Monday, June 13, 2011

Help Us See Better, Doctor

Having extended the tenure of the constituent assembly for a second time, our political parties seemed to be moving in the right direction. But that does not seem to have impressed many within the fraternity.
One skeptic is Nepali Congress central committee member Sashank Koirala. Speaking in Okhaldhunga last week, Dr. Koirala claimed that even a preliminary draft of the constitution would not be ready by the August 28 deadline. Then he added with a tinge of morbid resignation, “Nepalis even do not have the pen and a paper to draft their own charter.” In his estimation, our fluid political situation would continue.
Before you jump to accuse Dr. Koirala of the gleeful indifference that has characterized some in his increasingly fractious party, check what he said at another speech in Chitwan. “Political complexity will result in the country if the peace process does not get full shape within three months.”
Even if the constitution is not drafted in time, Dr. Koirala seemed to suggest, a modicum of progress in the peace process would be required to save the nation. Now, just what might that entail? (Who better than a trained ophthalmologist to see the writing on the wall? Just because President Bashar Assad in Syria seems to have lost some of that vision doesn’t mean all hope is lost in eternity.)
Dr. Koirala may or may not volunteer a solution in the days ahead. As for the complexity he predicted, we might have already reached that point. Mohan Baidya has inherited from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai the dissenter-in-chief title within the Maoists. A Maoist minister has been able to muster over 150 lawyers on his side in a case brought by human rights activists. Youths allied with the CPN-UML have reached deep into their legacy radicalism to go after the fourth estate – life and limb.
Madhesi parties outside of power have been consulting with representatives of the ancien regime we were led to believe had discriminated against them for nearly three centuries. Christian and gay groups are concerned that the freedoms that seemed to emanate from Nepal’s once heady march into a nebulous newness are under threat from the criminal statutes. And lest we be accused of distraction from real bread-and-butter issues, female actors are complaining their male counterparts are being paid much more.
Much as he admires Dr. Koirala’s candor, Maila Baje has a quibble with the man. Shortly after being elected to the constituent assembly, Dr. Koirala, in a conversation with his constituents in Nawalparasi, claimed that the interim constitution was based largely on a document that had arrived from the Indian capital. But he didn’t stop there. He said he had reliable information from political friends in New Delhi that Maoist leaders, including Dr. Bhattarai, were involved in preparing a tentative draft of the new constitution in New Delhi.
Of course, that assertion was viewed within the context of growing Indian interference in the immediate aftermath of the 12-point agreement. Has Nepal ventured too far since those days for that draft to be foisted on the country as a consensus document? If so, how then is Dr. Bhattarai’s stock as a consensus prime minister soaring at this precise moment?
C’mon, Doctor, we’re seeing so many things in our collective peripheral vision that are so hard to explain.