•      Thu Nov 30 2023

Only advanced democracy is alternative to democracy: Minister Sharma

CPN Maoist Center leader Rekha Sharma

Kathmandu, Sept 20: The Constitution of Nepal completes eight years of its promulgation today. This constitution is the result of a long political struggle and sacrifice. This supreme law of the land drafted by the people’s representatives and promulgated by the Constituent Assembly has enshrined various fundamental rights. Some important laws are yet to be formulated even long time since the promulgation of the constitution. However, the government has pursued works on making some of the key legislation.

Feature News Editor at RSS (National News Agency) Krishna Adhikari and Reporter Ramesh Lamsal interviewed Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Rekha Sharma, who is also the government spokesperson, on various topics including the Constitution Day, the government’s activities and others. Excerpts:

How do you assess the status of implementation of the constitution?

The Constitution of Nepal was formulated based on the political power balance existing at that time. Some significant works have been done in the meantime. The constitution was drafted on the basis of the strength and power balance of the political parties. The country has entered into federal setup from a unitary state power and governance system. We have provided the basis for inclusiveness transforming the country from the policy of ‘one caste and one language’. We have established important topic like inclusiveness, proportional representation, secularism in the constitution.
However, there has been a delay in making some laws required for strengthening federalism and moving forward maintaining coordination among the three tiers of the government. Constitution implementation has not progressed in an effective way. Works on making laws related to education and the Bill Related to Civil Service have been forwarded after the formation of the present government. We are not in a position to declare that the federalism has been fully implemented until laws related to federalism are legislated.

When will important laws related to federalism get full shape?

The Federal Education Act is already tabled in parliament while the Civil Service Act is in the final stage. Some topics remain in the latter. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also taken the Police Act to its finalization. Some Acts designed to strengthen the local government and province government are in the process of making. We will take this to conclusion soon. The government is committed to formulating laws by further clarifying several topics related to the constitution.
Along with this, we also have an important topic connected to the peace process. The bill related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has taken long to become a law. We had taken forward this bill immediately after the formation of the government, but it is taking long time in the related parliamentary committee. We have not been able to give the message that the peace process has fully concluded as this bill is not completed. The constitution formulated on the basis of power balance and its implementation, among other issues, has been in shadow due to this. Since the sub-committee has almost finalized the bill related to Truth and Reconciliation, we are in a situation of taking it to conclusion soon. We are effortful to taking it to conclusion in the present session of the parliament itself.

Complaints like the ruling parties and the opposition party themselves are not taking responsibility in formulating the Act related to Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappeared are also being heard. What have you to say on this?

Mainly, it is the job and responsibility of the government alone. We had sent the related bill to the committee before this as well after forging consensus. It was said in the committee that the bill would be brought in four-five days, but it was not brought by the committee. Meanwhile, the term of the parliament expired and the bill was back to square one. What I feel is the way the topic of peace process is being painted as concerning only a certain party, group or a particular leader is wrong. This is Nepal’s peace process and it is a matter of concern of all political parties of Nepal. All political parties are at this place on the back of the achievements of that very peace process and all parties should take ownership over it. It is necessary to see the peace process basically as the common responsibility of all parties. Coming to the latest situation, it feels that all are converging to one place as regards its understanding. Let us hope it will be concluded at the soonest.

The National Assembly itself has directed the government on the need for amending 42 various Acts related to the constitution and implementation of federalism. How will the government address this?

The government has placed formulation of laws in high priority. Importance is attached to topics concerning federalism and the constitution. We have addressed the topic related to citizenship. The meeting of the Council of Ministers has also approved the regulation related to citizenship. Now it goes into implementation. Formulation of laws related to constitution implementation is in the government’s priority. The line ministries are working towards that end. Prime Minister Prachanda has also issued clear directive for the same. We are all making efforts to that end right after the Prime Minister’s directives. Some among the total 42 laws are important. We will take this to final stage soon. We should keep formulation of laws in high priority.

In the last meeting of the National Problems Resolution Committee, the Chief Ministers of all the seven provinces had urged the Prime Minister to forward the police adjustment process in a prompt manner. The provincial governments have already formulated the Act related to adjustment of police. There is complain that the province governments are not like the province governments due to the inability of police adjustment, how are you addressing this?

The Home Ministry is learnt to be working on the final draft of the Act relating to the adjustment of police. The matter was entered to the Council of Minister for discussions. We are currently in the second term of the province governments. The first term of province government was like a trial period. When the municipalities have their own police force, the province governments don’t have a separate security force and this has caused some challenges in functioning of the province governance. Police and judiciary are considered as vital components of the government. We have higher courts to reflect the implementation of federalism in judiciary. It has been realized the issue be sorted out and the concern of the province governments over the matter is expected.

In your view, what types of roles the federal government is expected to play to make the presence of province government more effective?

The establishment of provincial governments was entirely new to us, as we were first time switching to federalism after a long history of practicing a unitary system. While we were acquainted with the concept of local governments, the practice of provincial governance was like venturing into unchartered territory.
Despite having a provisional legal framework for provincial governments, our long-standing experience with the unitary system led to various challenges stemming from ambiguity in our roles, legal complexities, and a mindset accustomed to centralized governance. We were tasked with enacting laws and adhering to the principles of federalism promptly, but various obstacles hindered our progress. The previous parliament had made efforts to draft legislation related to citizenship, police administration, and civil service, but these bills remained unrealized due to various reasons.
First of all, the challenges for the existence of the province government are addressed by laws. Secondly, the province governments are expected to make self-efforts to prove their relevancy in the federal set-up. The unitary mindset built over the period of 240 year be dismantled, it takes efforts to unlearn the things deeply rooted in the mind. The concept of collaborative federalism is implemented through collective efforts. We should be open to discussing our shortcomings in its implementation to facilitate necessary adjustments.
More, questions have arisen regarding the number of ministries and their relevance. Our focus should center on promoting the essence and presence of provincial government rather than providing a room for doubts about their significance. In essence, provincial governments are intended to establish closer connections with the people and serve them. Practical issues should be addressed gradually.

Does the government have any message to the Nepali citizens on the occasion of the Constitution Day?

We are celebrating the Constitution Day today (Sept 20). The government prioritizes the implementation of the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed by the Constitution. We accords top priority to the enactments of legislation mandated by the Constitution. We had promised to advance to federalism, but our actions were not oriented to that end. The Government bodies and agencies have are yet translate the promises we made into actions. This has provided a room for criticism of the system and the Constitution. In the midst of this situation, the government aims to clarify that the issue doesn’t lie with the system itself. As a result of the implementation of federalism and a republic, we are beginning to see that the law is applied equally to “high-profile” individuals. The government is effortful to raise hopes among the citizens through deliveries. Any shortcomings on the part of any individual responsible for implementing the system should not be a base for questioning the relevancy of this system.
There is no alternative to federalism. The alternative to the current federalism is, in fact, a strengthened and enhanced federalism itself. The system that elevates people from the grassroots to the mainstream of state power is of paramount significance. Nepal’s constitution is relatively excellent, and its significance hinges on the extent of its implementation. No matter how good a document is, its true value is realized only when it is effectively enforced. The government is well aware of its responsibility to promote an atmosphere for the Constitution’s effective implementation, and other government agencies should also prioritize this goal.

Is the government aware of the exodus of Nepali youths who apparently leave in search of career opportunities abroad due to the lack of expectations at home? Is it making diligent efforts to rekindle hope among them for a brighter future in the country?”

When analyzing this in the context of the Constitution Day, implementation of the Constitution is the significant aspect of the hour. Through the effective enforcement of the Constitution, we can achieve results. Amidst this, we lost some notable personalities. We see that last rites were delayed in wait of arrivals of offspring from abroad. The situation is concerning and makes us to realize our collective responsibility to generate career opportunities for youths within the country. Our country experienced a prolonged political instability, which has, in turn, impeded the government performance.
Now our primary focus should be on increasing domestic production to offer those considering going abroad promising future within the home. If the concept of socialism is brought into practice, it will automatically discourage the people’s exodus. We need to come with concrete plans and revise the budget formulation process accordingly as suggested the Prime Minister earlier. Political parties and leaders need to dedicate themselves in to improving the domestic atmosphere. Concerted efforts are needed to address the frustration that exists towards our leaders and bureaucracy. We are aware of it and committed to addressing it through our actions.

The question of when the people of those who sacrificed their lives and those who had injure and gone missing for the establishment of this system will be able to feel their ownership comes along with it? What do you say as the spokesperson for the government?

The foundation of this change is the great martyrs, and missing and injured warriors. Even for a long time, the state could not recognise those who sacrificed their lives. The state had not recognised them as martyrs. This time we have recognised the martyrs by publishing in the national gazette. You have heard the feedback about it. It has also been seen how grateful people have been. The state has honoured them. We have given priorities in every law to address the families of the martyrs. Even now, the wounded people are living with shrapnel stuck over their bodies.

As this is the subject of the whole peace process, it must be brought to a final conclusion. It took a long time. The wound of the conflict had to be healed, and it must have reached a new height through integration. If the peace process had been over, we would have advanced much further in the journey of economic prosperity by now. It is as if we have forgotten the stick to cross the river. Everyone should remember that we are in this position due to the sacrifice of martyrs. This is not only the matter of a particular party. Since it is a subject of political change and movement in Nepal as a whole, it is a matter of everyone who has accepted this change and abided by the constitution. Finding the whereabouts of the missing citizens and making them public could not take place. This is a matter of concern. Work should move ahead by according main priorities to the truth and reconciliation act.

There are complaints that we have underestimated and undervalued the implementation of the financial federalism. What do you say about it?

It was not the issue that changes in all subjects could take place overnight when there was a change from unitary state power to federal state power. The government has focused on the implementation of the financial federalism. But what has happened in our country is that the central government is also weak, there are no questions raised. However, there is incongruous in raising questions as soon as a single incident happens in the province. We must accept weaknesses and questions raised. We must correct weaknesses. We are effortful on that matter.

Do you have any request on behalf of the government to make Nepali people optimistic on the occasion of the Constitution Day?

Achievements made in Nepal were possible due to big sacrifices. There are big sacrifices behind this. We have made these achievements through tears, sweat and blood. We, people from the grassroots, could not reach the mainstream of the state power had there been no changes.

For a daughter of Nepali people to become the head of state was beyond imagination. There was a problem of syndicate in Singha Durbar. But today that has been broken. We have got to the state wherein people from the grassroots could say this country is ours. We could have weaknesses while delivering service. It is not appropriate to blame the system. This system has made all take ownership. It has been established that those running the government can be punished one day for shortcomings they have made. This was not possible in the past. A person can be despised, but the system cannot be despised. The situation has changed, we are now faced with challenges to change the situation. There is no alternative to this constitution. We must move ahead while further institutionalising achievements made so far. On this occasion, I urge all to be optimistic.

In the end, you are also the communication minister, negativity has flooded social media. What efforts are being made by the government to deal with it?

Self-regulation is the main idea to bring the social network in the right direction. It has not been used properly, it has been misused. It seems that the situation has been created against the entire system and the political system. That is why we are giving the final touch to the directives to deal with the issue of social media. We have sent it to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Law for approval. We will be effortful to manage it for the time being by making directives. Similarly, the work of formulating the act has advanced simultaneously. Basically, social media should be self-regulated. If there is no self-regulation and management, the state will regulate. RSS