Sat, Jan 24, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Nepal’s leaders scuffle over constitution

SHOES THROWN:Protesters set dozens of vehicles on fire, while opposition leaders called for a general strike and legislators stormed parliament’s main chamber


A Nepalese Constitution Assembly member looks at a manipulated picture of another member hurling a chair during a protest inside parliament buildings in Kathmandu on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Nepal plunged deeper into crisis yesterday after feuding politicians, throwing microphones and shoes, failed to meet a deadline to table a new constitution, seen as a key step to stability in the Himalayan buffer state wedged between Asian powers China and India.

Opposition party lawmakers stormed the well of parliament late on Thursday to prevent the ruling coalition from pushing ahead with a vote to salvage the draft of a charter marred by political rivalries.

“Political leaders must explain to people why they failed to fulfill their commitment,” said Subas Nemwang, chairman of the Constituent Assembly, which is tasked with preparing the charter.

Nepal has been in political limbo since 2008, when its 239-year-old monarchy was abolished. An interim constitution was put in place a year earlier at the end of a civil war fought by Maoist rebels.

Bitter disagreements over how to carve out new provinces have rendered the government unable to move forward, with consecutive parliaments missing deadlines to present a new constitution, stoking further insecurity in a nation traumatized by its bloody past.

Protesters set dozens of vehicles on fire on Thursday as the Maoist-led opposition called for a general strike to pressure the government into meeting their demands. On the same day, opposition lawmakers stormed parliament’s main chamber to disrupt the session, throwing microphones and shoes and injuring at least three security officers in the fray.

It could take months before another attempt is made to agree on the charter, Nemwang said, although parliament was due to meet again yesterday.

The constitution is an integral part of the 2006 peace deal that ended the insurgency, which caused nearly 18,000 deaths.

The Maoists and regional parties want to create 10 states in the mostly mountainous country and name them after different ethnic groups to empower them.

However, the members of the ruling alliance fear that Nepal, whose economy is dependent on aid and tourism, cannot afford to fund so many administrations, and say affiliating states with ethnic groups could fuel communal tensions.

The UN has called on Nepal’s politicians to reach an agreement.

Many Nepalese say politicians are insensitive to the economic paralysis in part caused by their rifts.

“Political leaders don’t have any interest other than making money for themselves,” said cobbler Kale Sarki. “I don’t care about the constitution. With or without it I must continue to work here to support my family.”

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