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Interim Statute Okays SPAM, PM Dictatorship

Interim Statute Okays SPAM, PM Dictatorship


By M.R. Josse

Months after passing its original deadline, the SPAM interim constitution has finally seen light of day – paradoxically on Poush Ek (first of Poush, or 16 December) 2006, a date that its constituents consider a 'black day' in this country's political history!

To be precise, however, the 168-article document, still to be formally promulgated, was, like a number of other "historic" SPAM templates, birthed at the Prime Minister's official residence in Baluwatar at the witching hour sometime past mid-night. The formal birth certificate, with eight signatures, however was issued only at breakfast time.

Whether such a birth will turn out to be auspicious or otherwise will, of course, be borne out by time, and the ebb and flow of future events.

However, to engage in a spot of political clairvoyance I would venture to speculate that those developments will, by and large, not be to the liking of the SPA. What they have done in haste, in myopic animus against the Monarchy and prompted by external lobbies, they will, I maintain, come to repent at leisure as the Maoists rudely sweep them aside and take over full control of this country, possibly sometime following the CA elections, whenever they are held.

After all, cold logic suggests that no party in Nepal can even pretend to compete with the Maoists using the 'republican' platform: yet that is precisely the mission impossible that the SPA, including the two NC groupings, have clearly and naively attempted.

BLOOD-RED DAWN

Whether by coincidence or design, the state-owned dailies, the Gorkhapatra and the Rising Nepal, in their unbounded excitement at the inking of the draft interim constitution burst forth on their front pages on 16 December with large-sized photographs of a blood-red dawn with captions suggesting that it symbolised the inauguration of a "new Nepal."

One doesn't know if those newspapers have already been taken over in some Nepali version of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). However, from those news photographs the message to ordinary folk seemed clear and chilling enough: the future of "new Nepal" is crimson-hued. To recall, during China's decade-long GPCR the national hymn was Mao's poem, 'the East is Red.'

Incidentally, the continuous mantra about "new Nepal" and "restructuring" of existing state institutions are – particularly against the backdrop of the "historic" interim constitution – also redolent of the GPCR's ferocious campaign against the 'Four Olds': old bourgeois habits and customs, old bourgeois culture, and old ways of thought.

REPRESENTATIVE OF ALL?

Since the culmination of the mass movement of April there has been the constant din about the "people's mandate" with the neat if erroneous assumption that all that has been done in statecraft by the SPAM combine since then has been clearly authorised by the "people."

Of course, the truth is that the "people" have done nothing of that sort by themselves! Indeed, the UML's solitary effort to provide the "people" the opportunity to directly voice their opinion on the institution of the Monarchy in a referendum was shot down primarily by the two heavier SPAM guns: to wit, the NC and the Maoists.

There is then also the carefully cultivated myth, flogged endlessly by the mainstream media egged on by extraneous impulses, that the SPAM combo represents the entire mass of the Nepali people. But, do those who sit in parliament today and those who hope to do so in the future, according to plans they themselves have designed, represent the entire mass of the 25-26 million Nepali people?

Or, even if one were to estimate that the electorate today stands somewhere around 18 million, on what basis can it be claimed that the eight parties who have written the interim constitution have the right to "represent" all those who are outside their fold? To take but one example there is the RPP which had secured 13 percent of the votes in the last general election but which was excluded from having any say in its drafting.

Not only are there umpteen political parties that have been formally registered and have participated in past elections that have been left out in the political cold, but so also have millions of Nepali citizens who do not belong to any political party. Should they not be represented in any exercise to draft a constitution, even an interim one? Should they not be included in a loudly claimed effort to promote an "inclusive" democracy?

Without making too fine a point, it must be said that the document that was born on the Poush Ek just past is exclusionist and seeks, in its present form, to first consolidate, or even prolong, the dictatorship of the eight parties that drafted it.

At this point it may be germane to recall Emanuel Kant's sage observation that "no treaty of peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war."

In our present context, the German philosopher's pithy insight contained in his treatise 'perpetual peace' can be interpreted as suggesting that all political elements that have willfully been excluded in the endeavour to write a new Basic Law of the land will, ipso facto, be provided with the strongest possible incentive to revolt against it in the future when they perhaps perceive that they have enough strength to do so.

Are the seeds of a future Jana Andolan-III thus embedded therein? Are we as a nation destined not to savour perpetual peace but to experience the maelstrom of perpetual revolution or turmoil?

DICTATORSHIP OF PM

The miasma of dictatorship from the interim constitution also comes wafting from another direction. In fact, it originates in the dictatorial concentration of power envisioned in the hands of the prime minister. Apart from all else, that is a gauche outcome of a revolt that was supposedly directed at ending autocratic regression and promoting a "total" democracy.

What other conclusion is possible? Thus, not only is there no provision for impeachment, dismissal or recall. The PM has, instead, been accorded unlimited power and influence over the entire political establishment. The chief executive becomes the head of state, with the King's power suspended, nominating the chief justice of the Supreme Court and exercising huge amounts of legislative authority in addition.

Against this unusual, unprecedented backdrop it is hardly surprising that a number of Supreme Court justices are believed to be considering resigning from their respective positions. Some have reportedly expressed their dissatisfaction over the requirement for them to take oaths of office (again) as well as on account of the envisaged composition of the Judicial Council (JC).

Clearly, the idea is to promote a pliant judiciary, anathema in a democracy as we generally know it. No wonder, then, that one senior justice was quoted in a daily as stating plainly: "the politicians want a committed judiciary." Yet, as Justice Balaram KC put it: "the fundamental rights of the people, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary must remain intact."

A "committed judiciary" clearly and naturally belongs in the world of a single-party polity based on the dictatorship of the proletariat. For, as a senior justice rightly pointed out: what has been cooked up by SPAM is "sheer violence of the independence of the judiciary."

Incidentally, even pro-NC advocates such as Radheshyam Adhikari have publicly indicated their dissatisfaction at incorporating concepts in the interim constitution that militate against the sacrosanct principle of separation of powers and a clear-cut system of checks and balances on which democratic governance rests.

Coming back to Kant, the rule of law refers essentially to the existence of an independent, unbiased judiciary that can interpret the laws of the state as also the presence of transparent, uniformly applied rules and statutes.

A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION

How is it that the "democratic" framers of the document saw fit to entrust the prime minister with such draconian or dictatorial authority - power that in a normal democracy no chief executive enjoys even during emergency rule?

Though it would be foolish to expect anyone to come up with an authoritative explanation for such a political or constitutional travesty, it is nevertheless worthwhile to mull over it.

My own hunch – and at this stage it is no more than just that – is that it is premised on two considerations: (1) that the present incumbent will, alas, not be in this world for long and (2) that, against that backdrop, it presented all major wannabes for the premiership with the tempting prospect of attaining such a powerful position in the event that the incumbent passes away before long, given his frail state of health and advanced age. So, why object?

In the latter grouping would hypothetically be figures such as Sushil Koirala, Ram Chandra Poudel, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Madhav Kumar Nepal – all major participants in the drafting exercise on behalf of the SPA.

The sting or nub however lies elsewhere. While perhaps going along or even piloting the move to accord such unheard of power to the prime minister in the interim period, the Maoists are no doubt cleverly biding their time.

Thus, if it so happens that the incumbent succumbs to his illness before the CA elections is over and done with the Maoists would surely stake their claim to the office. Given their demonstrated ability to get what they want from the SPA who has any doubt that, in such circumstances, Prachanda will not claim and secure that powerful position?

Given the prime minister's predilections and proclivities, no one can have expected him, of all people, to have objected to assumption of such awesome political power.

To come back to the prospect of a Maoist leader stepping into the present incumbent's shoes, what would then follow is anyone's guess. Yet, it hardly requires the political savvy of a Mao Zedong, a Fidel Castro or a Ho Chi Minh to surmise that such legitimatimized political power would be used with ruthless efficiency to ensure that the Maoists get exactly what they want from the CA.

After all, let us not forget George Orwell's much quoted lines from his defining work, 1984: "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Extrapolating that to the above hypothetical prospect, the Maoists would control the present, the past and the future: the perfect recipe, in other words, for reshaping this country along classic Maoist lines.

To sum up, there is little doubt that the interim constitution represents a clear attempt to consolidate the dictatorship of SPAM at one level and, at another, that of the prime minister.

Interesting times surely lie ahead!

ENDS

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