Blind date with destiny

Judging by the draft of the interim constitution submitted by the Laxman Prasad Aryal committee, the 10 weeks it has taken in the process seems to have arguably been an exercise in near futility. Perhaps this is the first constitution-drafting committee anywhere which has left blanks (too many at that) to be filled in and has put forward quite a few unspecific alternative arrangements to be decided later, despite the draft’s 172 articles against the 133 of the 1990 Constitution. The Koirala government and the political parties, too, should share the blame for the mess the 16-member body has made of constitution-making. The uninterest and the light manner in which the government and the parties treated the very purpose of the committee were unworthy of the mandate of the April revolution. But that does not absolve the committee of its irresolution and indecisiveness. It ought to have come up with a complete draft.

Anyway, the connotation of the ‘draft’ means it is subject to alterations by the SPA and the Maoists. But the Aryal panel has chosen the please-all approach, trying to cram in the suggestions of everybody. In fact, the draft appears to have raised more questions than it has answered, giving the detractors the ammunition with which to try to destroy the efforts to put in place an interim statute pending the constituent assembly (CA) polls. Therefore, it would not be any easier for the task force of the SPA and the Maoists to give the draft an acceptable shape than to fashion a separate one. What is clear though, the exercise is likely to take much more time than most of the people expect. The key issues are still unresolved: that fact will pose the main challenges in days to come, combined with the unhealthy relentless pressure of certain foreign powers to disarm the Maoists before they are allowed to join an interim government.

Among the various inconsistencies displayed by the interim draft, the provision of holding a referendum on the monarchy simultaneously with the CA polls is rather indefensible. The public posture on the monarchy had been more or less defined at the height of the April Revolution. There are so many contentious issues, for instance, the question of reservations which tends to go against the principle of strict equality of opportunity, which had not been clinched by the people’s movement. While no need is felt for a referendum on other ‘unalterable’ or otherwise highly important or possibly contentious provisions of the 1990 Constitution, such as the parliamentary system of government, the rationale for holding a referendum on the monarchy alone defies logic. If CA is competent to make a new

constitution, denying it a free hand in deciding the fate of the monarchy leaves room for suspect intention. It would, however, be the right thing to put the constitution as a whole, not just the fate of the monarchy, before the voters — for their ultimate acceptance or rejection of the document drawn up by the popularly elected CA.