Constitution Amendment

Civil Society Urges Committed Constitution Amendment Process

A group of young civil society members from various walks of life has reminded the government of its promise to address the grievances of the Madhesis and marginalised communities through Constitutional amendment.

The statement came a day after another group of older civil society members issued a statement urging the government to abide by the election code of conduct, and to not make any decision that would influence the second round of elections scheduled for June 14.

The government had promised amendment to the Constitution to bring the protesting parties on board for the first round of elections held on May 14.

Watch: CPN (UML) Secretary Pradeep Gyawali (against the amendment) and Social Activist Brabim Kumar (for amendment) explain their respective Opposition Party and Civil Society positions.

The older civil society group, comprising of former bureaucrats and rights activists, argue that it is unconstitutional to increase the number of local units in Madhes as proposed by the government, when the first round of elections has already taken place in local units in the hill districts.

The government has, in fact, formed a committee to increase the number of local units in the Terai districts based on population size. The Constitution Amendment bill that includes revision of federal boundaries has also been tabled for discussion in Parliament.

This position adopted by the older group of civil society members reflects that of the main opposition, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML). The Party has been saying the amendment is not in the interest of the country.

“The Constitution amendment issue is also unrelated to the Local Election,” Pradeep Gyawali, UML Secretary, told Onward Nepal today. “It should not be an excuse for postponing the election.”

 

Rastriya Janata Party, formed via the merger of several Madhesi parties in the lead up to the May 14 elections, has been threateing to boycott and obstruct the July 14 elections if their demands are not met. But two other Madhesi parties: Sanghiya Samajbadi Party and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum­, are taking part in the elections. “Since they have already taken part in first round of elections, they should participate in the second round of elections,” says Gyawali.

The main opposition, who brought the Constitution into being, has been vehemently opposing the amendment to the Constitution. They have instead been stressing on its implementation. The ruling parties, Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre), on the other hand, have been trying to woo Madhesi forces to participate in the elections by promising them amendment to the Constitution first.

The younger civil society members, a new group of activists, writers, artists, engineers, and other professionals, in their statement on Thursday said a large section of the country’s population: The Madhesis, Tharus, and other Janajatis, remain deeply unsatisfied with the Constitution promulgated in 2015.

“They do not take ownership of the document, a result of which was a protracted protest where many citizens were injured, maimed, and lost their lives. The agitation also led to a huge loss of private and public properties,” the statement read.

“The amendment to the Constitution before the next round of elections was promised to the protesting parties. Elections should take place but due parliament procedure should be followed too,” states Brabim Kumar, a member of the younger civil society group.

The group has urged the government and other political leaders to pass the Amendment bill and address the demands of the protesting front. Such a move would facilitate the upcoming elections in the four remaining provinces, they said, while also warning that blocking the Constitution Amendment bill for political and electoral gains would create deeper political and social polarisation in society and “plunge the nation into a dangerous sectarian crisis.”