| Report of the seminar on
Building Modern State through Constitutional Process
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
18-19 September, Nijghad
Prepared by Lal Babu Yadav, Associate Professor
of Political Science, TU.
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal office
organized a two-day seminar on "Building Modern state through
constitutional Process" at Nijgadh, Bara district on September
18-19, 2010. Altogether 147 participants representing government
officials, civil society, women's organization, political parties,
media and teaching community took part in the meeting. Among the
participants 27 were women.
Welcoming the participant head of FES Nepal
office Dev Raj Dahal briefed about the ideals of FES, its works
worldwide in general and Nepal in particular. He also said that
"active citizenship" is a prerequisite to effective
state and argued that citizens should not lapse into silence
after they vote in every five years. Such a tendency in Nepal
has made Nepalese democratic constitutional and peace process
fragile. He also said that citizenship can also help override
other subsidiary identities, such as class, caste, gender, ethnicity,
age and religion and contribute to both social integration and
political integration with the national system.
Another speaker Kashi Raj Dahal, constitutional
expert, viewed that the "decadence of democratic values,
ethics and morality" in polities has caused protracted
deadlock in Nepali society undergoing multiple transitions.
One can see political process veering towards both the uncertainly
of constitution and peace process. This condition reflects the
fragility of state and inability of political parties to govern
and resolve many critical impediments, such as defining the
forms of federalism, election system, integration of Moist combatants,
establishment of institutional pillars of peace, power-sharing
arrangements etc. Public apathy is eroding the public sphere's
capability and effect peaceful change without friction. Without
national consensus on major issues neither constitution nor
peace process can proceed ahead. The constitutional requirement
to pass each and every article of new constitution demands cooperation
of parties to their commitments and agreements. Beyond doubt
constitution provides a roadmap to trudge in a coherent direction,
not knowledge and wisdom to leaders. Therefore, political leaders
must be able to understand peoples' aspiration and convert these
aspirations into implementable public policies.
After the presentation by Dev Raj Dahal on
building modern state through constitutional process floor was
opened for discussion. One senior participants asked : Who takes
action against powerful leaders at top when they systematically
commit one after another mistake? To this K. Dahal replied:
Since sovereignty lies with the people they have right to punish
deviant leaders. Another speaker Binod Raj Laudari inquired:
Since the mandate of CA was only for two years Constituent Assembly
members increased their tenure to three years. Is it not a corruption
to be punished by law? Is not 601-members a burden for poor
people of Nepal? To these K. Dahal said both donor community
and people in general accepted this for a fear of "authority
vacuum". This should not happen frequently otherwise they
lose their legitimacy.
Ram Prasad Mishra observed that group rights
have established the tyranny of minority. It does not create
political system and constitution stable. The basis of federalism
should be territorial and the number should be around five.
Ms. Durga Koirala too expressed concern over 14 federal states
due to weak economic base of Nepal. She also asked to add three
elements in Nepal's political process: increase the number of
women leadership at the higher echelons of political parties,
incentives to encourage youth to stay in Nepal, and establish
a system of encouraging society to take care of old people within
their own society rather than sending back to orphanage.
Another speaker Ms. Bishnu Nepal feared that
carving Nepal into 14 states makes it vulnerable to neighborhood's
politics. Similarly, she added, since women constitutes 50 percent
of population the national budget should be allocated 50% to
them. Women need both protection and capacity building. Sudarshan
Koirala observed if we have to adopt federalism then may be
India's model is suitable because of a strong stranger with
the ability to dissolve the federal government. In this model
right to self-determination does not destabilize society and
makes weak people strong in politics. Similarly, reservation
for certain groups and affirmative action should also be limited
to certain years. Nepali language should serve as lingua franca
as it is spoken all over the country. The system of proportional
representation should be applied to only federal states. Citizenship
should be given to only Nepalese, not foreigners like the past
Prof. Lal Babu Yadav argued that Nepal should
adopt either inclusive or proportional or reservation, not all
at the same time otherwise the state cannot afford. Nepal's
national identity is more important than other identifies for
nation building. Nepalese should not forget their history of
independence & coexistence while carrying out federalism.
We cannot create a state without history and forget our forefathers'
contribution. Similar needs were aired by Bidur Lal Shrestha,
a businessman. He said that even Prithvi Narayan Shah had carved
out five regions. We should stick to that. Nepal has only party
leaders not statespersons, more bourgeoise than people-oriented
and lack the capacity to lead the nation in difficult times.
We have to utilize foreign aid within the realm of national
priorities and, therefore, plans have to be formulated with
the appropriateness of national need rather than what donors
say. Shanker Ghimire asked: how can we make a national constitution
with global standards when popular consciousness is pathetically
low. We have example of the constitution of 2015 B.S drafted
by Sir Ivor Jennings which completely failed.
Ms. Sabirti Shrestha inquired whether there
is limit to the extension of tenure of CA ? How long can it
go ? K. Dahal said that unless it is stopped by the people themselves.
Ms. Nirmala Devkota, human rights activist, asked for the rights
of single women and increase women's representation at higher
level. She said that reservation for Dalits, indigenous and
ethnic should be replaced by conflict victim women. She said
that without welfare state it is not possible to reduce the
level of conflict in society. Narayan Gautam believed that economic
viability is crucial for democratic sustainability. There is
a correlation between taxation and accountable governance. Tax
base of the country can be expanded if base of productive sector
of economy is diversified. Another participant Man B. Shrestha
believed that consultation of politicians will people had declined
causing the growth of authoritarian political culture. Politicians
did not consult the people before declaring secularism and federalism.
Such a tendency is harmful for democratic practice.
Bodh N. Chaudhary argued that what is essential
for Nepal is a "Culture of constitutional behavior".
Law enforcement is a major problem for establishing rule of
law. Political purification is essential to foster democratic
political culture. This requires character building. Bhav Nath
Rana Magar said that unless leaders mollify the fear of people
that "Federalism does not disintegrate the nation"
it is very difficult is create public opinion for it, the same
applies with secularism.
Ganesh Bhandari viewed that as democracy exists
within nation protection of nation is a precondition for democratic
guarantee. The territorial integrity of the country must be
ensured. We have to see the problems of border encroachment
and control girl trafficking arising out of the open border
in the south. The National Interest Committee of the parliament
must be activated to protect interest of nature in nature. Binod
Raj questioned the utility of clientalist political culture
that is plaguing the nation and weakening the concept of citizenship.
Party oriented expenditure of development has to be discouraged,
agriculture and cooperatives should be subsidized to stem the
growing food crisis Nepal is now facing. Access of poor to the
public fund should be increased to enlist their support in the
political system. One participant argued that democrats are
unsettling the base of democracy and others mainly conservatives
are trying to uproot them.
The second day session discussed the principles
of democracy. Lal Babu Yadav explained about the handouts of
democracy and Kasha Raj Dahal initiated debates among the participants
with cases and examples within the country to simplify the concepts.
Shanker Chimoriya inquired as to whether presidential system
is suitable for Nepal given its authoritarian political culture.
But direct election might serve as a brake. Same participants
asked about the possibility of inner parties' democracy"
Narayan Shrestha asked for the philosophical justification of
civil society in Nepal within democracy. He asked why civil
society is not acting to rectify the anomalies of democracy?
The answer was enlightenment and the struggle of civil society
to create "open access order" that is an impersonal
Shambhu Pd. Giri asked Prithvi Narayan Shah
said that "Nepal is a yarn between two stones." Is
there a possibility to convert it into a dynamite given Nepal's
militant culture? Lal Babu Yadav responded that it is possible
if leadership is smart, visionary and capable. Shankar Chimoria
asked about the possibility to bridge a gap between rhetoric
and reality. Obviously, if there is an internal party democracy.
Inter-party women's network has been working in the country
but what are their core functions," asked Menka Devkota.
On the whole the participants viewed that
Nepalese political parties should think in term of national
perspective for all national initiatives and resolve the contested
18 issues that is plaguing the politics with deadlock and immobility.
Building care national identity is a care to both socialize
and mobilize the loyalties of diversity. There is no escape
from caususes polities both to draft a new constitution and
push for logical conclusion of peace process. Active citizenship
is a key of create welfare state-give justice of all, give fear
security, provide welfare and create public order. Citizens
have not just rights but also duties.