‘Amendment issue getting more complex by the day’

Published On: September 10, 2016 07:22 AM NPT By: Nabin Khatiwada

Govt trying to finalize amendment proposal before PM’s India visit

KATHMANDU, Sept 9: The ruling coalition of Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) has been trying to finalize the constitution amendment proposal ahead of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s India visit but the leaders themselves are finding this challenging.

“We are trying to finalize the constitution amendment proposal before the prime minister’s visit to India but we are operating under time constraints,” said Minister Ramesh Lekhak, who has been working along with Maoist Center leader Barsha Man Pun on the proposal.

According to Lekhak, discussions are underway for addressing the demands of Madhes-based parties related to language, citizenship, formation of national assembly and provincial delineation.

“The NC and CPN (Maoist Center) have been holding discussions with the Madhes-based parties as per the spirit of three-point agreement signed with the Madhes parties. We will discuss all these issues with the main opposition CPN-UML also,” said Lekhak.

According to a Maoist leader informed about the developments, both the NC and Maoist Center are flexible on removing hill districts from Province 5 but the Madhes-based parties are insisting on taking five districts -- namely Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali and Kanchanpur -- as contentious and want to expand province number two and five toward the east and the west respectively.

Likewise, NC and Maoist Center are flexible on amending the special provision relating to citizenship of officials. Article 289 of the constitution states that a person to be elected or appointed to the office of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice,

Speaker, Chief of provinces, Chief Minister, Speaker of a State Assembly and Chief of a security body must be a citizen by descent. According to a source, NC and Maoist Center are ready to shorten the list.

“On every issue leaders are seeking a middle path to address the demands of the Madhes-based parties but the provincial delineation has still remained a difficult issue,” said the Maoist leader.

However, Madhesi leaders themselves admit that the constitution amendment could be a tough task in the present political scenario.

“Constitution amendment is getting more complicated with every passing day. Madhes-based parties have lately formed an alliance with parties and political forces from indigenous communities. The indigenous communities still have been demanding 11 provinces to establish ethnic identity,” said a Madhesi leader under the Federal Alliance.

“In this scenario, addressing only the demands of Madhes-based parties for settling the issue of provincial delineation would be a tough proposition for the government as well as for us Madhes-based parties,” the leader added.

The leader doubted that the government of NC and Maoist Center would move unilaterally and register an amendment bill in parliament without the consent of the Madhes-based parties. “The government could move unilaterally with an amendment bill as the prime minister wants to show to India that he has been working to addressing the demands of Madhesi people,” said the leader.

However, Minister Lekhak dismissed the agrument and claimed that the government will register an amendment bill only after discussing all the issues with the Madhes-based parties and the main opposition CPN-UML.   

On the other hand, main opposition, UML, has been taking harsh stance on constitution amendment and demanding that the ruling coalition give proper justification for any amendment.

“UML will decide about amendments only if the government makes it clear why and to serve whose interests it wants the amendments,” said UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli in an interaction program on Friday.

“The government should make it clear with which parties it has agreed to amend the constitution. UML will reject any amendment that harms the nation. For UML, the nation comes first,” he added.

Taking name of neighboring India, Oli urged it not to meddle in the internal affairs of Nepal and alleged that the present government is like electronic goods made in somewhere and assembled in Nepal.

However, the ruling coalition and the Madhes-based parties want the main opposition to be on board for constitution amendment.

“We want UML to be on board as we understand that we cannot amend the constitution without their support. Even if we can, keeping a major political force out of the amendment process will not establish political stability and peace in the long run,” said Keshav Jha, a member of the taskforce formed by the Federal Alliance to finalize the issue of constitution amendment.

“We have been discussing the issues with UML leaders and we hope they will support the amendment process,” he added.

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