Those who don't accept change say new CA will fail
A member of the Citizen’s Movement for Peace and Democracy that played a crucial role in the success of People’s Movement 2006, Dr Devendra Raj Panday has closely followed political developments since 2008 CA election.
Mahabir Paudyal caught up with the veteran civil society leader and human rights activist to discuss November 19 election, challenges to constitution making and civil society’s role post-election.
What is the fundamental difference between last CA and upcoming CA elections?
In terms of importance, both CA elections are more or less the same. The upcoming poll is going to result in a new CA, a venue to institutionalize aspirations of the 2006 People’s Movement.
The fundamental difference is there is no similar degree of enthusiasm among people, partly because of CPN-Maoist’s proposed plan to disrupt election with violent means and partly because of the major parties’ failure to respect people’s mandate and draft the statute through erstwhile CA. But there is no reason to assume that upcoming election has no value. Of course the elected representatives in the new house will bring in diverse aspirations but together they will still be able to give the much-needed statute to the country.
How do you view CPN-Maoist’s fresh demand for roundtable for broader consensus on constitutional issues?
Call for broader consensus is indeed very valid. But you have to put Mohan Baidya’s demands into a context. What led them to break away from Comprehensive Peace Agreement? Roundtable conference was their insurgency era demand. The reason why they broke away from UCPN (Maoist) was not this. What they said was: Look UPCN (Maoist) has betrayed the people, deceived PLA combatants and cadres who sacrificed so much, and the leadership has enriched itself instead of addressing problems of the poor, oppressed and the marginalized people, so we have to go back and start from where we started. In a way, this means they are looking to start people’s war again.
This is the essence of Baidya’s demands. Perhaps they think wrecking the election process and not allowing CA to draft the statute will justify their end. They are locking themselves out of the CA. Baidya could have contributed to social, cultural, economic and political justice that Nepali people are aspiring for, if he had not exited himself from this process. He seems to have chosen a suicidal path.
Election will be held and new CA formed which will start working on constitution drafting and take charge of day to day governance. Baidya’s relevance will end then. What will he do? The vast majority of committed leaders that he has will remain out of this democratic and national process, and there will be no room left for Baidya and his colleagues in the new set up.
You mean their political future is bleak?
Exactly. But they will have to come to this system in one way or another at one point of time. All the other forces have accepted election. Their fresh demand for roundtable will further prolong the transition. This deadlock should have been resolved long ago and country should have had a new constitution by now. We cannot put the outstanding issues on hold any more. We need to build a system for leading the country forward, and this is possible only through new CA.
Second CA election under the status quo is an untested practice. Nowhere else in the world has this ever happened.
It’s true that Nepal is the only country going into CA election twice. But there are many things that we have done which other countries have not. For example how many other countries have overthrown monarchy as peacefully? Nations do things that are unique to their situations. If second CA election was so strange, so undoable and impractical, we would not have had this level of international support.
But what if the new CA also fails like the old one?
Those who do not acknowledge the change of 2006 movement, people’s aspirations for change and the new mandate of 2008 election, which entirely changed the political course of the country, are spreading the message that the new CA will also fail. The question is this: Either you have to admit that 2006 movement was misguided and it should not have taken place and revert back to monarchical system or move forward and institutionalize the gains of 2006 movement.
If the former is not what you want, the new CA is the only answer. As for those who are frustrated with the current crop of leaders I say this: We cannot import leaders from elsewhere, we will need to repose our faith on those we have, work with and hope from them. I believe that the leaders have learnt some substantive lessons from the last six years’ experience. They won’t repeat those mistakes. Let’s put faith on them.
But won’t such faith be misplaced after the dismal failure of the first CA?
Personally I am confident that new CA will bring about the desired result. We stand at the crossroads now. Either we have to go back to old order or repose faith on our leaders and move forward. There is no third option.
But major political parties are back to square one, as is reflected in their election manifestoes.
Let us be clear. Political parties include agendas in their manifestoes which can attract larger number of people from their constituencies, which is natural. When they come to new CA, they must sit together and come to a kind of compromise. This is what constitution writing is all about. After all, political parties resolved many issues through the last CA except for a couple of contentious ones. This is a major achievement. It is wrong to say CA failed to do anything. If they sort out contentious issues, which they must, we will have a constitution within a year.
Do you believe that the civil society failed to play its part in saving the old CA? How about its role in bringing Mohan Baidya into election process?
I cannot speak for the entire civil society. It is not a monolithic entity, its members have different aspirations, objectives and agendas. It is true that Nagarik Andolan (Citizen’s Movement for Peace and Democracy) that I was part of could have been little more active. Yet it does not mean no efforts were made to bring Baidya faction into the election process. Many others were doing so.
I did not, I must confess. As far as our Nagarik Andolan is concerned, wittingly or unwittingly we made a mistake in developing “holier than thou” attitude right after people’s movement. Civil Society should have pressed the parties to work for progressive agenda. It should have played the role of mediator between the state and the citizens.
It should have worked to bring contending parties together, not push one away and work for the other one. But some civil society members started to work for their vested interests. We failed to live up to real objectives of our movement. But that’s because the people who were associated with one party or other were directly or indirectly nominated in the CA in the name of civil society members. That was a mistake. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the 26 people who go to new CA as independent citizens are not associated with any parties in any way.
How should civil society work in coming days to ensure past mistakes are not repeated?
All 26 people should be appointed by the government, not the political parties. This way they will be loyal to the state or the mandate of the people. It will exert pressure on them to work independently.
But how can we expect such independent appointments by a political government that will be in place after CA vote?
I admit that there will be influence of political parties in nominations. My point is it is impossible even for civil society members to be absolutely non-political. But they should not be political party members. Since it is non-political, the current government should take initiatives for this immediately after election. Better if it can do so before election results are out. Nominated members of the CA should be the nominees of the nation. Only such people can make political parties accountable to people.
Finally, any predictions for the election?
Many things have changed over the last five years. People’s perspectives have changed. I don’t think any party will have a domineering presence in the new assembly. But it’s okay as long as they come with a procedure to settle outstanding issues and draft the statute. What kind of coalition will emerge on constitutional issues will make a lot of difference in the new CA.
The civil society is utterly disgusted, dishearted and died in Saoudi.
The very predictable unrests these coming days are symptomatic of the lack of True Democracy.
In my country we have football devotees vandalizing Amsterdam, they smashed a cop. We all hate it and trams are deviated for a few hours, this too will pass. But in Kathmandu and rest of the country hard working citizens are ambushed frequently to the point of being surprised by having electricity. The fuel
Lobsang Diki Gurung
"Civil Society should have pressed the parties to work for progressive agenda." Come on, Dr. Panday! Let´s get over this kind of ´should-have-done´ mindset. The country and people lost more than two decades of precious time on this type of bickering and tinkering. Let us be honest to ourselves. The era of Gyanendra, Girija, Madhav Kumar, Baidhya, Pushpa Kamal, and Babu Ram has largely expired. The old dogs failed to deliver democracy, development, or stability to the Nation. T