has to be justified. When the Constitution was amended for the first time in January, the parties that now run the government said in Parliament that the Madhesi and Janajati demands were addressed. They had caused an uproar when the amendment bill was delayed for a few days. But the same parties are now preparing to amend the Constitution once again. Why? They need to explain this.   Why are those who signed the Constitution last year now saying it is ‘discriminatory’?

Even those who rejected the Constitution took part in prime ministerial elections. They are now members of various parliamentary committees. Some of them are committee presidents too and draw their legitimacy from the same Constitution. So there is no question about the legitimacy of the Constitution. It has already been accepted.   So what next?

There is no legitimate body that can pass another constitution to replace the Constitution endorsed by an elected assembly. So we have no choice but to implement it. The parties that passed the Constitution must be held accountable for its slow implementation. Instead of blaming each other, they must stand united again until the end of the political transition.   What if local, provincial and parliamentary elections are not held by January 2018?

The Constitution implementation process has certainly been slow, prompting people to doubt the parties’ ability to hold all three elections within the stipulated deadline. But it is still possible to meet this deadline. People must exert pressure on the parties to work harder and more swiftly. The parties must explain why they are delaying the process. They cannot get away with missing the election deadline, and pushing the country into further uncertainty.