“Few Signs Of Progress Towards Constitution”


Sept. 24, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.4, No.-08 September 24-October 7, 2010

After working in the process of constitution making by raising awareness at the grassroots level and building public opinion, MIREST-Nepal published a book incorporating various aspects of constitution making, SURESH ACHARYA, president of MIREST –Nepal, spoke to New Spotlight on the background of his book.  Excerpts:

The first phase of constitution making is completed following the finalization of thematic committee reports. What role will the organizations like yours need to play now?
Of course, there are 11 reports of thematic committees but nobody knows what is going on. Constitution making process has been derailed. Nobody is taking care where Nepal’s historic constitution making process is because the forces which drive the constitution making process don’t want to take ownership of the process. There is more uncertainty now because of this.

Who are responsible for this?
Political parties which raised the issue of constituent assembly are responsible for this. I am surprised why no political party has shown the guts by publicly expressing their complete ownership over the process. What is lacking now is the ownership. There are confusions among the people about the question of ownership.

If parties do not take ownership, why did they agree to extend the CA tenure?
Of course, the tenure of CA was extended for a year. One has to accept the fact that it was extended by force and the process was confusing. Many questions are raised about the political legitimacy, constitutional legitimacy and moral authority of the extended CA. There are questions as to whether the extended CA has the legitimate right or not.

If that is the case, why is there no opposition against it?
People accepted this decision to prevent chaos and uncertainty. For stability and peace, everyone accepted the extension. Look at political parties, they seem to be enjoying with the situation, it is unfortunate that even after completion of one fourth of the extended tenure, the process of constitution writing has not rolled.

Do you mean CA meetings have not taken place after its extension?
After the extension of the tenure, the CA held only one meeting, that too to endorse the amended working procedure. It was amended 11 times in the past and this was the 12th amendment. No meeting has taken place since then.

If that is so, what is the rationality behind this CA if it does not function?
This is a very unfortunate situation. Thanks to the inaction of political parties and CA members, these kinds of questions are raised now. Political parties and CA members have to take the responsibility for this. Had they worked sincerely, the constitution making process would have reached a different stage.

In the past, the civil society used to stage demonstrations, what is its role now?
The function of legislature is to produce the government, law and constitution. However, Nepal’s legislature and CA failed to deliver these all. In this context, it is not unnatural to raise questions about the legitimacy and rationality of the existence of this body. If it does not fulfill its obligation, everyone can ask why to keep such a legislature which has neither produced the government nor the constitution. The political leaders and CA members have to take the responsibility for this. CA members are directly responsible to the people and they have to reply to them.

Do you believe the CA will draft the new constitution?
Looking at the present trend, I don’ think it will produce the constitution. There is no sign at all. For the past four months, the Constituent Assembly has not summoned any meeting. I want to question those 601 elected CA members and 27 political parties what they had promised to the people. They failed to work in accordance with the mandate. People were very encouraged when political parties said that they will deliver progressive and inclusive constitution to the country.

If the situation prolongs, how do you foresee the future?
If people continue to get frustrated, they will go after CA members. Some CA members even expressed worries about the growing disenchantment among the people. CA needs to produce a constitution at any cost. People have tolerated everything for the sake of peace and stability. People accepted the decision to declare federal republic by amending the Interim Constitution before holding the elections of CA. This is too much for them.

Do you think the new constitution promulgated by the CA will last for long?
Given the present political trend, even if the constitution is made, there will be nobody to take the ownership. It will generate more conflicts and the constitution will be scrapped. After making the constitution, there is a possibility of a lot of opposition. This is going to be a more dangerous situation.

Do you mean both the candidates, Maoist leader Prachanda and NC leader Poudel, have lost the confidence of CA?
Given the results, both have lost their support in parliament. In a situation when both of them failed to garner support of half of the parliamentarians, both the candidates have to withdraw their candidacies.

It is said that they cannot do it legally and constitutionally. What do you say?
If there is no legal procedure to withdraw the candidacy, both of them need to resign from the CA membership. Legally, they cannot withdraw the candidature. What they need to do is to resign from the membership to give an outlet to the present deadlock. 

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