KATHMANDU, FEB 20 – Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal’s inability to expand the Cabinet has invited angry reactions from lawmakers in the House. They warned the leaders of an impending crisis if the current deadlock continues and urged the political leadership to realise the interconnectedness of the peace process, constitution writing and power sharing.
“The Constituent Assembly, whose term we extended ourselves, is heading towards its death and the general public across the country have started conducting the last rites of CA members,” said UML lawmaker Ram Nath Dhakal. “Instead of venting ire on one another, the parties should start serious engagement on forging national consensus to address the consequence that would result from the failure to deliver the new constitution within the deadline.”
Nepali Congress leader Prakash Man Singh objected to the seven-point agreement signed by the UML and the Maoists and demanded the Khanal-led government work for completing the peace process and constitution writing within the May 28 deadline. “We have doubts about this government taking full shape within the remaining 97 days of the Constituent Assembly,” he said.
The Special Committee for Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of former Maoist Combatants is yet to be reactivated due to deadlock on government formation. The cross-party committee, headed by Madhav Kumar Nepal when he was prime minister, awaits its reshuffle after the change of guard.
The NC wants the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants decided before the promulgation of the new constitution. The Maoists, on the other hand, want a package deal guaranteeing a progressive constitution and completion of the peace process. In the House, Maoist leader Dev Gurung said the delay in Cabinet expansion was a conspiracy to derail the peace and constitution writing processes.
“The country’s sovereignty can be safeguarded only if we can soon endorse the new constitution,” said Gurung. “But the forces that want to see instability in the country are trying to isolate the Maoists to push Nepal towards Sikkimisation.”
Rastriya Janamorcha lawmaker Chitra Bahadur KC said the differences among the three major parties confirm that the country will not be able to get a new constitution within the May 28 deadline. His party has announced an agitation to explain the reasons behind the failure to promulgate the new constitution.
Jay Ram Yadav of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Prakash Chandra Lohani of Rastriya Janashakti Party, CP Mainali of the CPN-ML and Pari Thapa of the CPN (Unified) stressed the need for ending rifts among major parties to end the current stalemate. Yadav warned of launching a stir if the new constitution isn’t written within the deadline.