Special Edit: Vive La Republique Nepal
Nepal turns into a republic, and now there are new challenges to meet.
Last night, at about 11:20, Nepal's recently elected constituent assembly, voted to adopt a republican system in the country. The proposal for a republic was overwhelmingly endorsed—560 members were in favor, and 4 members against it.
The proposal read: "Nepal has turned into an independent, indivisible, secular, inclusive, federal democratic republic with sovereignty and state authority vested in the people."
The proposal scrapped all constitutional provisions, laws, administrative rules and arrangements at variance with the proposal. Former king and royal family members shall no longer enjoy any rights and privileges other than those of common Nepali citizens.
The proposal provides for the government to make sure that Gyanendra Shah and his family leave Naryanhiti Royal Palace within the next 15 days. The government is now entrusted with making necessary arrangements for the safety of the property inside the palace. The government also will make all necessary arrangements for utilizing all the heritage inside the palace in the national interest including for the setting up a historical museum.
A sitting of CA later passed a separate bill to amend the Interim Constitution (2007). It made new arrangement for a president as head of state and a vice president until the CA will promulgate a new constitution. The CA is expected to write the document in about 2 years.
The CA's decision is a historic one. It has scrapped a 250-year old institution of monarchy in the country and turned the Himalayan nation into a republic. The CA had been a popular demand in the early 1950s. After decades of political experiments, a bloody Maoist-led civil war and a massive uprising in April 2006, Nepal finally has entered a new era.
Nepal Monitor takes extreme joy and pleasure in congratulating every Nepali in the country and abroad on this landmark achievement—finally, ordinary citizens themselves have become the master's of their destiny. They are no longer subjects of a royalty that repeatedly trampled on their aspirations and rights.
Despite the fact that the Shah dynasty is credited with creating the modern territories of Nepal, monarchy in Nepal throughout the history has been a cause of problems. Prithvinarayan, since his ascension on the throne of Gorkha in 1742, began his territorial expansion, unifying hundred of principalities in the Himalayas. After his death, the country saw 11 kings and a 104-year old Rana oligarchy that kept the kingship itself into a bondage. The feudal structure of royalty never encouraged a democratic political system. This was evidenced by decades of tussles between the king and political parties.
The days of the monarchy were numbered, after the mysterious palace massacre of June 2001, in which then King Birendra, his wife and several members of the royalty were killed. The king's brother, Gyanendra, succeeded the slain monarch, but he proved extremely unpopular for his governing style and repressive reign.
Other historic contexts aside, the credit for making the republic a strong political agenda goes to the Maoists, who led a war against monarchy, and demanded a constituent assembly to write a constitution by the people themselves. The Maoist war left as many as 15,000 dead and it caused untold physical and psychological damage. Their methods and means were undemocratic, and hence unacceptable to any civilized human being. Nevertheless, such violent tactics forced the establishment to relent, and finally the political parties to join hands with the Maoists for a peaceful transition, which, along with an active vigilance and support of the civil society groups and members, eventually led the country to where it is now.
Now that we are a republic, there is a lot more work to do than just to celebrate. Republics, as experts note, are complex systems characterized by heterogonous forms and interests. We have entered a system of multiple realities and norms, from a unitary and homogenous system forced into our political culture over the centuries. The days ahead need a measure of restrain, respect for other points of views (including those we don't like), flexibility in mind to be able to work with other parties and interests, a culture of dialogue and compromise, and above all, a commitment to write a constitution that is democratic, inclusive and lasting.
Those are mighty challenges, particularly because political unity and consensus, if history is any proof, have always been fleeting and transitory in Nepal. The moment political parties are able to fulfill their vested interests, they forget consensus and compromise. Disagreements are bound to emerge, particularly in defining the nature of the republic. What type of "federal" structure will our CA members endorse for the country? Is it going to be based on ethnicities and languages? Or is it going to be based on regions?
Whatever the CA members decide, Nepal Monitor strongly feels that Nepal must retain its unique national identity characterized by rich diversities and preserve its territorial integrity. Of course, every citizen's rights as well as obligations must be clearly defined, and nobody should be above the law.
For ordinary Nepalis, who include the majority of the population, the abstract ideas of "federalism" and "republicanism" will mean nothing, just like "prajatantra" in the past, if they cannot be the means to their well-being and prosperity. Nations today are defined more by economic development. Hence, the biggest task before the people's representatives is to devise ways to accelerate economic development, provide peaceful growth opportunities for citizens and sustain them.
Posted by Editor on May 29, 2008 12:00 PM