PM’s UNGA trip
No sooner than Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had touched down in Kathmandu on Sunday after his four-day official visit to India, he was preparing to leave again. Today, he heads out again for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York at the end of September. We learn that he could be gone for up to two weeks.
This is a clear case of misplaced priorities. The General Assembly, the annual meeting of representatives from all UN member countries, is important, no doubt. It gives the government of Nepal an opportunity to appraise the global community about vital developments in the country in the past one year. This is particularly important for a small country like Nepal, which, despite its prolonged political transition and its important geostrategic location, is not often in global attention. But there is no reason why Nepal cannot be represented at the UNGA by, say, the President, the head of the state. In fact, when he has more pressing problems back home, it would have sense for the prime minister to delegate the task to someone else.
We are concerned that with the prime minister gone, the urgent task of building political consensus for the amendment of the new constitution could be put on hold. By the time the prime minister come back, the country will already be in a festive mood as Dashain will be at hand, soon to be followed by Tihar and Chhat. So, over the next couple of months, the wounds that fester on the Nepali body politic could get progressively worse.
The longer it takes to sort out outstanding issues through timely amendment of the new constitution, the harder it will be to resolve these issues amicably. Those who think that these issues will fizzle out with time, we are afraid, are mistaken. Time can be a healer.
But if the right remedies are not pursued, it can also aggravate old wounds. Old prejudices curdle and extremists get the time to stoke these prejudices to increase their popularity. The voices of moderation, meanwhile, are weakened and sidelined. The big powers abroad also look to capitalize on the chaos in the country.
This is not to suggest that resolving outstanding constitutional issues will be easy. It won’t. It will, in all circumstances, be a long and hard road. But a start could be made if the political parties at least sat down and started seriously discussing these issues. The main problem right now is the gaping trust deficit among our major political actors. The two sides to the constitutional dispute increasingly feel that it is futile to talk to the ‘tone-deaf’ other side. Only when the main issues are brought out into the open and negotiations undertaken in a spirit of mutually-beneficial give-and-take can there be credible solutions. But such negotiations will founder if the person who should be leading them is himself absent from the room. Even if the prime minister is to go to New York today, we hope that he has a clear, time-bound roadmap for an amicable settlement of important constitutional disputes after he comes back. He should also avoid non-essential detours. People expect nothing less from a politician of Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s stature.