What’s O’clock

Now that the interim constitution is ready for promulgation, voices of disagreement on certain provisions or on the separation and balance of power among the three branches of the state — the executive, the legislature and the judiciary — have been aired by various people and groups. To a certain extent, this is but natural. What is not natural is the expression of discontent by the signatories to the final document. The nation witnessed riots in Nepalgunj last week because the Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi) observed a Madesh bandh and resorted to words and actions, which ultimately led to a tragic outcome, contrary to its obligations after it put its signature on the interim constitution. Jhalanath Khanal, CPN-UML politburo member and one of the members of the team that finalised the interim constitution, last Thursday alleged tampering with the interim constitution. Even Prime Minister GP Koirala, speaking in Biratnagar on Friday, said it was essential to amend the interim constitution as it has given “unfettered powers” to the Prime Minister.

Koirala said, “these unlimited powers make the PM an autocrat”. His remarks maybe surprising to many who see his working style as “authoritarian” in any case. Koirala added that his dissatisfaction on this issue has delayed the promulgation of the interim statute. Some of the judges and lawyers had expressed dissatisfaction over the provision of the Prime Minister appointing the Supreme Court judges. Similarly, Khanal had alleged that “several points which had been finalised at the meeting at Baluwatar went missing the next morning. He told the Nepal Bar Association that there were several “obvious flaws” in the interim statute. It seems it is not only the NSP-Anandidevi leaders but also others, including the Prime Minister himself, who do not find it necessary to stand by their written commitment.

As for Khanal’s accusations, the burden of proof is on him, rather his party. Serious allegations such as those by Khanal may serve the political expediency of certain leaders, but they are likely to have adverse implications for the transition to the constituent assembly elections and even beyond. Unless these accusations are substantiated, Khanal and the CPN-UML itself will be seen to have behaved irresponsibly. No less so is Koirala’s mea culpa. Holding the key to almost everything including the peace process, the Prime Minister has only raised doubts about his ability to govern by his remarks that the interim statute must be amended even before its promulgation. One wonders how the general public may find reasons to believe other pledges of the leaders who keep changing their statements whenever it suits them to do so. As for the promulgation, the public has so far been given to understand that it will be done as soon as the arms monitors start their work. But now Koirala has added the ‘amendment’ conditionality. Such irresolute stands can only generate doubts in the public mind — whether there is after all a ‘grand design’ against the interim constitution and the CA polls.