Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
The king holds the key

How was the 1991 constitution finalised?
The interim government had two prime responsibilities: to frame a new constitution and to hold general elections. The former had to be done first. Hence, a constitutional advisory commission was formed under the chairmanship of Biswanath Upadhyaya. Kishunji, Nilambar Acharya, Yog Prasad Upadhaya and I were appointed to give the constitution its final touch. Our meeting was held confidentially at the office of the forest department in Godavari, eight days before the constitution was made public. We used a taxi instead of a government vehicle just to avoid detection. We discussed each section in detail and came across a section that said 'in case of two-third majority in the parliament there can be a referendum for a republic'. This was unacceptable to us. The country could not afford another crisis. When democracy had just been established it would be unhealthy to start a referendum for a republic or monarchy system. We came to the conclusion that the section should be changed.

How did you settle that?
I shared my concern with Ganeshmanji. He shared similar concerns with Kishunji and the next day, I worked with the commission team and we concluded that democracy, constitutional monarchy, human rights and rule of law would remain unchanged. We also agreed that besides these four, other sections would be amended if a consensus was reached with two-third majority in the parliament. In this way, the constitutional monarchy was included in which the king would protect and adhere to the newly framed constitution.

And everyone agreed?
There was a debate about the management of the Royal Nepali Army. As per the constitution, the National Security Council had been formed and there was much discussion about membership. One group proposed that the prime minister be made chairperson with the army chief and defence minister as members. Another group disagreed and suggested that the council add the field marshal also as member. There were disagreements over majority of military representatives in the council. Ultimately, it was agreed that the field marshal would not be included. The constitution team decided that the king would be supreme commander of the army and the army would be mobilised on his recommendation. It was said that army generals put pressure on the prime minister because of differences in opinion about council membership. They expressed dissatisfaction about protocol of the chief of army. They proposed that Nepal should be made a Hindu nation.

What are the shortcomings of the constitution in the present context?
The prime minister has the right to dissolve parliament but the constitution also says that he should hold elections within six months. There is no mention of any provision in the constitution about what happens when elections are not held within the stipulated time, which is why Article 127 was used and has caused complications.

So how do we resolve this?
This step was taken to find a way out of the present constitutional crisis. The king has shown his respect towards the constitution and has approved all decisions made according to legal provisions by the ministerial cabinet. He has been constantly supporting restoration of peace in the country and wants to see elections held. Since 4 October, we have had three prime ministers but none of them was able to hold elections.

So What is the solution?
Definitely not by constantly changing prime ministers. The king has to take steps to preserve the nation. He will take important steps after his visit to India if the political parties fail to do something by then. I don't see any possibility of Prime Minister Deuba restoring peace and holding elections. The king can solve the national problem himself either by forming an advisory assembly or by chairing the cabinet.

Do you think the Maoist problem can be solved within the existing constitution?
There is no need for a new constitution. The constitution is not an obstacle to bringing the Maoists into mainstream politics.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)