Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Pushing the finishing line


Editorial in Annapurna Post, 23 May

At a time when Nepalis should have been congratulating each other and celebrating an important milestone, we are in a limbo once again. The CA deadline is less than hundred hours away, and we are uncertain whether the new constitution will be drafted or if there will be another extension. And looking at the events of the past few weeks, the country's unity and ethnic harmony are now in danger.

The major parties have been running away from sensitive debates of state restructuring, and focusing more on the forms of governance. The truth is that state restructuring is one of the core reasons for formulating a new constitution. The constitution was supposed to address issues of ethnic, regional and gender inequality. But even in four long years, the parties have been unable to find a common ground on how to go about restructuring the country. Although it seemed like the parties had finally come to an understanding on carving out federal states based on ethnic identities, they once again failed to stand their ground.

In addition to our leaders' indecisiveness, we are having to deal with volatile identity politics which has not only divided political circles but also baffled ordinary Nepalis. The public has come to believe that only a single ethnic community will be allowed to live in each of the future ethnic provinces. And none of the leaders have bothered to explain to the people that we are not building countries within the country, but rather states within the country.

It is vital to understand that different ethnic groups are not actually demanding ethnic states. All they want is greater recognition and equal rights which the old system of districts and regions failed to deliver. These sentiments were also echoed during Janandolan of 2006, but today the debate is tinged with deep communal overtones. However, Nepalis must keep in mind that regardless of the name, future federal states will have to accommodate the country's political, social and cultural structure.

Federalism and communalism cannot coexist, but at the same time it is not enough to just say we are all equal. We must turn our words into actions and start respecting ethnic identities, providing full rights to minorities and ending all forms of discrimination. The parties too have a critical role to play during this difficult transition and they must not let the opportunity pass because of their egos.

Editorial in Nepal Samacharpatra, 24 May

Six months after the Supreme Court verdict about the final extension, Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha has tried to defend the government's proposal to extend the CA deadline once again by arguing that the SC verdict must be understood in its essence which means drafting of the statute must happen. Shrestha and others who toe similar line may sound convincing, but the government's proposal has failed to impress the public in the wake of the apex court's rejection of extension appeal.

The rule of law and principle of judicial and constitutional supremacy require that judicial rulings be upheld and respected. In this regard, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai must heed to President Ram Baran Yadav's advice and act in accordance with the SC verdict. It is important to maintain the balance of power between the three state organs to ensure that we do not set the wrong precedent which might lead to a power struggle among the three. Even though the extension seems both unavoidable and necessary, it must be done in a way that does not lower the stature of judiciary.

One way of doing this, as some have suggested is for the president to untie the deadlock using his prerogative powers. This move will help diffuse the present crisis, but is a risky move nonetheless and raises suspicion. The sensible choice would be to make the most of the next 100 hours to thresh out the remaining issues and declare the constitution on 27 May. If the intent is there, 100 hours are more than enough.

Editorial in Nagarik, 24 May

Parties are at loggerheads on extending the CA's term. The Maoists and Madhesi alliance have made it clear that the constitution can't be drafted within 27 May and extension is inevitable. The NC and UML, on the other hand, have opposed the extension proposal saying it transgresses the Supreme Court's verdict. But both the NC and UML are willing to support the extension if Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai resigns from his post. It is clear that their objection to CA's extension has nothing to do with constitutional correctness and they are simply bargaining for political power.

We are standing at a critical juncture and parties should work to forge consensus instead of engaging in petty power play. If the parties are serious, we can still have an agreement on main issues of the constitution before 27 May. Of course it will take some time to draft the statute once there is an understanding are which is why we need an extension. In three months we can declare a constitution that will address the valid demands of minorities. If the Supreme Court does not want us to be constitution-less, it should have no problem supporting the extension if agreements on contentious issues can be reached before 27 May.

There is no point declaring a new constitution in haste just to meet the deadline. Politicians are now talking about due process and legalities when all this time they flouted it. A constitution is not just a legal document. It should reflect the aspirations of people and instill a sense of ownership. And it will be foolish and immature to issue a constitution that does not accommodate the demands of ethnic minorities.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)