"Statute draft in a week once CA forwards proposal"
Krishna Prasad Sitaula has played a key role in the peace process. As a home minister of the Girija Prasad Koirala-led government, Sitaula had brought the Maoist leaders to Kathmandu from different parts of the country. At times he was criticized from within the Nepali Congress for being to loyal to the Maoist leaders.
He is elected to the present Constituent Assembly from Jhapa Constituency No. 3. Currently, Sitaula is the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly and general secretary of the Nepali Congress. He is also a negotiator of key cross-party dialogues being held for the sake of consensus on disputed issues of the new constitution.
Ram Prasad Dahal of The Rising Nepal talked with Sitaula about the approaching deadline of constitution promulgation, possibility of consensus and power sharing issues after constitution promulgation. Excerpts:
As a key negotiator of peace process to constitution writing process, can you inform the Nepali people that the new constitution will be promulgated by January 22?
Till now the Constituent Assembly has failed to forward the proposal to the drafting committee. So the likelihood of promulgating the constitution by the deadline is weak. However, the possibility has not ended if the CA forwards the proposal to the drafting committee on Jan 13 by endorsing it.
What can people expect on Jan. 22 - constitution, its draft or any agreement document?
The painful situation came as the CA failed to forward the proposal to the draft committee by mid-September either through consensus or majority in line with the existing regulations. The constitution writing process was delayed due to the inability to implement the CA regulation that was formulated in consensus. Perhaps, now all the political leaders, the CA chair and CA members have realized that the constitution should be written forwarding the regulation’s procedures. We can prepare the draft of the constitution within seven days even though we need to labour more and give extra time. After preparing the draft, the CA could promulgate constitution amending its regulation and calendar or it can follow the process that is mentioned in the regulation. If due process is followed - the prepared draft needs to be taken among the citizens for their suggestions which have to be approved by the CA and forwarded to the Constitutional Committee which prepares a revised proposal. The Committee then forwards the document to the CA which will send it to the Drafting Committee that prepares the bill and finally it gets approval from the CA. It is a matter of the CA whether to follow the procedure or not. However, the main cause behind the delay in constitution writing is that the CA is not following the procedure mentioned in the Interim Constitution and CA regulations. We need simple majority for first draft endorsement while we need two-thirds majority for final endorsement if we go through the due process. I hope the CA can take right decision on this.
You are showing the possibility of draft of the new constitution by January 22. However, some key issues are not resolved till now. What's your comment on this?
We have same disputes which we had in the first CA regarding formation of provinces. There are two schools of thought. One advocates ethnic and regional (not integrated Terai, Hill and Mountain) provinces. Another school of thought denies that. It advocates that the provinces should be as per Nepal's remaining structure, human settlement of Terai, Hills and Mountains should continue. We don't have one ethnic community in any one part of Nepal's entire territory. So we have social harmony and unity. The provinces should be delineated accordingly to keep the social harmony and unity intact. In sum, political leaders are stuck on conflicts whether the provinces would be as per ethnic and unmixed human settlement or not it.
The second hot disputed issue is the form of governance. What is the crux of dispute in this regard?
Here also we have two schools of thought. One: we should adopt a form of governance securing inclusive and full democratic basis. The governance should incorporate all walks of life and it should be transparent. It is a view to not make the ruler authoritarian. The other school of thought is that the power should be centralized in one ruler to rule the country totally unchecked. In this matter, democratic and ultra-left forces represented in the CA have deep conflicts. The democratic forces need to make the governance transparent and democratic while the ultra communists need centralized power in one man with directives of the one party without democracy and transparency. They wish for a model in which the ruler does not need to be accountable to the people. But, democratic forces advocate people need to be taken as source of power or people supremacy. But communist school goes against that and seek power at any cost and in any way and exercise it for a long time. So we have theoretical and ideological differences on it. We have a hard time to manage it.
What about the electoral system?
Here too we have two schools of thought. One, elected representatives should be directly associated with people, they have a special accountability to elected constituency and people should have a right to know how he works. In another side, there are arguments that elected representative need not be centred on their constituency, they could look overall under the instruction of the party. It is the main difference. The democratic forces need an electoral system that makes representatives accountable and responsible for the people whereas the communist forces need to centralize the representative in one's own party, not with people. We (democrats) advocate that the party should quit power if it commits a mistake, while the communists think that the party would not make any mistake and not relinquish power. We think about an electoral system based on every people’s freedom while the other side wants the party supremacy. So the issue is not settled.
What about the other disputed issues, judicial system as it is not resolved till now even though the Supreme Court judges made important suggestions?
In regard to the judiciary, Supreme Court’s chief justice and others had briefed us about independent and capable judiciary. After that, the issues have been resolved to a significant extent. However, we are not reaching the point where the disputes could be totally settled. Here too, one thought needs unity of judiciary system across the country, the Supreme Court would be the ultimate body for constitution’s interpretation and the court should be independent and fair. But the other side rejected it. However, the disputes are narrowing down and all of us come to a point to adopt independent judiciary on the basis of global norms and values.
While listening to you, it seems the disputes are same as seven years back. Do you have any formula to resolve it?
If consensus cannot be garnered over the disputed issues, the CA chair should forward the process in line with the CA regulations and its procedures that had been formulated in consensus. The chair should present the proposal in the full house for final decision.
So you don’t see the possibility of consensus, yes?
It is best to promulgate the statute garnering total consensus. But we do not have sufficient time for that, yet we need to continue the process for consensus. If consensus cannot be garnered we should reach a decision as per the voting for preliminary draft. Even if a primary draft comes we should continue discussion for consensus for the time being until the draft comes as bills. However, I am hopeful that we can reach consensus in any point on all issues.
But, we faced problem searching for total consensus before bringing a primary draft. Mistrust has surfaced between political parties as we failed to go ahead as per the constitution and the CA regulations formulated through consensus. Who stopped us from implementing the consensus policies?
What don't tell us who stopped?
It is because we wasted time. The CA regulations provisioned that the CA could extend the tenure of the Constitutional Committee for one time. Here we made a mistake. Now, the CA forwarded proposal to the Committee for the last time and we should be hopeful the consensus is forged within January 12. If the Committee does not forward a consensus document on federalism, form of governance, electoral and judiciary system, I hope consensus should be forged on three issues and the issue of federalism could be left to the future parliament.
You say the constitution could be promulgated keeping federalism in hold, but analysts say that the accord is not inked due to power sharing matter after January 22. Is that so?
In our discussions the power sharing matter has not come up. If it gets an entry the constitution might be impossible. The issues would be discussed after we have a constitution. The media and some leaders might have imagined of power sharing issues, but it is not formally discussed between political leaders.
So, Sushil Koirala-led government will be in office before constitution promulgation?
Yes, Sushil Koirala remains the PM before the promulgation of the constitution. The incumbent government will not change and what I believe is that our ruling alliance remains intact.
It is said the constitution writing issues are the issues of other countries. What role are the foreign countries playing?
Our neighboring India and China along with US, EU countries wish for timely constitution and stability of Nepal. But, the political parties and the CA are responsible for inability to do so in time. But, we got good wish from all our foreign friends for timely constitution.
At last, what would be on the day of January 22 which is the last date of constitution promulgation?
It is not sure the constitution will be promulgated on that day. But I believe the draft should be brought.
But, people are not optimistic about the political leaders' statements?
So, at a minimum we have to bring the draft of the constitution on the deadline.
Prof. Dr. Jagdish Prasad Agrawal is a well-known name in the health professions education sector of Nepal. Having joined Maharajgunj Medical Campus under...