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Shashi Malla: Constituent Assembly & Nepal Future

Constituent Assembly and Nepal's Future

Constituent Assembly and Nepal's Future: 'New Dawn' and 'New Democratic Mainstream'?
By Shashi Malla

The Road Ahead

The reinstated House of Representatives has unanimously passed the proposal to hold elections to a Constituent Assembly. This is indeed a first in the democratic evolution of the country and can, therefore, be termed 'historic'. However, the modalities must still be spelt out, and above all, how and when the elections can be held. Till then the present Constitution has full validity and cannot be tampered with. Neither the people's movement ( which was restricted to a large extent to the Kathmandu Valley and a few other townships, and heavily funded from outside), nor the restoration of parliament by the King (probably against the advice of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General) have given a mandate to parliament to make drastic changes to the basic political structure.

Any envisioned change is the prerogative of an elected constituent assembly, which will not only frame a new basic law of the land, but also function as a normal parliament for day-to-day affairs. Till then, we cannot by any stretch of the imagination speak of a 'new dawn'. This will only be the case if the said election is held in a 'free and fair' manner, and the new constitution is better and more democratic than the current one. The constituent assembly is, therefore, only a means and not the end. It has opened the window of opportunity for the Nepalese people-no more.

Negotiating with the Maoists

The first order of business of the newly installed government should be focused on negotiating a viable peace with the Maoists. If they give up their terrorist ways and all political parties, social and political institutions function democratically and are allowed their say to reach a national consensus, then only can we speak of a 'new democratic mainstream. In spite of the announcement of an unilateral three-month truce, the Maoists continue merrily with their atrocious activities, including abductions and taxing foreign tourists. Either the Maoist high command in India are taking the leaders of the 7-party agitation for a glorious ride, or they no longer control their cadres within the country. In either case, it is, therefore, futile to negotiate with the Maoists at the present juncture.

Past experience has shown that the Maoists resolutely follow their own agenda. The pro forma declaration of a three-month truce must be seen from the tactical aspect. Their long-term and strategic aim remains the transformation of the Nepalese state into a communist-totalitarian one-party dictatorship like that of Stalin or Pol Pot . It is high noon that the Nepalese middle classes wake up to this immanent calamity. It is for this reason that the Marxist-Leninists' ( the so-called mainstream communist party) road-map of a 'democratic republic' must be truly suspect. Not for nothing had the Indian Communist, Sitaram Yechuri proclaimed the victory of the 'people's movement' as 'epoch-making' for the whole of South Asia. Peace at any price cannot be an option. As the very elderly, but wise German chancellor Konrad Adenauer once said: "An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured''.

'Democratic Republic' or Constitutional Monarchy

Just like the former Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) was neither German (it was Soviet), nor democratic (it was totalitarian), nor a republic (it was a satellite state of the Soviet 'evil' empire, with no legal norms and completely undemocratic); in short a Stalinist state. Likewise in a 'Democratic Republic of Nepal', Loktantra/Prajatantra will be reduced to a misnomer, the Nepalese people ( 'Loka'/ demos) will lose all their fundamental rights, our unique way of life will be shattered and the country will be reduced to a puppet regime. Therefore, we have to be wary of what the Communists/Maoists promise us-these atheists are wont to dangle heaven on earth before our eyes!

In spite of all our domestic and international detractors- and these are myriad and of all political hues-our best bet to preserve our independence, territorial integrity, and above all, our unique way of life is to sustain constitutional monarchy and form a working symbiosis with parliamentary democracy. Political mistakes have been made by all major constitutional actors in the recent past. The point is to learn from them and move forward for the sake of the nation and the Nepalese people ( and not only those of the Valley and the agitating mobs). After all, according to Alexander Pope: " To err is human; to forgive, divine.'' We surely do not want the never-ending ethnic strife, communal violence and religious intolerance of our neighbouring countries, with India in the forefront. With constitutional ( if you like: 'ceremonial') monarchy as the symbol of national unity, we can begin anew.

The Royal Nepalese Army (RNA)

This independent newspaper and this correspondent have incessantly pleaded for civilian control of the powerful RNA, which has long ceased to be a ceremonial army. Its officers are well-trained, properly educated with a wealth of experience from all around the world and are perfectly at ease in diplomatic society and with their peers from other countries. This is more than can be said about most of our politicians, including MPs.

Considering the fact that the current government is only a caretaker administration, it has no authorization to monkey around with the structure and organization of the RNA. It should definitely desist from politicizing ( as Girija Koirala did with the police while in office) or 'ethnicizing' ( as in the Maoist agenda not only for the RNA, but the entire political structure of the country) the army. Furthermore, the Girija government cannot treat the RNA at par with the Maoists. It would do well not to forget that its role is unique-it is a reliable force to maintain internal and external security. However, as the French statesman Georges Clemenceau stated: " War is too important to be left to the generals''!


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