(Released by concerned citizens in relation to the current political and social transition.)
The first Constituent Assembly came to an unsuccessful conclusion amidst numerous uncertainties and distancing between the political parties. Amidst the existing political vacuum and transitional ambiguities, for a second time, elections were held for the Constituent Assembly in November 2013. Many of the causes for the collapse of the First Constituent Assembly remain as the Second Constituent Assembly meets. Under the circumstances, there is need for open discussion on the issues listed below, so as to monitor and provide feedback to the political parties and CA members as they work to promulgate the new constitution within a year, and to encourage the government to take decisions on urgent matters of public concern. As citizens espousing democratic values gathered from different parts of the country here at Aastam Village of Kaski District, we have discussed and come to agreement on the following themes and topics:
A. Regarding the basis for constitution writing:
- The elections to the Second Constituent Assembly represented strong support among the public for a republic that is both democratic and federal. Under the prevailing circumstances, the definition of federalism must be informed by international practice and experience, keeping in mind inter-community goodwill within Nepal and the country’s geopolitical situation. We need a constitution with the kind of federalism that will deliver prosperity to the citizenry.
- The constitution should promote the establishment of a welfare state, where there is accountability of those in power to end all kinds of social discrimination and to promote social harmony.
- The following foundational elements should be kept in mind so that federalism is successfully defined and implemented:
i. The supremacy, liberty and participation of individual citizens
ii. Presence of government at the grassroots
iii. Protection and promotion of local languages and cultures
iv. Ending of discrimination and marginalisation, and access to the justice system
v. Prosperity, social harmony and security
vi. Proper relations between provinces, and between province and the central state, as well as adequate access to resources
vii. Good governance at the local level
- The values carried by the various political movements carried out by the people at different times for the sake of societal advance must be given due recognition constitutionally.
- The present election system requires revision so that 70 percent of the legislature is elected through the first-past-the-post system and 30 percent proportionally. The proportional list must ensure representation of discriminated communities, marginalized regions, under-represented groups and those disadvantaged by class. It has become imperative to ensure financial transparency so as to control increasing irregularities during elections.
- The political and social structures of Nepali society must be transformed to reflect democratic values. The process of democratisation must include the political parties (in terms of within-party and inter-party relations) and it must encourage the open and transparent functioning of all mechanisms of state administration.
B. Urgent actions required from the state:
- It has been 16 years since the last local level elections, and 11 years since the public has had elected local bodies and representatives. As a result, corruption has struck deep roots and development activities affected. The absence of representative government in the villages, municipalities and districts has affected democratisation at the grassroots. To correct this regression, the date for local elections should be immediately announced, ensuring that the polls are held by May 2014.
- The promised transitional justice mechanisms must be immediately established and the relevant decisions of the Supreme Court implemented, ensuring justice for the victims of conflict.
- The government’s nomination of 26 members of the CA must be according to the letter and spirit of the Interim Constitution, ensuring presence in the House of unrepresented sections of society as well as experts to be part of the drafting exercise.
- Keeping in mind the severe environmental destruction going on in different parts of the country, and in particular the Chure region, there is urgent need to halt the degradation and prevent calamities.
- The extreme politicisation of sensitive sectors such as education, health, industries and administration has led to a chaotic situation that must end. The access of the public to basic health and education must be guaranteed.
- Investments in agriculture must increase and fair price ensured for the produce of agriculturalists.
- It has become urgent to achieve rapid economic growth, balanced development and accelerated employment opportunities that will attract the new generation.
At a time perilous transition, active citizens in different parts of the country must work to sensitise the political parties, the Constituent Assembly and the government on the themes addressed in this declaration, demanding urgent action. We the undersigned, coming from different parts of the country for discussions at Aastam Village on 28 February – 2 March 2014 under the auspices of the Nepal Intellectuals’ Forum (Pokhara), make the appeal to the citizenry to take this agenda forward.
Astaam, Dhital VDC, Kaski
Sunday, 2 March 2014
– Sushil Pyakurel, Kathmandu
– Prof. Pashupati Nath Timelsena, Lamjung
– Chandrakishore, Parsa
– Prof. Purushottam Dahal, Kathmandu
– Kanak Mani Dixit, Lalitpur
– Prof. Bhawani Prasad Pandey, Kaski
– Dr. Surendra Labh, Dhanusha
– Gehendreshwar Koirala, Kaski
– Padma Sharan Regmi, Kaski
– Prof. Bishwa Kalyan Parajuli, Kaski
– Dambar Khatiwada, Sunsari
– Lok Bahadur Bista, Kailali
– Maya Gurung Manangi, Manang
– Pramila Rajbhandari, Baglung
– Dr. Sudarshan Silwal, Baglung
– Yagya Raj Thapa, Lalitpur
Contact: Yagya Raj Thapa, Tel: 9510-10587