Bipin Adhikari
Constitutional Law, Governance & Public Policy Issues
Home   About   Contact Us  Archives




 

 


Nepal Consulting Lawyers Inc

B. P. Koirala Archives & Records

What are they waiting for?

Bipin Adhikari
The Kathmandu Post, June 17, 2010
Source: The Kathmandu Post

"It is very dangerous to buy time looking for drastic changes in the balance of power in the country before letting the CA resume its work. To put it more categorically, any attempt towards helping a split in the UCPN (Maoist), supposedly to "rightsize" it in the CA, is a most irresponsible approach to handling the situation. Its breakup into rival forces is not in the interest of Nepal. "

It has already been 20 days since the tenure of the Constituent Assembly (CA) was extended on May 28 for an additional one year. Three days after, on June 1, CA Chairman Subash Nembang, otherwise an unassuming speaker, warned all the political parties represented in the CA that business as usual would not help to write a new constitution.

As he pointed out, strong commitment on the part of all and willingness of the three major parties — the UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and UML — to implement the understanding signed with each other on the midnight of May 28 are the preconditions to get the job done. Since then, 17 days have already passed. But there has been no change either in the attitude or in the temperament or the modus operandi of the major contenders for power. Rather, what was written so clearly in the memorandum of understanding signed in the presence of UML leader Khadga Oli has become undecipherable.

It is not surprising though. Many agreements and understandings that were negotiated and signed in the past had met a similar fate. Agreements should not be signed if they are not going to be kept. A sort of "elitism" in the best sense of the term is so crucial for the success of any venture as demanding as writing a new constitution through a constituent assembly. None of the constitutional conventions, or a CA like ours, has ever succeeded in its mission unless it had proud "elitist" leaders who were a cut above the masses and who had extraordinary skills, abilities and wisdom, or commitment to the principles of public morality, democracy and the virtues of the rule of law.

In many cases, it is the elitist leaders, especially those with charismatic powers, who have helped regain the lost egalitarianism in many societies as the governing principle of the day and not vice versa. This egalitarianism and commitment to the consent of the "governed" provide the moral strength in the process of change. When there are such leaders, vocal and out for these values, they are able to find a democratic exit for the country, whether through the constituent assembly or otherwise.

One such "elite" leader in Nepal who could represent the mass with the strength of his personality and character was B.P. Koirala (1914-82) — probably the only politician in the country who could qualify for the term "statesman". He was far ahead of his time. He practised atheism, defended secularism, advocated emotional (sexual) freedom, opined in favour of euthanasia, pleaded for the right to commit suicide in appropriate cases, and stood for modernity in all aspects of the law and society.

These qualities in him ignited most of the leaders of his generation, yet his life and work had a profound influence on the mental make-up of the nation, its social structure and intellectual development. As long as Koirala was alive, the political system had no other option but to maintain a façade of basic democratic values and nationalism, whatever was the political system of the day. He maintained the terms of the political culture and the processes of change, even though the system and its external patrons were always up to his neck. With his demise in 1982, the country lost a moral authority. The situation has not changed much even now.

When it comes to India, Jawaharlal Nehru (prime minister 1947-64), a highly educated "elite", had a similar impact on the psyche of a newly unified India. He was the answer to the enormous challenges that the Constituent Assembly and several years of transitional problems thereafter that India had to face. Without him, not just his associates like Ambedkar but also Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad would not have been able to steer the CA process forward. The presence of Nehru in the Indian Constituent Assembly was a guarantee for the use of talents like B.N. Rau, the constitutional adviser, and S.N. Mukherjee, the chief draftsman of the Indian constitution. Nehru's enlightened ideas and aspirations remained unchallenged in the assembly, and that provided the guarantee that an aspiring new democracy needed to draft a democratic constitution.

This is true about most of the American founding fathers as well. It was a very different generation by modern standards, but most of them who were taking the lead as signers of the declaration of independence or the framers of the new constitution were a highly motivated "elite" of the day. Whether as politicians or jurists or statesmen or soldiers or diplomats or ordinary citizens, their leadership gave not just a moral character to the changes on behalf of the common people, but also a human face to the changes. What is written in the formal document is one thing, but who have written it for posterity and who are implementing it is also no less important.

The fact that the CA is in limbo and that it is no one's priority has become very clear to everybody in Nepal by now. Who wanted it and for what purpose is also becoming clearer to the educated masses of Nepal. There could be many discussions on whether those who steered the process forward had sustainable options available to them. There could be a number of charges against the existing leadership, their professional abilities, and their concept of right and wrong, and also the sense of change. But the most basic thing is that the CA must produce a constitution amid all these challenges and help the country emerge from the existing mess. A change in government, and more clearly, implementation of the three-point understanding of May 28 is crucial for this purpose.

It is very dangerous to buy time looking for drastic changes in the balance of power in the country before letting the CA resume its work. To put it more categorically, any attempt towards helping a split in the UCPN (Maoist), supposedly to "rightsize" it in the CA, is a most irresponsible approach to handling the situation. Its breakup into rival forces is not in the interest of Nepal.

lawyers_inc_nepal@yahoo.com


Copyright @ Bipin Adhikari,