Seminar Report on Initiative for State-building
within the context of constitution making process
Sindhupalchowk ( 8-9 July 2008), Bhaktapur
(23-24 July 2008) and Myagdi (5-6 August 2008)
By Chandra D Bhatta
Introducing the Programme
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) - a German
Political Foundation has organised training-cum- seminar on
'Modern State-building and Constitution-making Process' in Chautara
of Sindhupalanchowk district, in Sallaghari of Bhaktapur district
and Beni of Myagdi district. The main objective of the programme
was to educate people at the peripheral level on state-building
and issues underpinning constitution-making process in order
to enable them to participate in the political process meaningfully.
Moreover, one of the main aims of this programme, among others,
is to bridge the societal gap between different societal groups
and bring them into the common platform so that problems of
all societal groups could be identified and brought into the
forefront for their inclusion into the policy in order to address
them in a peaceful way.
The programme was attended, among others,
by political leaders of all political parties (including Maoist),
academicians, teachers, NGO personnel, members of civil society,
students, government officials, youths, and representatives
of trade unions and other stakeholders of society. There were
170 participants in Charikot, 110 in Bhaktapur and and 140 in
Beni respectively. Except in Bhaktapur, in both the district
the programme was chaired by the respective judges of the district
court (Mr Mahesh Kumar Marasaini in Charikot and Tarka Raj Bhatta
(Judge of the Baglung Appellate Court) in Myagdi district).
Other high ranking officials including CDOs, security personnel
present in the district also attended the programme.
Head of FES in Nepal - Mr. Dev Raj Dahal discussed
about the current state of political affairs in the country.
He said that modernity is a continuous process and is not based
on layer. Layers should fragment as we move towards modernity
and it (modernity) should come into every domain and should
embrace economy, politics, lifestyle, governance and etc. He
recalled on the fact that our investment on politics is very
high compared to the return which perhaps is the reason, among
others, behind anti-political approach in the country. He cautioned
that merely holding election and carrying movements do not solve
our problems or guarantee our basic needs. In order to address
the basic needs and straighten politics - our politics should
be people oriented, rather than regime oriented said Mr Dahal.
He said that from state centric conflict, we are now moving
towards society centric conflict and we have not developed mechanism
to control this phenomenon. There is no transitional justice
which could have played a key role in minimising societal conflict(s).
By contrast, we are developing 'class based politics' rather
than having 'class based policies' which would, otherwise, have
subdued societal antagonisms.
Mr Kashi Raj Dahal, Constitutional Expert,
presented various models of federalism and emphasized on the
fact that management of federal state into the national system
(integration) is crucial. In the same vein, integration within
the federal state is as important as their integration onto
nation as a whole. What is crucially important for a state like
Nepal in term of federalism is financial viability or sustainability
in the longer terms of the federal states said Mr. Dahal. He
said that in the event of Nepal entering into federal state-system
there will be multiple governments in the country and whether
the state government(s) can financially support themselves or
have had to rely on central government will be a litmus test
as well as deciding factor as far as their sustainability is
concerned. Having hundreds of ministers in the country will
cost fortune to the nation and will be suicidal for a state
like Nepal whose economy is aid-dependent. 601 CA members are
already proving "white elephant' what will happen if we
have double the number of parliamentarian what we have currently,
said Mr. Dahal. He cautioned that this will only create further
layers in society and push developmental works at bay. Mr Dahal
said that politics and law should defend national interest.
Similarly Chandra D. Bhatta introduced hands-out
on democracy. The central theme of hands-out was to promote
democracy based on rule of law and introduces civic education
at different layers of society, which will help to construct
civic citizenship based on civic nationalism. Mr Bhatta also
talked about the role of civil society in post-conflict societies.
He said that civil society could play a crucial role both in
writing a democratic constitution and guiding peace-process
to the logical end. He also shed light on the fact that equilibrium
between domestic and foreign policy is crucial in order to provide
due recognition of our demands in the polity.
The Floor Discussion
Majority of the questions were asked on federalism,
education policy, political culture, external intervention in
our domestic politics (citing the case of presidential election),
quality of leadership, the nature of civil society, regional
autonomy, state-restructuring, ethnic federalism, model of governance,
nature of political parties, contents of democracy (human rights,
rule of law, separation of power, good governance, pluralism,
globalisation and economy, the culture of peace and alike) in
all three districts.
In Chautara, majority of the participants
were more concerned about policy related issues such as on education,
health, employment rather than giving too much importance to
politics. They were of the view that politics should address
basic needs of the people and state should craft policies accordingly.
One of the participants, Ganga Poudyal, said that political
leaders have to be responsible towards state and citizen rather
than capturing state and system. In order to address multiple
problems we should not give too much focus on political doctrine,
we should rather develop political culture that can embrace
all societal groups and addresses issues honestly that will
provide an opportunity to live a dignified life. It has been,
however, revealed that Maoist's cadres give too much importance
to political doctrines as against members of other political
parties. Participants were concerned about national sovereignty.
Likewise, Ms. Indira Sigdel said that we can only have political
stability in the country if we have strong economy and she emphasized
on the fact that state should work towards this end.
In Bhaktapur, majority of the participants
were concerned about citizenship, religion and social harmony
in addition to the issues related to federalism and policies
related to economy, education, health and employment. One of
the participants Mr Jit Bahadur Chauhan said that education,
health and employment are the foundations of modern state and
the project of state-building should embrace all these three
elements. Mr Chauhan also said that the 'transitional period'
should end. The need of the hour is politics of consensus among
political parties but majority of the participants feared that
'politics' is taking different course (mathematical citing the
formation of current government) which will invite further instability
in the country. Likewise, Hari Prasad Nepal of Nepali Congress
said that in the name of "religious secularism" are
we trying to invite other religions (in his own words International
Religion - Christianity). Majority of the participants have
said that declaration of Nepal as a secular state without respecting
the conscience of 85 percent Hindus is not fair. Perhaps the
issue should have been decided through the CA.
Participants also said that federalism on
the basis of region, ethnicity and religions should be opposed
as it will jeopardize national integrity. Cooperative federalism
would be based suited for Nepal, said many participants. Moreover,
all political parties should clearly spell out their agenda
on federalism. One Mr. Sushil Koirala said that the provision
of granting citizenship to everyone who comes from South (India)
should be discouraged as it is fueling societal conflict and
displacing rightful Nepalese from their maternal land.
In Beni, main focus was on policy related
issues in addition to the issues of federalism, constitution
making, political process, women's issues and alike. People
here wanted to have pragmatic and realist approach to politics.
Participants talked about state's inability to bring youths
into the institutional life of the state, state's inability
to craft sovereign polices (intervention in policy). One woman
participants also said that 33 percent representation of women
in policy is not possible due to backwardness of women in every
aspects and nothing has been done to include women in the political
network- they are still suppressed and marginalised. One of
the participants also said that the proportional electoral system
failed to assimilate many ethnicities (for example Chhantel)
to its manifold.
Majority of the participants emphasized on
having economic equality and promoting the culture of cooperation
and coordination in the country. They were dissatisfied with
Presidential Election where 'mathematical formula' took centre
stage. Participants said that political parties talk about radical
issues during the election period but they do 'classical' things
after the election (as old habits die hard). Against this background,
many participants argued that how can we have new Nepal within
the old notion of thinking.
What has been sensed from the participants
of these three seminars is that the process of writing constitution
is taking backseat whereas the politics of forming the government
and appointing clients in the state organs is dominating political
discourse in the country. Likewise criminalisation of politics
and politicisation of bureaucracy are proving detrimental to
upheld rule of law in the country. In the same vein, civic political
culture is completely missing in our political class which is
urgently needed to do political undo's which are anti-democratic
and anti-people. Participants in all three places vociferously
said that state should take care of education, health, employment
and outright opposed private health and education system. They
have squarely blamed our political leaders for too much of external
intervention on policy and politics.
FES has tried to fulfill the existing gap
by advocating civic education and issues underpinning state-building
process. The debate in all places generated very valid questions,
which need immediate collective attention from the state. The
worry expressed at the rural areas on the national politics
and their de-serious faith on democracy, nationalism is noteworthy.
Equally, important is their ability to differentiate chaff from
the wheat (between bad leaders, bad policies, good leaders and
good polices). Perhaps programmes like this needs to be further
extended in other parts of the country.