Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thoughts on the Demise of the Constituent Assembly

Well, the final surge of the recent springtime political crisis has swept over Nepal, at last.

'With a whisper, instead of a bang', as they say.

The historic Constituent Assembly that was elected in 2008 and tasked by the Interim Constitution (2007) with writing and promulgating a new secular, federal, democratic, republican Nepali constitution has been cancelled, extinguished, terminated.  

The country's near-sighted political leaders pulled the plug before midnight on May 27th, 2012 after four years of fiddling, debating, deliberating and dissembling. 

For the moment, at least, it's impossible to perceive all the consequential results of the the CA ending without producing even a draft Constitution, given the widespread discredit, anger and frustration being heaped on the current political leaders.

For now, at least, as my Mom would say, 'the situation is as clear as mud'.  

Personally, I feel deeply disappointed, chagrined and frustrated by the fatuous way that the CA closed the other night with the 'party leaders' unwilling to even countenance the elected CA representatives voting on the contentious issues.  

These old-style party bosses (many of whom lost their CA elections in 2008...) were simply too afraid of how their own party cadre would vote to permit them to publicly declare their views on the outstanding contentious issues.  

Therefore the contentious and long-debated issues, like federalism and the restructuring of the state, were buried in a backroom agreement.  

Even more pathetically, these 'party leaders' didn't have the nerve, courage or decency to go to the CA at the last hour on the 27th evening to discuss these issues or their decisions with the elected CA representatives.  

Embarrassing and insulting, actually.  

After all of the national and international community support, assistance and financial resources, it was a squalid, feudal end to what had been a very promising open democratic process.  

For my three years with UNDP, at least, we can take comfort in the fact that our extensive civil society outreach and social inclusion activities brought 400,000+ people from all 75 districts into the historic effort.  Our Federalism Dialogues opened up the complexity of these issues and the possibility of reasonable solutions to the local leaders who attended these in all 14 of the proposed provincial states.  And, we assisted the Indigenous Caucus organize and discuss key constitutional issues.

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalis are more knowledgeable and aware citizens than they were before.  

I simply hope that the constitutional effort isn't set back by a decade as it was after the 1980 referendum or the 1996 fracturing of the parliament (and start of the Maoist People's War).  

But only time will tell what understandings or agreements these old-line parties will come up with in the next months... or even the fracturing of these monopoly parties with the creation of new political bodies to challenge their lock on power in Nepal.

Finally, I suppose, one's personal perspective at such deeply disappointing moments in political history depends on if you can look at such events with a certain Tolstoyan grace, distance and calm.

I truly believe that nothing done with sincerity and passion in this world ever goes for naught.

Thus, do we take the short view or longer view...

In the short view, yes, I'm depressed.  

In the mid-view, the game ain't over by a long shot.  

In the long view, we're all dead anyway and -- remember-- there are fossilized Saligrams at 12,000' in the Himalaya (and they, too, were once living things...). 

I've spent time in the short view the past few days.  But I'm beginning to migrate to the mid-view as I know that Nepali society has been changed by the efforts of the past four years.

Individuals, groups and communities are more aware, awake and eager for change.  It didn't happen this time -- but it can't be completely held back in perpetuity. 

For we Americans, let's remember: the US gained its independence from their colonial English masters in 1776, then took another 90 years to abolish human chattel and slavery in our country, followed by another 100 years to actually legislate the end of racial discrimination (not to mention offering the vote for women...). 

Politics is a process.

Like life. 

There are stages we all must pass through.

This was one. 

It's exceptionally sad there isn't a new constitution today.  But the game is back on again already and the pressure will build to create a more equitable and just society. 

I believe I did my part for the past few decades, especially, the past three years -- now, temporarily, it's time to tend my bamboo garden while history ripens again for another push forward.

I'll be ready then, once again, to put my oar in Nepal's historical current and splash a bit further ahead... 

Then, later, sometime in the future, we'll hand the game is handed on to another generation...
Personally, at such moments, I don't subscribe too much to the 'Perils of Pauline' or 'the sky is falling down' anxiety that others have expressed this week -- although it makes for good newspaper copy.  

There are serious social, economic and political problems ahead, sans doubt, but, most likely, after some contentious sturm and drang, in the Nepali zeitgeist, manageable ones.  

It's simply rather unfortunate that Nepal couldn't have made this historical break-through at this time and moved more quickly into a healthier, more inclusive, participatory and  decentralized government model.  

But time is elastic and the people's rights can never be fully denied.

Now, what's for dinner?  ;-) 

No comments: