“Elections Have To Be Inclusive” Claudia Roth

As German Parliament’s Vice President Claudia Roth visited Nepal last week, she spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:

April 23, 2017, 9:52 p.m.

How do you see the local level elections?

It is really good to know Nepal is holding the local body elections. Since local governments are a little bit flexible, people will get the delivery of service at their doorsteps. Local level election is a foundation of democracy. As a member of green party, we consider grass root level democracy is very important for a country like Nepal.

How do you see the environmental challenges of Nepal?

When I was flying from Bhutan to Nepal, I saw many beautiful Himalayan peaks including Mt. Everest. However, it is unfortunate that glaciers are melting as well. I saw a very little snow in the high mountains. Nepal’s Himalayas are the third pole. Snow melting will really do a great harm to Nepal and South Asian countries as well. Climate change is threatening Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh badly.

How do you see the impact of climate change in Nepal?

Nepal needs to send a loud and clear voice to the world community that Nepal is really under a threat of climate change. If the steps are not taken, Nepal will face a harsher situation.  We borrowed the world from forefathers and we need to hand it over to our children. What newly elected US president says about climate change, it is a reality now. US president Donald Trump should be invited to Nepal to show him how snow is melting from the Himalayas and how it is retreating fast. German parliament is in a strong favor of Paris Climate deal and Sustainable Development Goals.

What is your impression about the air quality?

What I encountered is a growing air pollution in Kathmandu and we are ready to cooperate with Nepal to improve the situation. Right now what I see is the air pollution is really a great threat to health of children. You must do something to improve the quality of air. If things continue like this, tourists arrival will definitely decline. Nepal needs to work out for green economy and sustainable development.

How do you see the challenges?

As Nepal lies in the active earthquake zone and Nepal’s Himalayas are very vulnerable to climate change, it is likely to face many disasters in the coming days. At a time when the glaciers are melting fast, Nepal will have to even face water scarcity in future. Germans are not experts on all matters. You people may have more knowledge on climate change and disasters. Nepalese are facing tremendous challenges.

How do you see the impacts?

Tens of thousands of Nepalese are working in foreign countries, particularly Gulf. If there are more incidents of glacier melting, more people will move from mountains as refugees.

How do you see the state of Nepal?

Nepal’s neighborhood is more difficult than our neighborhood in Germany. You have two big neighbors and you are in between them. I don’t need to explain what it means. Since your existing position is very difficult, Nepalese need to unite internally to overcome the challenges. Only unity among all Nepalese can help to sustain Nepal. Instead of fighting for this and that, Nepalese political forces need to compromise.

Do you think the elections can be held?

People are desperately waiting for the May 14 elections. Many people are casting their votes for the first time in their life. But the elections must be inclusive and all the political forces, ethnic groups, regional groups need to be brought together to the elections. Every election is important but it must be inclusive. There is the need to give opportunity for all communities to take part in the elections.  It is good to see all young people’s eagerness to exercise their democratic rights.  I want to call on all political leaders from my heart to make the elections inclusive, leaving no groups or region behind.

How do you see the constitution of Nepal?

No constitution is perfect. There is the need to amend it from time to time to make it perfect. Constitution is a good basis for an inclusive and just society.  The constitution has to give equal rights. When I met the president of Nepal, she said four fundamental changes in Nepal were its republican, federal, inclusive and secular characteristics. Nepal is a federalist state and it is not easy. From Germany’s experiences, what I can say is that federalism is a very difficult form of government. There are so many groups and minorities in Nepal. Nepal needs federalism for united Nepal.

It is said that this constitution guarantees the rights of minorities including Dalits, Muslims, indigenous ethnic groups and Madheshis. How do you look at it?

Writing in paper alone cannot guarantee rights and equality. There is the need to implement them. I would like to request all politicians of Nepal to work together to make Nepal really inclusive and hold the elections with guaranteed of participation of all.

How do you see the transitional justice in Nepal?

Germans are very concerned about the transitional justice in Nepal, including those victims of violent insurgency, including the disappeared. What I want to say is that just forget the past. Whoever may be, the perpetuators and human rights violators need to be brought to justice. Germany has very bad history and we don’t want to see such things repeated in any part of the world. It is important to remember past for the better future. There is a need to close the past events through delivering the justice to the victims of rights violation and crime. You cannot close your years of violence without giving due compensation and bringing all perpetrators and rights violators before justice.

What do you mean by this?

There is the need to give justice to the family and there is the need to have accountability from both the sides. There is the need to give justice to make the country peaceful and harmonious. Impunity should not be allowed. There is the need to give justice to all to unify society. There is the need to have proper law and commissions should be given free hand to deal with the transitional justice so that the reconciliation process goes properly.  The issue of child soldier is yet to settle. Although the issue has already been dealt with, the children are still in trauma.

How do you see the state of foreign workers of Nepal?

We have talked so much about the Nepalese foreign workers in Gulf countries, particularly in Qatar. Nepalese agencies also need to be made accountable in the process of sending the Nepalese workers abroad. Your government should now allow Nepalese workers to go under Kafala system, which is a modern kind of slavery. We take this issue very seriously in our parliament and urge the Gulf countries to be responsible and address the issue.

How do you see the global political order with the rise of right populist following the Breixt and elections of US given the forthcoming major elections in three European countries?

The rise of rights and recent elections results showed that the world is not heading towards a better place. So far are coming election in France and Germany is concerned, I am sure that liberal and moderate forces will win. Right wing lost the elections in The Netherlands and Austria. As the recent elections in Netherland and Austria, where rights were defeated by the moderates, these moderate and liberal trends will continue in the continental Europe. We need a strong democratic Europe with certain changes. We have parties with anti-European stands, racists and rightists and they are dangerous as well. The elections results of the United Kingdom leaving the European was shocking for us as well as shocking for younger generation in Britain as well. I am quite optimistic that liberal democratic force will lead the world. We don’t need dictators like North Korea to continue to threaten Europe. The Referendum of Turkey called by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will also harm the world.

Nepal has reservation for women and marginalized. What about Germany?

We have around 30 percent women representatives in Germany. We don’t have any quota system in constitution. Our parties have been making efforts for this. Our Green Party allocates 53 percent for women.

Is there anything more you want to say about the constitution of Nepal?

Constitution is a process. Everybody has to abide by it. Constitution is like a bible. I do hope that Nepalese will take place in the constitutional process. I was told that the constitution was promulgated with the support from 90 percent of elected representatives of Constituent Assembly. However, this alone is not sufficient to prove its legitimacy. As long as Madheshis and Janjatis do not feel accommodated in the process, there remains the question of legitimacy. All parliamentarians and political leaders need to go to villages of mountains, hills and terai to say what there is in the constitution of Nepal. One does not need to be afraid of criticism.

Don’t you think this constitution is legitimate?

Yes, large numbers of representatives voted for the constitution in the Constituent Assembly. However, Madheshi parties, which are representing Madhesh, were not included in the process. Election is important. However, it is meaningless as long as Madheshis, which consist of large areas and population, continue to boycott it. It is the duty of politicians to overcome this. It is for the sake of Nepalese people, there is the need to overcome the challenges. There should be compromise. If you will not compromise, the disputes will escalate. If Madheshis and Janjatis oppose the elections, it will raise the legitimacy of elections process again. There will be more political polarization.

Have you visited the Gulf countries?

Germany’s parliamentary delegation visited the Gulf countries and met the workers from Nepal and other South Asian countries, including Pakistan and India. The government of your country needs to take care of them. We have also written a letter to the German Football Association, appraising the state of foreign workers in Qatar. We are concerned about the labor rights and worker rights. Workers are living in a terrible situation.  If our companies working in the region do not respect the rights of workers, German government will take stern actions. Worker conditions should be as per the directives given by ILO.

What do you have to add on climate change?

Climate change is really affecting the mountains of Nepal. When I was flying from Bhutan, I clearly saw the snow disappearing from mountains. India and China are also burning a lot of coal and Nepal is suffering from the pollution from both your neighbors. In China, the worsening air pollution has already affected 300 million people. The situation is not good either in India. Climate crisis will change everything around the world.


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