MonitorsPublished on May 26, 2008
Last week Nepal became a federal democratic republic. On May 28, the first sitting of the newly elected Constituent Assembly members endorsed a proposal to amend the interim Constitution and declare the country a republic.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 21


Last week Nepal became a federal democratic republic. On May 29, the first sitting of the newly elected Constituent Assembly members endorsed a proposal to amend the interim Constitution and declare the country a republic. The amendment was proposed by the government under Article 159 of the Interim Constitution. Altogether 564 members, elected directly by the people, participated in the voting proposal, and 560 of them voted in favour and 4 voted against the amendment proposal. The CA meet also endorsed a proposal to abolish the 260 years old institution of monarchy which was earlier perceived as a symbol of unity in Nepal. From now onwards, the King will no more be able to enjoy his privileges and will have to vacate the Narayanhity Royal Palace and live like common citizen. Earlier, the parties agreed for a provision to have a ceremonial President and executive Prime Minister in the upcoming new political dispensation.

Apparently, the political parties including the Maoists are making efforts to move in a positive direction but the pace is slow. There are some pressing issues which remain unaddressed, and need urgent attention. The political parties have failed to nominate the 26 CA members. In fact, the parties continue to have differences on power-sharing to form the new government, to introduce single majority provision in the interim constitution to unseat the government and on procedures to elect the President.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Tamil – Muslim rift

With the election of the former-rebel leader as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, the focus appears to be shifting from the Tamil-Sinhala conflict which is now on its last legs, to the Tamil – Muslim conflict. Soon after the oath-taking ceremony of the Pillaiyan, Hizbollah and his supporters called for a strike in the Muslim-majority districts of the East. Later however, the matter was mutually resolved through telephonic conversation between Pillaiyan and Hizbollah but the tensions lying beneath this agreement can surmount anytime if any third party (LTTE) tries to exploit the situation in a bid to regain control of the lost territory.

The war theater, on the other hand, is shrinking day-by-day as Sri Lanka Army is making rapid advances in the rebel-held areas. LTTE has gone back to its time-tested guerilla warfare techniques by exploding bombs in the busy suburbs but there is no denying the fact that their hold over the land and the people has been increasingly waning. Smarting under its defeat at the UN Human Rights Council, the Sri Lanka government has not only put a ban on the entry of the foreign human rights monitors in the country but also warned the international community that their negative attitude could stoke further the fire of the ethnic conflict.

< class="maroontitle">Zero sum game

The whole nation’s destiny remained hung on the issue of sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary with Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari refusing to put an end to the shadow boxing which has been going on for better part of 100 plus days since February 18, 2008. PPP has now come up with a `constitutional package` containing, some say, 80 proposals, which has been circulated to its coalition partners, including PML-N. The package is being projected as a magic potion to cure all the ills that have been bedeviling the new coalition government. Sharif has already spoiled the surprise by commenting that  the package should not disappoint the lawyers who want the Musharraf out and Chaudhary in; on both counts, Zardari has a different take than Sharif. After struggling to wish away the problem of Chaudhary Iftikhar Chaudhry, PPP is planning to, at least some media reports suggest so, create ad hoc positions for the judges sacked on November 3, 2007, the day Musharraf imposed Emergency and hoisted a king new set of judges to rule the Supreme Court. Lawyers who have called for a June 10 national protest rally over the issue would certainly be unhappy if such a course of action were to be adopted; so would be Nawaz Sharif.  Much to the detriment and agony of the people who voted out Musharraf for a civilian rule, the zero-sum game is not far from over.

< class="maroontitle">Rohingyas to be repatriated

The issue of repatriation of Rohingyas took the centre-stage in Bangladesh following the visit of Mr Antonio Guterres, Chief of United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) in the week. Mr Guterres’ two-day Bangladesh visit, beginning May 26, focused specially on finding a lasting solution to the problems of the Rohingya refugees living in the country. UNHCR Chief initiating fresh attempts to resolve the issue of repatriation of Rohingyas said the UNHCR wants to solve the whole Rohingya issue with a holistic and humanitarian approach. To accomplish this objective, Mr Guterres had proposed signing of a trilateral agreement between UN, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladesh has welcomed this proposal and expressed its willingness to work together with UN and Myanmar to resolve the issue. However, the success of the repatriation of Rohingya refugees remains to be seen as the dwellers in the refugee camps have expressed their reservations in going back to the country under the rule of military junta.  There are at least 27000 Rohingya refugees living in two UN designated camps of Nayapara and Kutupalong in the southern districts of Cox’s Bazar. Rohingyas are Myanmar Muslims who fled to Bangladesh in early 1992 alleging persecution by the military in Myanmar’s western province of Rakhine. The lives of these refugees have been very pathetic in these camps. These 27000 are the remnants of 250000 refugees who fled the country in early 90’s. However, some media report suggest that Mr Guterres came to urge the government to give citizen status to these refugees in the light of the High Court judgment which had directed to give citizenship to stranded Bihari Muslims who were considered as Pakistani nationals and living in refugee camps since the country’s independence in 1971. But UNHCR Chief denied such reports.

< class="maroontitle">Ratifying the draft Constitution

Now that the work on the Draft Constitution is completed, the people and the polity are waiting for its implementation which is not possible till the time the Constitution is finally ratified by the Special Majlis. The next meeting of Special Majlis is planned for  next Thursday. Maldivian President Gayoom has raised several points of concern within the Constitution. Though it is not possible to address each one of them separately, Special Majlis will try to incorporate them as far as possible after carefully considering their feasibility for the country.       
< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                 – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Wilson John                    – Pakistan
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