The old Abraham Lincoln saying about peoples’ reaction ended with the words, ‘You can’t fool ALL the people ALL the time.’
All categories of senior leaders in our country have been giving their diktats to us Nepalis for a long time saying this and that. The constitution which King Tribhuvan had promised to the people was shelved once he returned to Nepal from New Delhi. Next came King Mahendra’s turn with the Ivor Jennings / Rishikesh Shah written constitution which lasted till Jana Andolan I and was replaced by the Krishna P Bhattaria / Nirmal Lama co-scripted version which was said to be ‘the best in the World’. That too has been replaced by the ‘Interim Constitution’ and we are in the process of writing a new one, which hopefully will be better than any which has ever been brought out in Nepal. The underlying fact is that we have been struggling with our constitution making since the last five years and as per the Nepali saying it is “Stuck in our gullet and we are neither in a position to swallow nor to puke it,”
The trouble in this land of ours is that the old order of politicians has always felt that the country owes them a living for all time. They are trying to implement and even make permanent the Western saying ‘From the cradle to the grave’ or rather ‘the burning ghats’ a truism in Nepal. One could counter this saying by stating that the Maoist activities, besides leading to much bloodshed in the country, had also brought fresh blood into the political horizon. It is these new leaders who are mostly in the political fray now. That whilst true has led to a situation where, as they say, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ How else can one explain the proposal of former PM Babu Ram when he suggested that all former PMs be given a house, pensions and body guards for life? Thankfully his proposal was not accepted by many of his compatriots on the opposite benches. Perhaps JF Kennedy’s saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country” should be the new mantra.
The fact is that all politicians are of a similar genetic breed and even if they had been of different colours e.g. red, green, blue, neutral or Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Socialist, Republican or Communist, once they taste the trappings of power, they tend to lose their different characteristics. They tend to merge, their objectives blunted, their colours a bland grey and they speak in similar language. It is simply, ‘How can I come to power, be it by dam-dum, or hook by crook.’ Once in the saddle, now that there is no throne here and we are a martial race, the solution is to hold on as long as possible.
When our current PM Sushilji, came to occupy the coveted position both he and his two Deputy PMs had said that there would be local elections in six months’ time. It has now been 18 years since these were last held but the fact is that because of this lack of opportunity, no new young leaders have been able to emerge from the country at large. The country is awaiting someone with the calibre of a ‘Jung Bahadur’ but no one is able to emerge. At first the election commission seemed ready to act but now seems to have fallen by the wayside. The PM and his two deputies have been eerily silent during these last two months. Perhaps the thought of the SAARC conference and their involvement had not only tempered them but sapped their energies. They will perhaps now revert back to saying that the constitution will come out by 22nd January though they know in their hearts that this is highly unlikely.
During the course of the recent 18th SAARC Summit our former PM BRB met with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and following their tete-a-tete the two suggested that the answer to both the Afghan and Nepali situations is Unity Governments in both countries for the next 10-20 years. This all shows how simple and inconsequential we common folk are to politicians. It means also that all politicians are ‘birds of similar feathers’ having ‘corresponding wavelength’ with the ability to take the gullible public for a ride.
What must be noted is that the first charter of political and civil liberties started with the Magna Carta in the England of 1215 AD. Surprisingly that country has functioned during the last 800 years without a constitution, which to us in this part of the world is a prime requisite.
Some confederacy states of America after gaining independence in 1778 prepared a constitution by 1781 and implemented it in 1789 with just seven original articles, ten original amendments (Bill of Rights). It now has 17 amendments and is said to be the shortest written constitution.
The French revolution of 1789 lasted for ten years. Since then the country, because of its varied political situations has, gone through a number of different constitutions.
Image Channel has recently shown a programme on the making of the Indian Sambhidan and the tribulations that it went through. It should be understood by every Nepali that the document which our Constituent Assembly is expected to bring out is not for eternity. It will surely need periodic amendments in the future.