19-25 December 2014 #737

“The clock is ticking”

Interview with CA Chair Subhas Nembang

CA Chair Subhas Nembang
Nepali Times: Now that the Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee has submitted its report, is the waiting period over for promulgation of a new constitution?

Subhas Nembang: No, the report presented by CPDCC wasn’t in accordance with the directions given by CA and CA regulations. The CPDCC not only failed to forge a consensus, but also couldn’t settle disputed issues. The committee only forwarded a descriptive report on what they did. My question to them was if a committee made up of the top leaders along with leaders of the 31 parties in CA cannot come up with a consensus, who can? I told them that reaching a consensus was their responsibility. When they said consensus can be reached within two hours, I told them to do it. The report hasn’t resolved any issues, the only positive outcome is that it allowed discussion to move to the CA.

Aren’t there any other alternatives if consensus isn’t reached?

We sent the disputed issues to the CPDCC precisely because it was supposed to forge a consensus. Now the issue of how to come to a consensus and who will prepare questions on disputed issues remains to be addressed.

Will the disputes be resolved by the Constituent Assembly (CA) or will it be sent back to CPDCC?

The report will be discussed in the CA. Although I have been working to get concrete results, the truth is it depends on the 601 members of the CA and 31 parties. Since the CPDCC failed to fulfill its objectives, the decision to send disputed issues back to the committee or look for an alternative lies within the CA. The best option would be for the parties to agree, otherwise we will be in trouble.

What would you say are the three most likely scenarios on 22 January?

We have reached an agreement on some issues from the previous CA, only a few others remain. The draft committee has started work on issues resolved by various committees. It’s only the CPDCC that is holding things up. But the parties are narrowing their differences. It shouldn’t be difficult for them to find common ground. It is taking longer than expected, but if they do come to an agreement, the secretariat and I will amend any regulations to promulgate the new constitution.

By 22 January?

That date is not a constitutional stipulation, the party leaders set that self-imposed deadline. When I was chosen as the chairman for the second CA, it was I who declared that the constitution will be drafted within a year of the first CA meeting. In this sense, 22 January is the date committed by the parties to promulgate a new constitution. It is still possible to meet that deadline.

What are the points of agreement and what hasn’t been agreed to yet?

Perhaps this is not an appropriate time to go into details. The new constitution is for the citizens of Nepal regardless of their geographic location, caste or creed. For example, they have resolved the issue of federal structure, a topic that was thought to be difficult to agree on. But, if they aren’t flexible the constitution will not be drafted on time. So I urge all Nepalis to stand up and demand the leaders come to an agreement on time, or they should tell the public the difficulties they are facing.

What if there is no constitution on 22 January?

It is better not to define too many things. The question of what difference will it make if 22 January passes has come up during internal and external negotiations, too. What I have to say is that if the 22 January deadline passes without a constitution, the integrity of the parties will be questioned.

Has the termination of the previous CA in any way affected the present CA and has it exerted any pressure on you?

Even though we worked hard, the previous CA failed to draft a new constitution. Since I was the chairman, I should take responsibility. But keeping aside everything else, they elected me once again. We have learnt our lessons from the past and we have tried to work towards a broad agreement. It is imperative that the constitution is promulgated by the deadline. The political parties should be ready to explain to the public why they couldn’t agree. The public is giving them a chance, even when the CPDCC didn’t achieve anything worthwhile they supported it. But I don’t think the Nepali public will be this forgiving for much longer.

If a new constitution is to be delivered by 22 January, when should there be a consensus?

The draft committee should write it up first. The CA has specific procedures, but before that the parties have to reach a consensus on the contentious issues. Only then can the new constitution be promulgated in January. But the clock is ticking and it will be better if they find a common ground this week.

Read also:

One month to go, Editorial

Contentious consensus, Anurag Acharya

‘C’ for constitution, Anurag Acharya

Let’s get back to work, Editorial

Dangers of delay, Anurag Acharya