Former Speaker and Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Subas Nembang is the deputy leader of Nepal’s principal opposition party UML in Parliament. Nembang’s party Chairman and then Prime Minister KP Oli resigned in July this year after coalition partner CPN-Maoist Centre withdrew support to his government.
The party has been demanding that the government present a plausible proposal to the opposition on the need to amend the new Constitution before it can decide on supporting it. Nembang, in his capacity as Oli’s de facto negotiator with the government, says the government has not done any work on preparing proposal to amend the Charter. Excerpts from an interview:
The Madhesh-centred parties have said Prime Minister Dahal assured them that a proposal to amend the constitution to address their demands will be tabled immediately after the Prime Minister returns from Goa. Has the government told you the same thing?
What surprises us is that the Prime Minister himself mentions that he informed the Indian Prime Minister what was going on, but has done almost nothing to start a discussion on it at home.
He has not even taken up the issue of amendment with us. According to media reports, I have reason to believe that the Prime Minister has also not consulted the ruling ally Nepali Congress on the amendment. I would go as far as saying that the PM has not talked about it within his own party.
Deputy Prime Minister and Congress leader Bimalendra Nidi was involved in preparing a draft proposal of the amendment. How can we believe that the Nepali Congress is unaware of the proposal?
I do not know what is going on between Nidhi and Prachanda. But just a few days ago, the Nepali Congress’ Ram Chandra Paudel said his party was unaware of the proposal. Ram Sharan Mahat also says the government has not even started preliminary discussions on the amendment.
Your party has presented itself as being opposed to amending the Constitution. Maybe that is the reason the government is not keeping you updated on what is going on.
The UML is ready to amend the Constitution. All we are saying is that the government needs to present a strong case to us for us to support any proposal.
We believe that the government may be trying to present (to the Madheshis) the UML as the main obstacle to amending the constitution. Just a few months ago, then Prime Minister Oli had proposed that political parties involved in passing the Constitution should unite to frame new laws to implement it. Major political parties had, in fact, agreed to the proposal.
But today, as there is talk of amending the Charter, they have not even started informal discussions on the issue.
The Prime Minister has already said that the UML is trying to thwart his attempts to amend the Charter.
I do not want to get into a verbal spat over the issue. All we are saying is that we challenge them to get the amendment passed by the Cabinet, and present it to the people.
Does this mean that you are cozying up with the Madheshi Morcha?
We are not close to or out of reach for any political party. But in the last few weeks, as the Morcha understands that the government is trying to dupe it, our ties have become warmer. Even I am in regular touch with Morcha leaders. They have their reasons to be sceptical. The government has not done anything to prepare for elections.
The Morcha has said revision of provincial boundaries tops its agenda when it comes to amending the Constitution. What is your take?
First of all, we do not know what their demands are. We are not in the know as to what the ruling alliance and the Madheshi Morcha are up to. We don’t know what agreement they reached to form the new government. If you talk about revising the provincial boundaries, I have a question to ask.
This constitution was prepared by more than 9o per cent of people’s elected representatives. This means that provincial boundaries were also delineated by the same majority. When major parties said they would just reach a deal on the number of provinces, the Madheshi Morcha announced an agitation demanding that the provinces be carved out in the new Constitution itself.
The boundaries could be revised if political parties involved in passing the Charter have changed their stance on federalism. But I do not see that something of that sort has happened here. So what are we to do now?
Are you saying that the government should stop waiting for the Morcha to come on board, and instead, announce elections?
What we are saying is that the task at hand is to implement the Constitution. For this, we should form a parliamentary committee to monitor progress. We have requested the Speaker several times to take the initiative, but we don’t know why she is deferring the meetings.
Signs are that the government is reluctant to implement the Constitution. If that is not the case, and the government feels that elections cannot be held without amendment, then it should tell the people what is going on.
If we are convinced that we have a problem, and amending the Charter is the only way out, we are ready to support the government’s amendment proposal. But the government should not dally in announcing elections.