Former speaker of the House of Representatives DAMAN NATH DHUNGANA, who played a role of moderator in a series of failed Maoist and government talks before 2006, was a member of Nepali Congress. He remains as an active member of the civil society. At a time when there is uncertainty about the peace process and constitution writing, Dhungana spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues. Excerpts:
Political parties are arguing over the numbers, ranks and integration process, how do you foresee the future of the process?
We celebrated peace day on November 21. However, the government and political parties did not remember it at all. Prime minister Dr.Baburam Bhattarai attended our celebration. I suggested to him that he had twin responsibilities to promulgate the new constitution and conclusion of peace process by May 27. The prime minister also agreed with me.
As the leaders of major political parties are condemning the recent verdict of Supreme Court, how do you look at this?
There is nothing negative in the court’s verdict. Actually, the recent court verdict helps to make progress in constitution writing process. The court is confident that the CA will promulgate the constitution by May 27. Even CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has been saying that they can write the constitution within five months as they had completed such tasks in less than three months in 1990.
The Government and Constituent Assembly Secretariat are preparing to register a review petition. How do you look at it?
Political parties should concentrate on constitution writing rather than moving petition for review. They don’t need to go for court to file petition. As a senior constitutional lawyer, I would like to suggest them that their right to petition will not expire. Court will give them another time if they go to court with progress in their work. I think the court is always in favor of writing the constitution. This is not a legal issue but the question related to work. Court is also part of our movement and I don’t think it will create any hurdle in constitution writing process.
How do you see CA’s decision to go for review?
They need to do their own review not the review of the verdict of Supreme Court. If parties work sincerely in the coming five months and even then they fail to complete the process, we will request the court to give some extensions. Court has never closed its doors. When Nepali Congress is saying that it cannot support the writing of the constitution without completion of peace process and Maoists have been saying they will not reintegrate their combatants till the promulgation of the new constitution, you are locking horns on this issue. There is no way out.
As political parties have already extended the tenure of CA by about two years, why do they fail to promulgate the new constitution?
Nepalese political parties are yet to have a consensus on the form of government even six years after Janandolan II, five years after signing the comprehensive peace agreement and four years after the elections of CA. It is strange to see debates among political parties over presidential or parliamentary system.
How do you see the peace process given the growing conflict?
Our peace process is heading towards conflict. Our political leaders are debating on numbers, ranks and modality for integration. Our peace process seems to be creating enough spaces for conflict mongers. If they cannot take a minor administrative decision to integration of Maoist combatants, it is foolishness to believe that they will settle the constitutional disputes. Integration is just an issue of administrative nature. It should not have taken five years to settle the issue of integration of combatants. It is just a matter of a day. If you can hold the elections of CA, abolish the monarchy and make the country inclusive, why did not you integrate 6000 combatants. The way political parties are working amounts to a treason.
If CA members extend their tenure ignoring court’s verdict, what will be the consequences?
There will be another people’s uprising in case they fail to promulgate the constitution and conclude the peace process.
Who do you blame for the present uncertainty?
I cannot blame general members but leaders of political parties are responsible for the present state. Prime ministers, political leaders and CA officials in responsible position are responsible for this. They are creating the mess. The CA should not be made a play ground to fulfill the wishes of the aspirants of prime minister.
How do you see the proposal for next extension?
People cannot accept such extension without proper reason. If you are not sincere to the revolutionary cause, we can call another rebellion directed against the present set of political leaders. We can instigate people against four or five parties. We still want to see the present set of political leaders to address the present problems.
What solution do you have for present model of CA?
There are several models calling fresh elections for new CA or replacing members of all proportionally elected persons, downsizing the number of members, reducing the present size, making high level political bodies and so on. You can remodel within existing CA without making it defunct. If there is possibility of repair, do it. People raised the voice against 1990 constitution, when it was not reparable. However, one has to work with the letter and spirit of the political change of 2006/07.
If present CA fails to promulgate the new constitution, what you will do?
After May 27, I am going to people opposing this CA. I will call people to join against it. I will call all people to come against the parties which failed to promulgate the constitution.
Don’t you think it promotes the regressive forces?
Nobody wants to go backward. I don’t think there is any possibility to revive monarchy or other regressive system. Republic, Federalism and inclusiveness are fundamental parts of the change. Revival of monarchy, previous forms of unitary state and previous constitution is impossible.
How do you see the recent debates on transitional justice system?
Political leaders have not thought about the peace process. Political leaders are betraying us. Who had stopped four major political parties to make Disappearance Commission, Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Looking at all their acts what I can say is that they don’t have the commitment towards the peace process and constitution writing. The way political leaders have functioned shows that they are very much liable to treason.
How do you view the question of blanket amnesty?
There is no question for blanket amnesty. We will oppose such move. Instead of working to establish Truth and Reconciliation Commission to see the crimes committed during the conflict, they are now proposing blanket amnesty. There seem to be compromises between Maoists and one faction of the state which don’t want TRC. It is just a bankruptcy of Nepali Congress and CPN-UML not to stand against blanket amnesty. I think Madhesh based parties, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have proposed TRC. Many of their workers were killed in heinous crimes.
Why is there the need TRC?
Without the formation of TRC, one cannot heal the wounds of conflict. Healing the wound is important. A person likes to know why my children and wife were killed. After agreement of both the parties, then comes the issue of forget and forgive. We are party to international human rights including many conventions endorsed by UN. We have committed to such conventions. If we don’t abide by such conventions, our country will be declared as a pariah state.
What is the way out?
There is the need to seat all major political parties together. They have to identify national problems. If there is a solution within the House, they have to address them. If the CA is not sufficient for this alone, they have to summon the broader meeting of political parties and parties in the power should summon the round table meeting.
What do you suggest as a solution after May 27?
In such circumstances, forming a transitional government headed by an outstanding figure with the commitment to peace process or a person who is not a leader of political parties will be a way out. He may act like a judge. He should have the commitment to progress and should be forward looking. . Current activities of political parties and leaders indicate that sky may fall but they will never complete the peace process and constitution writing. Even if there is the need for another extension of Constituent Assembly, there is the need to change model of government.
Is it possible to run the country without involvement of political parties?
Political parties will be there in the government but they have to give up prime minister to apolitical person. Such government should have national character with inclusion of all former prime minister, representatives of Adibashi, Janjati, Dalit, Madheshi and women.
Political leaders have been saying that they will promulgate the constitution and complete the peace process. Don’t you believe them?
Given last four years of experiences one can draw the conclusion that the government led by political leader cannot complete the twin tasks. We have already seen that political factionalism within the party prevented the peace process. Time has come for party leadership to come out of the box. They are in the conflict magnifying process. Those who are in the peace process, they should do auditing, monitoring and institutionalizing it.
What concerns you the most?
People are impatient because they did not get dividend of peace and change. Globally, the new trend of mass uprising is emerging like that of April uprising of Arabian countries. In such an uprising, nobody knows the leaders and organizations. If such uprising happened, nobody will be certain as to whether the current change will be undone. We are very much concerned about such a scenario.