Proposed amendment lets naturalized head key state posts

Published On: November 7, 2016 01:50 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Leaders of both ruling and oppn parties vent ire in public
Proposed provisions for amendment
     --- Any citizen having citizenship by descent or living in Nepal at least for 10 years after acquiring naturalized citizenship will be eligible to be appointed to any key state posts.

     --- Languages of official business will be included in the annex of the constitution based on the recommendations from the language commission.

     --- Palpa, Gulmi, Arghakhanchi to be shifted to province-4 and Rukum, Rolpa Pyuthan to province-6 from province 5.

     --- Demarcation commission will be formed to resolve provincial demarcation dispute across the country.

     --- Members of the National Assembly will be elected from provinces on the basis of population. At least three members will represent each of the seven provinces in the Assembly.

KATHMANDU, Nov 7: Some of the provisions included in the constitution amendment proposal under discussion between the government and the agitating Madhes-based parties have run into serious objection from both the opposition and ruling parties. 

Party leaders have vented their ire, especially against a provision to allow those acquiring naturalized citizenship to head key state posts, including the post of top executive.

A copy of the draft amendment proposal became public on Sunday. The constitution promulgated in September last year bars those holding naturalized citizenship from heading key state posts or becoming head of state or head of  government.

*Article 289 (1) of the new Constitution prohibits naturalized citizens from holding the posts of president, vice president, prime minister, chief justice, speaker, chief minister, provincial governor, speaker of the provincial assembly and chiefs of the security forces.

The proposed amendment replaces the entire provision and allows naturalized citizens to assume these posts after they lived in Nepal for 10 years.

General Secretary of National Madhes Socialist Party Keshav Jha said the amendment proposal that came out in public is still under discussion. "This is not an official draft proposal for amendment and is only a draft prepared by the government," said Jha, adding, "We have not had any discussions on it." He also said it had already come out in public on October 30. 

Earlier, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had announced that an amendment proposal would be introduced before  Chhath,  in order to address the constitutional grievances of Madhes-based parties.

The amendment proposal under discussion seeks to bring amendments to six differedt articles in the new statute. Although the proposal was prepared at the initiative of NC leaders Bimalendra Nidhi and Ramesh Lekhak and Maoist Center leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara, it has drawn flak not only from the opposition party, CPN-UML, but also from within the two main ruling parties, NC and Maoist Center.  

Leaders of both ruling and opposition parties  took to twitter and facebook  since morning on Sunday to vent their ire against the amendment proposal. 

The main opposition party Vice Chairman Bhim Rawal reacted  strongly against the proposal. "Nowhere in the world exists a provision to allow naturalized citizens to head the government and constitutional bodies," said Rawal. "UML will never support an amendment proposal that undermines national identity and will eventually pose a threat to  national existence."  

Pointing out that a Nepali national married to an Indian citizen has to wait for at least seven years even to file an application for citizenship in India, Rawal asked in whose interest this amendment proposal was being forwarded . "There is no rationale for amending the citizenship provision. There is no rationale either for taking out the hill districts from province number 5," he further said. 

Among other things, the amendment proposal seeks to remove the six hill districts Palpa, Arghakhanchi, Rukum, Gulmi, Rolpa and Pyuthan from province number 5, and leave only the plains districts strething from Nawalparasi to Bardiya.

Also expressing resentment, senior leader of the ruling CPN (Maoist Center) Narayankaji Shrestha took to twitter to say that "amendment of the constitution so as to make naturalized citizens eligible for head of state and government is next to impossible".

Talking to Republica over the phone, Shrestha said he does not expect a government headed by his party to introduce such an amendment. "I am confident our party won't support such a proposal," he further said, adding, "The prime Minister himself has already refuted any such notion." 

Likewise, leader of ruling Nepali Congress (NC) Dr Ram Sharan Mahat questioned the way the amendment proposal was prepared by the leaders of his party. "There has been no discussion within the party about the amendment proposals, and there are no grounds for accepting the proposal the way it has become public," said Dr Mahat.

Sources said NC senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel told those close to him that the amendment proposal that has come out in public cannot be accepted. A leader close to the Krishna Sitaula faction within NC also said they won't back an amendment that allows naturalized citizens to hold top posts. 

A majority of NC leaders are also against changing the delineation of the federal provinces, as they fear further  violent protests will follow.  


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