10-16 July 2015 #766

Poles apart

Interview with Laxman Lal Karna of the Sadbhavana Party and Agni Kharel of the CPN-UML on their views on the first draft of the new constitution

After the Constituent Assembly (CA) endorsed the first draft of the new constitution on Tuesday and presented it to the public for comments, Nepali Times asked Laxman Lal Karna of the Sadbhavana Party and Agni Kharel of the CPN-UML for their views. Excerpts:

Nepali Times: What is your first impression of the new constitution’s draft?

Laxman Lal Karna: We had a lot of expectations. We were hopeful that the draft would accommodate aspirations of all marginalised groups like Dalit, Janajati, Muslim and Madhesi, Tharu and Women. But it didn’t. The draft has ignored the Interim Constitution’s guidelines for proportional representation of marginalised groups at all levels of the state.

But the draft guarantees an inclusive state, doesn’t it?

Even the Panchayat-era constitution had called for an inclusive state, and the king handpicked a few from marginalised communities to garnish his institution. The question is not about whether the state wants to be inclusive, but about constitutional provisions that guarantee it. The word in itself carries no meaning unless proportional representation is guaranteed in the constitution.

How will the Madhesi Front respond?

We have objected to the big parties’ high-handedness by symbolically rejecting the draft. We could go a step further and dissociate ourselves from the constitution writing process altogether.

But you already tore up the draft inside the CA and burnt its copies outside.

The front is now distancing it only from the way the constitution is being written. But if they do not address our issues, we will not only dissociate ourselves from the constitution drafting process, but from the state itself.

What is your first impression of the draft?

Agni Kharel: I am aware that the draft has several contentious issues that require serious deliberation.

The Supreme Court issued an interim order against the 16-point deal. Isn’t the draft a violation of the court’s verdict?

I have read the full text of the verdict, and I find it difficult to believe that the SC actually issued it. I don’t understand why the SC issued this kind of verdict without listening to our arguments. But we are clear that the statute drafting is a jurisdiction of the CA and no other state organ can take that away, not even the apex court.

The SC says the draft violated Article 138 of the Interim Constitution which gives the CA full mandate to restructure the state.

Drafting a statute is a political process, and every decision that is taken to this regard is also political. Having said that, the future legislature parliament that will take final decision on demarcation of federal units will have the same members of this CA. Simply put, the CA’s involvement will not end with promulgation of the constitution.

So the CA will not honour the SC’s verdict?

We will not end the process because we have a mandate from people.

Read also:

Interim order and interim constitution, Binita Dahal

Needless drama, Damakant Jayshi

There is draft, Editorial

Burning issues, Anurag Acharya