Memorializing the man who worked for Nepal’s constitution

Members of the international community, including the UN agencies in Kathmandu, paid tribute to Subash Chandra Nembang who passed away last month.

Mahabir Paudyal

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Kathmandu:  The chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, both the first and second ones, from 2008-2012 and then from 2013 to 2015. Under his chair the Constituent Assembly promulgated the constitution on September 20, 2015. He played an important role from his part to deliver the constitution within the September 20, 2015 deadline despite the pressures from various sources to defer the statute promulgation process.

This is but only one side of the story of Subash Chandra Nembang, known among Nepalis and also  among the international community as the man who contributed to making of the 2015 constitution that made Nepal a federal democratic republican secular state, which charted the new course of polity for the Himalayan republic.

In a commemoration event participated in by ambassadors of the EU, UK, Finland, Norway and other members and representatives of the diplomatic community as well as the UN agencies in Kathmandu on Friday, the speakers shed light on various other aspects of the life and attributes of the chairperson of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly.

“I met him four days before he left us and I was really moved when I heard that he was no more,” Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Nepal, recalled her last meeting with Nembang. “I knew him ten years ago. He was a profound gentleman, graceful, soft-spoken and diplomatic but very firm in his belief,” said Hannah. “I loved his humility.” According to her, Nembang showed an unshakable commitment to democracy and human rights. 

The UN resident coordinator to Nepal lauded his role during the constitution making process. “His leadership role during the critical time of Nepal’s transition and his commitment for consensus building made it possible for all to come together,” she said. She appreciated him for playing a role for women’s empowerment and inclusion. “He contributed to the empowerment of women, the marginalized and the vulnerable community and importance of inclusivity and social justice in building a just and equitable society. His advocacy for the rights of women, minority and disadvantaged groups was unwavering.”

Hanaa said the passing of Nembang has left critical jobs of the peace process unfinished. He was a key person on the ongoing peace process which requires a logical and humanitarian end to the transitional justice process, she said.  “As a resident coordinator I had the opportunity to share favorable views with him. I was always enthused by his patience to discuss in detail about the need and methods of completion of the final leg of Nepal’s peace process.”

This is the job that was left unfinished when he departed, she said.

“It is incumbent upon all of us who believe in justice, including international community, to really see through the process in a way that respects the needs of the international law and practice but also of the law and practice of Nepal, as well as the precedents and the principles set by the Supreme Court of Nepal.”

Tika P Dhakal, a political analyst who presented the paper on life and time of Nembang, said, Nembang had rare quality of bridging the political divides making it possible to bring out the constitution with maximum possible consensus among the political parties represented in the 601-member Constituent Assembly.

“Subasji possessed the rare ability to bridge political divides, maintain nonpartisanship, and exhibit unwavering and unending patience,” said Dhakal. “These qualities proved instrumental in the arduous task of drafting the constitution in the highly polarized environment, with so many parallel and cross-cutting political and social divides.”

Dhakal said that Nembang’s most recent focus as a senior parliamentarian and one of the top leaders of CPN-UML had been to find a solution to the transitional justice process. “He was aware of its political and legal entanglement and was deeply involved till the last in finding a compromise in the amendment bill that was being negotiated between the political parties, with the conflict victims and rights defenders on alert,” he said. “His position was victim-centric, pro-human rights and solution-oriented. He was equally aware of Nepal’s international human rights obligations and the high value of the Supreme Court decisions.”

Bimala Rai Paudyal, former foreign minister and the member of National Assembly, remembered Nembang as a mentor and a guardian. He was the one who could tell us the context and causes of each clause and provision of the constitution, she said. When asked about some controversial clauses of the constitution he would tell us who rooted for such clauses and why they had to be incorporated. “He was a living history of our constitution,” she said.  

Kanak Mani Dixit, writer and journalist, said Nembang was a repository of all the details, the background and context of the constitution writing process. “He knew details and nuances,” Dixit said. “We are now coming in for more turbulence after some time of relative calm because the constitution is being challenged. The best person who can defend the constitution would be him,” he said.  “Constitutions need interpretations.  He could have been our interpreter of the constitution.”

Sushil Pyakurel, the chair of Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial Foundation which organized the commemoration event, shed light on the contribution of Nembang on Nepal’s human rights movement. “In 1992, when he was a member of the Upper House he tabled a resolution to form a national human rights commission,” Pyakurel said of Nembang. “His vision was realized in 2000 when the country established the National Human Rights Commission.”