By Phanindra Dahal
After hectic parleys late into Saturday night and wee hours of Sunday (today), the political parties struck a five-point deal, paving the way for a three-month extension of the Constituent Assembly.
According to the pact signed by top three leaders of the three major parties:
1) the Constituent Assembly term will be extended by three months;
2) fundamentals of the peace process will be readied within three months;
3) the first draft of the new constitution will be prepared within three months;
4) the Prime Minister will quit to pave the way for formation of a national consensus government; and
5) the Nepal Army will be developed as an inclusive institution by implementing the past agreements signed with Madhesi Morcha.
However, it wasn’t clear when the Prime Minister’s resignation would come.
Earlier before the signing of the agreement, Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) kept harping on PM Khanal’s immediate resignation.
The government’s plan to forge consensus by Saturday midnight failed after SLMM wanted to trade off the extension with Khanal’s immediate step-down. The attempt by the Big Three to forge consensus failed after the Maoists rejected the proposal of NC and a section of ruling CPN-UML for CA extension in two phases.
The House session scheduled for 8 am Saturday was delayed by over 15 hours after the parties couldn’t forge consensus on tenure extension. Speaker Subas Nembang convened the House at 11:14 pm amid persisting differences between the ruling coalition and NC over whether the CA should have a phase-wise or straight six-month extension.
Minister for Law and Justice Prabhu Sah tabled the ninth Interim Constitution amendment bill proposing CA’s tenure extension for a year to avert a constitutional crisis that would result in the event of failure to begin the process of endorsing the bill by Saturday midnight. The note of disapproval registered against tenure extension by RPP-Nepal was rejected by more than a two-thirds majority before the bill was tabled. The next sitting conducted on Sunday morning allowed the lawmakers 25 minutes to register amendment proposals on the bill.
The three major parties were close to extending the term of the CA for six months through a deal including timebound commitment to conclude the peace and constitution making process during intra party discussions held Saturday afternoon. They had agreed that the agreement would be kept in the annexure of the constitution through the House session before passing the term extension bill.
The plan fell through after former Prime Minister and senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal backed NC’s proposal and urged the Maoist leadership to agree on CA extension in two phases. He proposed that the first 45-day extension should complete the peace process and the ensuing six months be utilised to conclude the constitution drafting.
Rejecting the proposal outright, Maoists proposed a package deal including formation of a national unity government and timebound commitment for completing the peace process as well as constitution drafting within six months.
During discussions with NC, UML and Madhes based parties’ leaders, the Maoists had committed that they were ready to end the dual security arrangement for their party leaders immediately and lock the weapons used by the body guards in the containers, in a “symbolic” move to suggest that the arms were under the Special Committee. They had promised to give it in writing that the weapons storage containers kept at the seven main cantonment sites belonged to the Special Committee.
The Maoists had also pledged to finalise the regrouping procedure within June 4, complete the regrouping process by July 5 and complete integration and rehabilitation by September. They had proposed that the first draft of the constitution would be prepared within one month of the CA extension.
PLA has a mind of its own, seeks dignity on even terms
PLA combatants cantoned in various camps have said that the proposal of handing over their arms to the government immediately is not acceptable to them. The cantoned fighters stayed glued to TV screens and kept listening to the radio to get updates on political parleys among the party leaders in the Capital.
Our correspondent from Sindhuli said PLA combatants at the Dhudhauli-based second division camp were curious about fate of the CA. “We are concerned about the CA extension since it matters a lot in determining our future,” said a PLA combatant.
Division commander of the cantonment Sukra Bahadur Roka said that they sacrificed for the sake of a new constitution and there should no bargaining on CA term extension. “The new constitution should be promulgated at any cost. It was our compulsion to pick up arms in the past. We hope that we will not be forced to take to arms again,” he said.
The PLA men are of the opinion that the handover of arms is meaningless since they are also part of the government. They claimed they are also the country’s army, and there is no need to hand over the arms.
Secretary at first division cantonment Sangram Thapa said the PLA will not come out of cantonments even if the tenure of the CA is not extended.
“Now we are under the special committee. So, there is not possibility of us coming out of the cantonment,” he said. Another commander Naresh said that handing over of keys of containers to the state is not mentioned in any agreement inked till date. He termed the proposal put forth by Nepali Congress a conspiracy against peace and the constitution.
Our correspondent from Chitwan said the PLA men expressed their dissatisfaction as the political parties unnecessarily made the PLA combatants their bargaining point.
Assistant commander at Kalyan Anish Smirty Brigade in Shaktikhor cantonment in Chitwan Khim Bahadur Budhathoki said that they are saddened as the political parties have different views on the CA term extension and want to make the PLA an issue.
“We do not want to be the subject of their bargaining. PLA integration should be resolved at the earliest,” he demanded. Our reporters from Nawalparasi said that PLA combatants at fourth division cantonment are on high alert in view of the political situation after May 28. (source)
Lawmakers taken ill
Two lawmakers—Laxmi Pariyar and Chiyama Rai—representing the Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janmukti Party, respectively, were admitted to Bir Hospital on Saturday evening. They were suffering from low blood pressure and diarrhoea, according to their kin.
Pariyar was suffering from diarrhoea since Friday and her condition worsened on Saturday afternoon when she attended a meeting in the Constituent Assembly (CA) hall, said a family member. “She is undergoing treatment at Bir Hospital and is not in a condition to talk,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rai said she has low blood pressure and other health problems and felt uncomfortable during the meeting in the CA hall where the lawmakers were discussing the fate of the Constituent Assembly.
“I am better after treatment.
We were taken to Bir Hospital in an ambulance,” she said. More than a dozen lawmakers also reportedly vomited after eating lunch served on the CA premises on Saturday.
Fad for food Lawmakers from nearly all parties, who were directed to reach the CA hall by 8 am, had lined up in serpentine queues before food stalls.
With a CA meeting being uncertain, the lawmakers, who had little to do, created a scene worth watching there. Lawmakers holding food coupons were seen jostling in five lines inside the CA building.
While leaders remained busy in bargaining and parleys, lawmakers who had nothing to do other than bite their nails and make frequent visits to the CA gate, were seen rather keen on fighting for positions in the food queues. Outside the CA, there were mock programmes and sit-ins to put pressure on those inside. Those inside seemed to be aware of the possibility that this could be their last meal paid with taxpayers’ money.
EU, Norway, Switzerland welcome CA term extension
The ambassadors of the European Union (EU), Norway and Switzerland on Sunday welcomed the extension of the Constituent Assembly (CA)’s term in Nepal with consensus among the political parties.
Issuing a joint press statement today, the envoys said that the consensual extension of the CA’s term has conferred a fresh opportunity to complete the drafting of a democratic, inclusive constitution within the next three months.
“We urge the political parties to ensure that the agreements they have reached on the integration and rehabilitation of the former UCPN (Maoist) combatants are brought to a successful conclusion,” the press statement reads.
The envoys have underlined that the EU, Norway and Switzerland are looking forward to the finalisation of the new constitution and hope that the same will pave the way for free and fair elections and ensure lasting peace and stability in Nepal.
“The EU, Norway and Switzerland, as long-term friends of Nepal, reaffirm their full support for the peace process,” the statement further reads, “The aspirations of the Nepali people can only be met if their representatives forge consensus that will bring a new constitution, peace, stability and prosperity.”