Parties fail to reach deal on issues of new statute

KATHMANDU: Last moment talks among three major parties and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) on constitutional issues ended inconclusively as Nepali Congress and CPN-UML ‘backtracked’ from the earlier understanding reached at the Problem Resolution Sub-Committee formed by the Constitutional Committee, mandated to draft the statute.

The parties discussed the judicial system and citizenship issues but failed to agree on forming a separate Constitutional Court, fiercely opposed by the legal fraternity, including Supreme Court judges.

After holding talks with the UCPN-M this afternoon, UDMF leaders hinted they could back the Maoist proposal of directly-elected President if the latter agreed on directly electing the Vice-president.

“Parliamentary system of governance is our first choice. But if we have to support the presidential system, the Maoists must also agree on electing the Vice President directly,” Brishes Chandra Lal of TMDP said, adding: “That would ensure inclusiveness in the executive.” The parties were supposed to sort out differences on forms of governance, election system, judiciary, citizenship issues and federalism but failed to make headway.

TMDP leader Hridayesh Tripathi said NC and UML had to be more serious if the constitution was to be adopted on time. “We were told the constitution-drafting process would be completed in 10 to 15 days once the peace process was over,” he said, adding: “But, they stuck to their old stance on judiciary and citizenship.”

Maoist lawmaker Khimlal Devkota said two issues — citizenship and judiciary — were discussed and in principle, they agreed to provide Nepali citizenship to foreigners who marry Nepali nationals on ‘equality basis’.

On forming a Constitutional Court, Devkota said NC ‘backtracked’ from the previous understanding reached at the CA thematic committee on Judicial System and Problem Resolution Sub-Committee.

NC and UML insisted on forming a permanent bench within the Supreme Court to look into constitutional issues and disputes that may arise between the federal government and federal units and among federal units over resource sharing.

The meeting was adjourned till tomorrow morning as the parties could not thrash out differences even on a single issue.

NC leader Arjun Narsingh KC, said the four parties agreed to reduce the number in the Judicial Council. “The meeting reached understanding on not re-appointing judges after the adoption of the new constitution and on removing the requirement of minimum two-year service tenure to become chief justice,” KC said.

If the parties fail to agree on all contentious issues of the constitution by tomorrow, they will be tabled for voting in the CA full House from Monday onwards.

Maoist sources said they smelt a rat in relation to the NC and UML’s intention of ‘deliberately’ obstructing the statute drafting process.

NC leader Ram Chandra Paudel said they agreed, in principle, that foreign men and women will be treated on equality basis while providing them Nepali citizenship certificate. The CA thematic committee on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle of the State states that a foreign woman getting married to a Nepali man will get citizenship paper once she relinquishes her original citizenry, but a foreign man getting married to a Nepali woman will have to wait for 15 years to obtain citizenship paper.

Paudel said they had not backtracked on the issue of judiciary as alleged by the Maoists and Madhes-based parties. Sources said UML leaders demanded the PM’s resignation during the meeting.by RAM KUMAR/PRAKASH/TIKA from The Himalayan Times

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