Nepali Times
Constitution Supplement
Brewing resentment

Pace of constitution-writing
Rajeshwar Nepali (Janakpur Intellectual Society):
Fewer than 10 per cent of CA members actually understand the process in which the constitution is being written. Even the nominees aren't experts. If the leaders had good intentions the constitution would be written in three months. Instead, they're dishonest. They were quick to declare the country secular but haven't yet formed a state restructuring commission. In the Tarai, the ex-landlords and their relatives still want to enslave half the region's population.

Shital Jha (UML): Learning from our past, the new constitution should address the possible socio-political issues that might be controversial. Conflict is inevitable if the freedom of language and recognition of languages of minorities are not addressed. There is no difference between the one language policy of the Panchayat system and those who argue Nepali should be the only official language in the country.

Raman Singh (Sadbhabana Mahato): The big parties are making mistakes and the small parties aren't helping by complicating things. In 1980 our party called for a single Tarai province, but the big parties conspired against it.

Parameshwar Kapad (Mithila State Struggle Committee): Many have not been able to digest the issues being raised. Federalism requires negotiations. It should not be imposed. We have to have a big heart to reach an agreement and then we can make a new constitution.

Ramchandra Mandal (Maoist): There are oppressed and oppressors in our society and the oppressed are still struggling for their rights. It is normal to have conflict in the constitution-writing process in such a situation. If the oppressors corner the oppressed too much, the latter will have to take another road. But instead of renewing these conflicts, we should work together.

Brisheschandra Lal (TMLP): The dominant Khas has delayed the constitution-writing process to expand their influence. The writing process would be much faster if the CA and parliament were separate. The CA members' focus is not on writing the constitution but on becoming minister.

Ram Saroj Yadav (NC): The different committees under the CA are working responsibly. It is true that leaders are engaged in making and breaking the government only. The country may go back to insurgency if the agendas of Janajatis, women and other backward communities are not addressed in the new constitution. These issues cannot be discussed within six months and that's why people doubt whether the constitution will be written on time.

Reservation, privileges and inclusion
Habib Munsuri (Nepal Muslim Society):
Reservations should be merit-based. We have seen that many of our CA members elected under reservations understand the issue and can actually express their opinion.

Surendra Labh (Rara Campus): Call it reservations or privilege, we need to establish an equal and just society. Only writing the constitution is not enough. There are many complications in its implementation. On what basis should we give reservations? Should it be based on caste, language, gender or region? We should reserve privileges for people because they're poor, not because they're Madhesis or women. We should make sure that reservations help the poor, unlike in India, where even the rich benefit.

Ramesh Ranjan Jha (Mithila Art Council): The truth is that only clever people benefit from reservations. There are high, middle and low class people within the Madhesi community. Among women, there is a wide gap between Madhesi and Dalit women. Even though the central government has provided reservations for Janajatis, women and Dalits, there is a majority of Pahadi people at policy and implementation level who only help their community.

Shambhu Thakur (Society of Backward Community): Backward community, Dalit and indigenous people from the Tarai should get reservation. We need reservation in military, politics, administration and education. The Tarai cannot move forward unless and until farmers get reservations.

"I'm losing sleep"'

Krishna Kumari Pariyar, NC CA member, Kaski

How did you spend the last year in the CA?

In the first CA meeting, the Koirala-led government declared Nepal a democracy. This was a happy moment, since the monarchy had long imperiled peace in the country. Then we met in our respective subject committees and went to the villages to see what people wanted from the new constitution. Afterwards the committees began working on preliminary drafts and concept papers.

Will the constitution be written on time?
We must. I've been losing sleep worrying about it. The people have given us an enormous responsibility, haven't they? Every party needs to be aware of that.

What form of rule do you think the country should have?
For a society as diverse as ours we need an executive prime minister and an appointed ceremonial president. That way, tomorrow we can install a dalit as president, which would be difficult if the president were elected like the prime minister.

A parliament or ethnic assembly?
We shouldn't adopt an ethnic assembly, as the Maoists wish. How can we trust them? They didn't make one Dalit a minister and yet they talk about inclusiveness.

How should the provinces be defined?
We should define it on the basis of inclusiveness. We can't assign them haphazardly. We have to distribute regions to the people who really own them. I can't say much about federalism except that the provinces must be autonomous.

How can the state be more inclusive of Dalits?
As human beings, we have rights. The government must do more to fight discriminatory customs.

"70% of the work is done"

Eknath Dhakal, CA member Pariwar Party, Gorkha

How did you spend the last year in the CA?

I'm the only CA member from my party. I'm a member of four CA committees and three parliamentary committees. We've gone to the villages to solicit people's suggestions about the constitution and discussed them within our committees. Four committees have already finished their work.

Some have complained the CA hasn't achieved much in the last year.
The CA's finished 70 per cent of its work. We've established the rules of the CA, the committees, gotten people's suggestions for the constitution and have been writing drafts on the basis of those suggestions. There has been delay so some have been disappointed.

Will we finish the constitution on time?
Yes, we must. The committees still have to iron out some details with regard to federalism, and the form of rule and elections. So, the big party leaders must resolve their differences to finalise the work.

What style of federalism does the Pariwar Party want?
We can't have ethnic federalism. We need to determine the provinces scientifically according to geography and population resources along with ethnicity.

What form of rule should we have?
The Westminster system, where a separation of power is ensured, is best. The prime minister will be held accountable to parliament, and the parliament is held accountable to the people. The Maoists want to use the constitution to establish the basic framework of a people's republic. But, this is not right. Since we're a multi-party democracy, there must be two houses.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)