By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
Almost every other politician in Nepal is predicting a doom’s day after May 27th of this year, if the draft constitution is not finalised and approved by then. On would like to ask- What were they doing till now then?
See some of the statements made by the leaders:
1.Kamal Thapa of RPP: The Armed Forces in the country would seize power taking advantage of the uncertainty after May 27- the deadline for promulgation of the new constitution.
2. Jhalanath Khanal: Disaster is looming, given the current stalemate that is largely the outcome of the Maoist non compliance to past accords. The PLA integration process and constitution writing might not be completed on time and the country could plunge into anarchy . . .
3. Prime Minister Bhattarai: If the Constitution is not ready by May 28, over 50,000 people may die in the country.
Pressed for time, on February 24, the top leaders of the three major parties decided to distribute work among themselves so as to address the outstanding issues related to peace and constitution making processes.
According to this decision, Dahal will prepare a concrete proposal on ways to conclude peace process, including integration of Maoist combatants, while Koirala the leader of Nepali Congress will prepare a plan for the formation of different commissions. Madhav Nepal of UML is supposed to work on finding a solution to disputed issues relating to the new constitution.
While Dahal has made progress, it looks that the other two are still struggling with their problems!
Now the slow pace of constitution making is being blamed on the tough procedure laid out in Article 70 of the interim constitution on contentious issues and too late in the day the Speaker Nembang is suggesting that the article is to be amended!
This article entails the CA to get the contentious provisions passed through a two thirds majority if the consultation mechanism fails. But before that, all contentious issues on which unanimous consensus is not reached should be referred to a mechanism comprising party leaders of all leaders represented in the CA. The leaders will get 15 days time to forge a consensus on each of the provisions.
It is not the article that is standing in the way of expediting the constitution but the failure of the politicians. Instead we see the leaders issuing alarming statements predicting doom after May 27th. If there is going to be doom- real or imaginary it is the politicians who should take the blame.
On the integration of the PLA, it should be conceded that there has been some progress. By February 11th, the discharge of the combatants who opted for voluntary retirement was completed. The process of merging of the satellite camps into main ones has also been started.
In view of the reservations of other leaders, both Dahal and Bhattarai have agreed to conclude the peace process before moving forward on constitution making. But the process has since been stalled on the question of assigning ranks to the personnel who are fit and who are to be integrated into the Nepalese Army.
Rank assignment appears to be the main sticking point in integration. There is no doubt that in the integration of one third of the Maoists in the new Directorate, the Maoists will be entitled to one third of the higher posts. The issue is of giving at least one rank of a Brigadier for the ex combatants that is being strongly opposed by other parties. Even here, Dahal has promised to adopt a flexible stance on rank determination.
Some of the Maoist combatant leaders had shown extraordinary leadership in both strategy and tactics. A way could be found to give them honorary ranks to retain their services and use their expertise in some form.
The Maoists have their own internal problems in dealing with their PLA personnel. One major issue that has risen is that of 3000 and odd PLA personnel who were transferred to the YCL, more to bolster the latter for use in the elections. These fighters have not only been deprived of their regular salaries in the last few years but also the handsome amounts they would have received on their discharge now. I am sure the party has enough funds to pay them their dues.
While the peace process may be well on the way to a state where the integration is irreversible, it looks that the politicians will not be able to finalise the constitution within the deadline. Fundamental issues like the form of government, division of the states on ethnic lines are yet to be resolved.
There will be no “dooms day” after May 27th but the law makers cannot go on indefinitely extending their own tenure and that of the interim parliament!