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Seminar on Initiative for State-building and Constitutional Dynamics

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

(28-29 October, Inaruwa) (30-31 October, Rajbiraj)


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal Office, organised a two- day seminar on the challenges of state-building and constitutional questions in Inaruwa of Sunsari district and Rajbiraj of Saptari district on 28th-29th and 30th-31st October, 2009 respectively. There were altogether 150 plus participants in both the places. The programme was attended, among others, by judges, Chief District Officers, Chief of District Police Offices, Local Development Officers and other high-ranking government officials, leaders of the political parties, academicians, teachers, media personnel, lawyers, civil society members, students and other stake-holders of society. In Inaruwa Justice Ram Prasad Adhikari, Justice Laxman Kumar Rai and CDO Hari Krishna Shestha attended the programme while in Rajbiraj Chief Justice of the Appellate Court Ali Akbar Mikrani, CDO Mr Ram Prasad Ghimire, DSPBidur Karki, among others, attended the programme.

The programme saw very good presence of people from different communities, groups such as tharus, Madeshis, women, pahadiyas, dalits, and ethnic groups. The overarching aim of this seminar was to educate local political leaders/civil society activists on issues pertaining to state-building and constitutional process in Nepal.

The Proceedings

In both the places Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal welcomed participants. During his welcome speech he spoke about the organisational goal of FES and emphasised on the fact that the whole idea of such types of programme is to generate sense of awareness in society about the issues of national importance. He said that we are in the process of writing a new constitution and restructuring the state, at this juncture, there are serious issues attached with this process which need careful attention from all strata of society. In particular, future model of governance, economy, foreign policy, and social policy, the model of federalism needs rigorous deliberations. Active participation of people and inclusion of their voices, visions and views increase legitimacy, people's ownership towards it and provide constitutional stability thereby constructing active citizenship rather than citizenship based on consumerism. In the past, Nepal never had constitutional stability. During sixty years of constitutional history Nepali state have had six constitutions, that is, one constitution in every ten years of time. The current interim constitution has been amended for the six times within the two-year period. This indicates that there are fundamental problems with the way we conduct politics which could be the reasons, among others, why Nepal is moving from one conflict to another. The current debate attempts to provide political stability in the country but we can only do so when state-society relations are intact and healthy. Hence unless we do not write constitution that address our fundamental problems (the grievances of the past, challenges of the present opportunities for the future) and carries public ownership there is no way that we can have constitutional stability, let alone political stability.

Mr Kashi Raj Dahal, as usual, presented various issues related to constitution, models of governance, and models of federalism and highlighted on other legal issues. Likewise Chandra D. Bhatta presenting spoke on building modern state and necessary components of democracy that are necessary to be incorporated into the future constitution. He said that the clientalism that has been seen in every sphere of governances needs to discourage. The clientele politics has disassociated citizens from the state and the need of the hour is to bring citizens closer to the polity.

In Inruwa the programme was chaired by the District Court Judge Ram Prasad Adhikari and in Rajbiraj by the Chief Justice of the Appellate Court Ali Akbar Mikrani. The shared their views with the participants expressed the need of the constitution that serves the interest of Nepali and Nepal.

Floor Discussion

Many participants feared that whether constitution will be written in time or not, even if it is written will it have legitimate voice of the people or not, that is, will it provide political stability in the country. Disillusionment were expressed by Kalu Ram Chaudhary from Nepali Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Mr Mehta from Congress primarily because of the over engagement of political parties on "power struggle". Mr Dev Raj Madeshi from Nepal Sadhvawana Party has said that there is a need of linguistic and territorial state in Nepal not a modern state like the one we have now. The 12 percent contribution of taxes to GDP mainly comes from the district of Teari and people from the region should get reasonable share on it for the development of the region. In fact Terai contributes 80 percent and 20 percent comes from the Pahad to the national economy but not even five percent is spent for the development of Terai. Abdesh Jaha said that political parties should respect the existence of other societal forces as well. Another participant said that economy should be developed on the basis of cooperatives and boarding schools should be closed by ending dualism in education. Another participant Geeta Pokhrel said that youths should be involved in the project of nation-building. The current reality is that majority of the youths are alienating from the state as well as the system and state should come up with clear-cut policy to stop this alienation.

Ram Kumar Sah, Legal Professional, emphasised on the need of modernization of agriculture and elimination of all sorts of corruption from society. Others (Mr Chaulagai) proposed for the effective law implementing agencies, stern action should be taken to those who are involved in corruption. The new constitution should come up with clear polices to this end. Another participant Mr Raghunath Mehta said biggest achievement of political parties in Nepal is that they have pushed this state towards federalism without any proper models. Mr Nanda Lal Misrha said that those who were defeated from two places are now ruling this country what can we expect from them. He said that Nepal's dependence on India for political favour or to form the government at the Singhadubar is increasing by leap and bounds. Kamala Mehata and Kalpana Dev talked about the women's issues. They said that the proposed widow allowance is discriminatory and allowances should be provided to widows when they lose their husband irrespective of the age. Issues were also raised about border problems and rise of crimes in the border area. Participant(s) also wanted to have the mechanism of social auditing developed in in order to maintain transparency in different affairs of state mechanism. Poverty eradication is important to maintain political morality.

Many participants said that they have not been able to do the business after the Madesh uprising. The political parties' lust for political power has shattered dreams and expectations of Nepali people and there is an urgent need to wipe out this culture from society. In fact the political leaders of Modern Nepal have forgotten the aim of CA said Mr Sita Ram Poddar - Vice President of Nepal Sadhvawana Party.

Ms Sanju Shah - Human Rights Activist, said that women's are still under represented in state mechanism. What women need is not percentage but "equality". The dowry culture is increasing in Terai in all communities and government should make effort to discourage this culture. The rise of non-state armed actors in Terai is directly related with the lack of economic opportunity within the country. Government should create jobs to stop crimes in Terai. Mr Yusuf Ali said that Hindi should get priority "medium" of communication in Terai. He said that entire Madesh should be declared one state with right to self-determination. Mr Tirtha Ram Pokhrel has blamed CA members for not working for the state. He also emphasised on the need of modernization and professionalization of agriculture. Mr Navnit Jha from Madeshi Jana Adhidkar Forum (MJAF) has said that Nepal should adopt presidential system for the benefit of Terian people. Likewise Mr Shiv Narayan Yadav - Associate Professor of Tribhuvan University has said that people should be empowered through knowledge and we should strike a balance between population and land. He also said that state restructuring should be done by being value free and should have inclusive in nature. Mr Navin Singh from Bar Association has said that executive should not influence judiciary which has been rampantly happening in Nepal. ,Mr Shyam Kishore Singh (MFAJ) and Mr Shayam Narayan Shah have said that Nepal should be declared a Hindu State and education should not be politicised.

Ms Anu Tiwari said that political parties and their leaders is the main enemy of this state, they don't have love for this country. They are engaged in forming the government without giving due attention to constitution making process. Mr Ram Shah from UCPN (Maoist) has said that there should be one education policy for all and education and health should be provided by the state. Mr Dashrath Yadav from Nepal Sadhbhawana Party (Ananda Devi) has said that rather than going for the land reform we should focus on farmer's reform (capacity building).

Mr Lalit Kumar Yadav - Associate Professor from Rajbiraj Campus has said that Minister themselves oppose decisions taken by the council of ministers in many occasion. This practice should be stopped with immediate effect. Nepal should have 5 -7 federal states and all the languages spoken in Nepal should be treated as national language. He further said that government should provide free health and education and come up with clear-cut policy on land reform as well as for the development of agriculture. Mr. Uttam Acharya from Chure Bhabar National United Party has said that federalism should respect minorities as well. Mr Arbind Kisore Dev said that private schools should be nationalized. There was a strong voice that CA members should not be paid monthly allowances, honorarium for the period of CA obstruction.

Conclusion

By and large many people have expressed their serious concern about the current state of political affairs in the country. They are of the view that Nepali state is going to meet the same fate as it did during 1990s that is, the crisis of governance. At this backdrop, the challenge for us is not merely waging movements in the name of democracy but we need to develop mechanism for the political stability in the country. Democracy should be realized by the people at large not merely by few individuals who are elected to the "office" on the basis of money and muscle.

 
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