Nepal | October 31, 2020

EDITORIAL: Respect constitution

The Himalayan Times
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The government needs to abide by the constitutional provisions, which have clearly stated the roles of the three tiers of government

Federalism cannot be strengthened by not devolving the state powers to the sub-national and local-level governments. The very essence of federalism is to delegate powers to the provinces and the local levels so that they can plan development activities and provide prompt services to their people as per their needs and priorities. The role of the central government is to handle national level development projects, monetary policy, take care of international borders, diplomacy and international relations, among others. As per the constitutional provisions, the bureaucracy, police, health, education, management of natural resources and service deliveries are assigned to the provinces and local levels. Maintaining law and order in the given provinces also falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces, for which all of them have constituted separate ministries under the leadership of the chief ministers. It has been three years since general elections were held under the new constitution, which has envisaged implementing federalism upto the grassroots levels. The constitution has given immense powers and responsibilities to the provinces and local levels and has also listed them in the annexes, stating which powers they can exercise solely and which they need to share between the federal government and the provinces.

However, the recently-issued “Ordinance to amend Nepal Police Act relating to operation, supervision and coordination of Nepal Police” seems to have undermined the letter and spirit of federalism.

As per the constitutional provisions, the responsibility of maintaining internal security or maintaining peace and order falls within the jurisdiction of the given province, and the existing chief district officer of the given district should act as per the order of the Internal Affairs and Law minister of the province. However, the ordinance has given power of policing the three districts of the Kathmandu Valley – Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur – to the federal Nepal Police and to all the CDOs to clamp prohibitory orders in their districts in the face of Covid-19. All these powers should be exercised not by the federal police but by the provincial police under the direct control and command of the Internal Affairs and Law minister, and the CDOs need to carry out their duties as per their orders.

Moreover, the constitution does not recognise CDOs in the new federal setup. They are now only working as district-level administrators on a temporary basis to coordinate between the centre and the provinces until a new law comes into effect. The CDOs should be limited to the role of making them accountable to the federal government on issues related to citizenship, passport and international borders that are solely the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Constitutional experts have also raised questions about the legality of policing or investigating all crimes in the Kathmandu Valley. The federal parliament needs to amend the constitution should the need arise to bring the Valley’s three districts under the direct control of the federal Nepal Police. The federal government cannot flout the constitution and get away with it.

Make peace, not war

In the pursuit of producing and possessing more and more sophisticated weapons, especially nuclear ones, by the big nations, what should have been the world’s greater priority – eradicating hunger and disease and supplying safe drinking water and basic health services – has been largely overlooked. Thus, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali was right to reiterate Nepal’s stand for a time-bound, general and complete disarmament of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in his address to the high-level meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on Saturday. He urged the nations to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to promote health care, increase agriculture productivity and save lives.

The destruction that an atom bomb could unleash was demonstrated in World War II, when two bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today’s nukes are a thousand times more powerful than the ones used then. Although nuclear weapons are seen as a deterrent to war, the world cannot be a safe place as long as a nuclear threat looms large. Instead nuclear disarmament would allow nations to tend to environmental protection, trade promotion and economic development.

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