Kathmandu: The first President of the federal democratic republic of Nepal, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, got the golden opportunity to promulgate the Constitution of Nepal, the constitution written by the Constituent Assembly, formed as a result of the long and arduous struggle and sacrifices of the Nepali people.
The moment when the first President of the country unveiled the Constitution on September 20, 2015 by touching it with his head in reverence will go down in the history of Nepal as one of the rarest of rare and epoch-making moments in the life of a nation.
This was historic in that all the constitutions before this were issued by the monarch. The long cherished dream of the Nepali people to draft a constitution by their representatives was realized with the formation of the Constituent Assembly on the back of the historic second People’s Movement of 2006/07. Yadav was elected the first President of Republic Nepal on July 21, 2008.
The National News Agency interviewed the first President of the country in the context of the Eighth Constitution Day. Following are the excerpts of the interview taken by Krishna Adhikari, Chief of RSS Feature News Section, and Narayan Neupane, Deputy Chief Reporter:
The nation got the republican constitution as an outcome of the big struggle and sacrifice of the Nepali people. How do you take the present practices and implementation?
It has been seven decades since we waged a struggle in an institutionalized way for securing our rights and democracy. We have been moving forward by formulating a democratic constitution from the Constituent Assembly formed through the sacrifices and struggles of the people, including in 2007 BS, 2046 BS and 2062/63 BS. The three tiers of government constituted after the promulgation of the Constitution conducted the governance and administration for five years in keeping with the democratic system. We are at the threshold of holding a general election for the second term of these governments, which is pleasing. There should be periodic elections in a democracy and the people should be alert at this moment whether or not good works have been carried out for the country and society, and to elect the right party and leaders. That time has arrived now.
Apart from the elections, what other works do you think have been accomplished?
Although it was said that the laws in conflict with the Constitution would be made in consonance with it from the parliament within one year from the promulgation of the constitution, there could not be good progress in this aspect. On the contrary, the government that was formed during this period itself dissolved the House of Representatives (HoR) two times. The HoR was reinstated by the judiciary, but the rest of the constitutional, legal, and developmental programs could not progress as expected. The provinces and local levels could not function as expected as the federal parliament could not formulate the required laws in time. Cent percent work should have been carried out during that time, but it is confined to 50 percent only. This created a lot of ‘complications’.
There is a public complaint that there is little progress in development. What do you say?
In fact, democracy is a slow process if we look at its history. In this governance system, you need to go to the people, take the people into confidence and form a government and carry out works as per their aspirations. There is the principle that we should move ahead by understanding our geographical situation and social fabric and through consultations with other bodies. It is difficult to take resources to the mountainous and hilly region due to the difficult terrain. Where I see the most risk is that we should have learnt from the history of past episodes, but we have not been learning from this. There is weakness in this sphere. Only the nation that moves ahead by learning from history can progress. The nation neglecting its history cannot do anything.
Do you mean a study of the episodes in political history that took place in the country in the past?
BP Koirala had established an image of a socialist leader not only in Asia but also internationally. The party should have carried out a study and research on the speeches and statements he made in the party’s general convention and in places including Burma, Sydney, and America as to how socialism should be moved ahead. But this has not happened. A study and research should have been conducted on books like The Jail Journal, Aatma Britanta, and other literary writings.
BP was a person famous across the nation. King Mahendra on December 15, 1960, dissolved the government led by BP, the government which was enjoying two-thirds support. This step of the late king pushed the country 30 years back in terms of its democratic transformation and development. The nation had to endure the ‘army and police rule’ during that time. The political change of 1991 came about after a long struggle jointly waged by the Nepali Congress and the communists. Also, in less than five years of this change, there was a crisis in democracy due to the anomalies within the parties, the palace’s machinations, and the geo-political influences. This was the outcome of the destiny of not learning from past episodes and not studying history.
What do you think the political parties should have done?
The major powers of the country should have come together and worked for nation-building. The country slid back into instability due to the discord between the palace (monarchy) and the parties in the past and a situation came when the Nepalis were engaged in killing each other due to the ‘politics of weapons. The country was in a mess and the resources available in the country were not utilized properly. In between, there was regression once again in 2059 BS. The seven political parties and the Maoists had to change the form of the movement and struggle for the restoration of democracy. After the success of the past movements, we had concluded that the road to democracy had been free of hurdles, but it could not be. All the political powers at that time should have made the correct analysis after intensively studying the history. The political movement of 2007 BS had been successful due to the able-leadership of BP, that of 2046 BS due to the same kind of leadership of Ganesh Man Singh, and that of 2062/63 BS under the leadership of then Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala by taking the Maoist rebels into confidence.
The latest people’s movement had become successful with the unity of all political forces of the nation by Girija Prasad due to his ‘towering personality’. He ended the armed conflict. The credit for important works like the management of the Maoist combatants, establishment of peace, and acceptance of the republic go to him. We were successful in establishing federalism, secularism, and democracy through the understanding of all the political forces in the country. The present constitution which was promulgated by the Constituent Assembly as an achievement of the second people’s movement has become inclusive, encompassing all the castes and ethnicities, communities, and classes.
There is public grievance that we have not been able to achieve the desired results as we have not been able to institutionalize political achievements brought through such sacrifice and struggle?
We had to go through not only one but two Constituent Assemblies at the then difficult time and situation. A son of a commoner was elected the President. The time was difficult back then, there were two armies and they had to be managed. A situation arose when the election for a second Constituent Assembly had to be organized as the first one could not deliver the constitution. Moreover, every side had to be appeased. The constitution issued at such times might not be the best one, but it contains the vital elements of democracy. We should move ahead with this system and the political leadership should develop the capacity to steer it in the right way. The political leaders are not able to do so as per the people’s aspirations.
We should look at the world’s history. The democracy exercise is long and interrupted with unwanted situations and episodes as we can see in the history of Great Britain, considered the mother of democracy. Every system is prone to aberrations but the main thing is to preserve and promote the basic principles of democracy.
Do you have anything to say to the people when the country is now on the eve of federal parliament and provincial assembly elections?
There are public complaints that the leaders are promoting nepotism and favoritism and a money-minded attitude, which have given rise to discrepancies in the body politics and society. On the other hand, the conservative pro-monarchy power has not embraced the latest political change and system. There are these kinds of elements in all the parties. The judiciary has defined well the attack on the parliament and the constitution. The good aspects should be brought into practice. Fitting laws should be formulated and we should move ahead with positive practices. The people’s support and participation in the second People’s Movement was unprecedented. Nobody should misjudge and neglect this level of people’s contribution. All should work towards making the Constitution complete as this constitution is made on the basis of making a review of and internalizing this people’s movement.