By: Shashi P.B.B. Malla
Last Friday was a black day in Nepal’s history. The so-called ‘interim parliament’ passed an amendment to the likewise ‘interim constitution’ which will make Nepal a ‘federal democratic republic’ after the elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA). That is to say, the very first session of the CA is to make this declaration. However, there are many imponderables and hurdles on this road map of the Gang of Seven (the six party alliance and the Maoists or SPAM).
This spurious third amendment of the counterfeit ‘constitution’ (how can, for instance, any democratic constitution worth the name enshrine the name of the current seven ruling parties?) was voted for by 270 of the 321 existing members, in large measure comprising largely those from the three biggest political parties represented-the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-United Marxists-Leninists(UML) and the CPN-Maoist. It is a matter of great shame that only three members-Pashupati Shumsher J.B. Rana and Krishna Pratap Malla of the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Pari Thapa of the CPN-United voted against the proposal. Four members, two from the Rashtriya Janashakti Party-former PM Surya Bahadur Thapa and Renu Yadav, and two from the Sadbhawana Party-Rajendra Mahato and Yagya Jit Shah, boycotted the vote. Very interestingly, a large number of 44 members, including Taranath Ranabhat of the NC, K.P. Oli and Jhala Nath Khanal of the CPN-UML were absent during the voting. This can be interpreted as a major vote of no confidence.
The amendment-to be formerly endorsed by the first meeting of the elected CA-failed miserably to address the issues raised by the ethnic groups in the Terai-the Madhesis and also other Janjatis. Second, and above all as Surya Bahadur Thapa and Pashupati Shumsher voiced the true sentiments of the common people and so eloquently condemned the whole proceedings as “a blatant assault on the people’s right to exercise sovereign powers”. Ashutosh Shrivastav writing from Texas in the United States (in: NepalOfficers@yahoogroups.com) strongly condemned the violation of the constitutional process by declaring the country a republic without the mandate of the people. This treacherous behaviour of the parties in power had in fact raped democracy in the so-called name of the people. He also contrasted King Mahendra’s supreme contribution in the preservation of Nepal’s sovereignty and his balanced foreign policy with the Gang of Seven’s dangerous game of kowtowing to India. Tilak B. Shrestha, Ph.D. from Alabama, USA was even more specific (also in NepalOfficers): ” This is a simple case of the threat of Maoists, duplicity of UML and cowardice of NC” and would certainly lead to the disfranchisement of the people.
As has been highlighted in this journal, the de facto declaration of a republic has now taken place; the so-called ‘formal’ completion after the CA-elections is just a smoke screen. In the well-tried and tested salami tactics, the functions and privileges of the King and head of state were already usurped by caretaker PM Girija Koirala. This has also been formalized by the said amendment, which also laid down that the CA could not ‘restore’ monarchy. Thus, the people have been side-lined. Now Maoist honcho Dahal (aka Prachanda) and minister and NC vice-chairman Poudel have independently of each other claimed that the republic is now reality in practice, and the CA confirmation a mere formality-after all both are of the same feather. Poudel was even contemptuous enough to call for the King to abdicate voluntarily. Poudel, like others of his ilk makes two major blunders: first, he is unable to distinguish the person from the institution; and second, the last word has not yet been said, but Poudel is already counting his chickens.
Where does all this leave us, the people? Considering the antics of SPAM, there can be no doubt that if we are to exercise our fundamental human and civic rights, we must forge ahead and take the initiative for decisive action. This is especially imperative, as there is no guarantee that the CA-elections will take place in the near future, or at all, and even if they do that, they will not be manipulated to the advantage of the Gang of Seven. How much or how little SPAM thinks of the democratic process can be judged from the fact that UML boss Madhav Nepal (aka Makune) has demanded the reservation of seats in the elections for the top guns of the authoritarian ruling syndicate.
The need of the hour is a grand alliance of all true democrats and independent civil society and of the Madhesis and Janjatis that have been terribly let down by the current government and the governing political parties that not only reign but also rule in a most autocratic manner. The immediate purpose must be to start a genuine people’s movement to win back the people’s inherent rights that have been usurped by SPAM. It should not be at all difficult to find leaders that are willing and able to shed their personal and political differences in the larger interests of the nation. Such leaders like Surya Bahadur Thapa, Pashupati Shumsher, Ram Raja Prasad Singh, Prakash Koirala and Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohini come readily to mind.
The first order of business of this ‘coalition of the willing’ in the international New Year 2008 (it is indeed no point waiting for the Nepalese New Year 2065, as the current government and constituent parties are absolutely incorrigible) would be to demand the dissolution of the now defunct, so-called ‘interim parliament’. Like a faithful and old dog, it has outlived its usefulness. It has performed it’s rubber-stamp functions in an impeccable manner. It has also become an unnecessary burden on the national exchequer. Now that elections have already been proposed for the middle of April 08, the raison d’etre for the ‘interim parliament’ has completely vanished.
However, there does remain a sneaking doubt whether SPAM is at all serious about the CA-elections. After all, they must be having serious doubts about their own performance since they took over power. The loose talk about elections may very well turn out to be a sop for the international community.
Second, the ‘interim constitution’ itself has turned out to be an instrument of manipulation in the hands of the politicians of SPAM. It does not deserve to be respected in any way. It is of no use any more to SPAM, and is of no importance to the country at large. If the people’s delegates are going to draft a new constitution in any case, it can be dispensed with immediately. It is worthless as a document providing inspiration for the constitution drafting process. Thus, like everything to do with SPAM, it can be got rid of as bad rubbish.
SPAM has established itself as the bastion of unreason and authoritarianism. Third, for the sake of the future of our country, we must wholeheartedly agitate for the formation of an independent government of national unity and reconciliation. Only such a government will ensure that the CA-elections are truly free and fair. This is a just demand even in the run-up to the elections. It is totally unacceptable that SPAM is monopolizing political power as if it is their birthright. There must be an end to sham democracy. This must be our New Year’s resolution of all patriotic Nepalese. Let us the bells toll for the end of the infamous Koirala era and its disruptive collaboration with the Maoist terrorists, so that a truly new epoch of history can be heralded.
The writer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org