Differences over constitutional court hinder consensus
KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, April 22: A meeting of the three major parties -- UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML-- and the United Democratic Madhesi Front held on Saturday to seek consensus on the contentious issues of the new constitution was put off till Sunday morning after the parties differed seriously over the qsuestion of constitutional court.
The meeting was put off without holding any detailed discussions on the contentious issues other than citizenship after the NC and UML stood against the Maoist and UDMF proposal to form a separate constitutional court, proposing instead to form a separate bench under the Supreme Court to deal with constitutional issues.
At the outset of the meeting held at the Constituent Assembly building at New Baneshwor, top leaders of all the parties presented their stances on all contentions issues including system of governance, state restructuring, judicial system and citizenship. A lengthy discussion on citizenship issues took place when the leaders took up point-wise negotiations on each of the disputed issues.
Talking to media after the meeting, Maoist leader Khim Lal Devkota said the meeting was put off as the NC and UML backtracked from the agreement reached at the CA Committee on Judicial System and the Dispute Resolution Sub-Committee under the Constitutional Committee to go for a separate constitutional court. “They said they are not ready to form a constitutional court. We have taken this very seriously. The meeting was put off as it was felt that the kind of mood the party leaders were in would not yield any result,” he said.
Leaders from the Maoists and the NC and UML had engaged in a heated debate after Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alleged that NC and UML leaders had changed their stance on constitutional court. However, NC leaders argued that there had not been any agreement on forming a constitutional court and Maoist Chairman Dahal himself had expressed a commitment to reconsider the proposal during meetings with justices.
Devkota argued that the proposal of the NC and UML against the previous agreement had brought about some pessimism and doubt over the promulgation of the new statute. “This has caused worry for the party which expeditiously concluded the peace process for the sake of timely promulgation of the new constitution. It has created suspicion among people across the country whether a new constitution would be promulgated within the stipulated deadline,” he further said.
The parties, however, are near agreement on the issue of citizenship.
Co-chairman of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) Hridayesh Tripathi said they have reached agreement in principle not to incorporate any provision that is discriminatory against women. “We are closer on the issue of citizenship. Discussions are underway as to how can we adopt the principle of equality,” he said.
The decision comes in the wake of women lawmakers and activists demanding that the new constitution treat women and men equally, particularly in case a Nepali man marries a foreign woman or a Nepali woman marries a foreign man. There were also problems in acquiring citizenship certificates through mothers´ names.
NC leader Arjun Narasingh KC said they held detailed discussions about provisions on citizenship certificates in various countries including neighboring India. “We discussed what kind of options we could adopt with a view to ending discrimination between male and female in terms of citizenship,” he said. “We will take into account international practices, geographical conditions and other aspects before taking a decision.”
Maoist leader Devkota said they are yet to hold discussions on its possible repercussions.
Earlier, in the morning, NC and Maoist leaders held a meeting at the residence of Maoist Chairman Dahal at Lazimpat in view of the Sunday deadline for resolving all contentious issues. Though the two parties agreed to resolve the debated issues through consensus, there was no specific agreement during the meeting, said a NC leader.
“Though the Maoist side appeared very conciliatory during our talks at Hattiban, their position has changed lately. We are finding consensus difficult as the Maoists have backtracked from many of the agreements reached at Hattiban. The Maoist leaders have themselves said that there had been agreement on all issues except system of governance,” said NC leader Minendra Rijal.