07/02/2015, 00.00
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Kathmandu: After years of disagreement, draft constitution presented

by Christopher Sharma
Constituent Assembly set to begin new consultations. Problems remain to solve. Amendments may be proposed by both parties and civil society. Catholic bishop: "First step towards democracy".

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – On June 30th the president of Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), Krishna Prasad Sitaula, presented the Constituent Assembly with the first draft of the text which among other things, guarantees freedom of conscience and the practice of religion. After about a year and a half of work, the Second Assembly has succeeded in reaching general agreement on the basic terms of a democratic constitution which the country has never had.

Although many steps have yet to be taken before a final version of the paper is approved, the submission of the draft was a success. The first Assembly elected in 2007 - after 240 years of absolute Hindu monarchy - had failed to find an agreement and was dissolved in 2012. Even the path of this Constituent Assembly has not been easy, since it is not able to reach an agreement by the initial deadline fixed for  January 22.

The devastating earthquake of 25 April pushed the major parties (including UCPN Maoist) to agree. On 8 June, an agreement was signed to address the major issues such as the parliamentary system, the provisions on citizenship, the place of the districts of the federation. The four major parties have agreed to create a commission to demarcate the federal units.

According to the draft citizenship is transmitted by a "father and mother" to their children by descent.

Sitaula called for broader discussions - starting today, July 2 - with members of the Assembly and with civil society on proposed amendments. The parties, however, remain divided on the period of  time to be granted for the public consultation.

Following its presentation to Parliament, the members of the Constituent Assembly belonging to parties in the area of ​​Madhes - Saghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, Tarai Madhes Loktantirk Party and Sadbhawana Party – ripped up copies of the draft protest. These parties want the creation of federal states based on ethnicity and Upendra Yadav, president of the Forum, announced that he will organize demonstrations if the document limits the freedom of Dalits, Janajati, Madhesi, Muslim and other minorities.

Msgr. Paul Simik, apostolic vicar of the country, said that the presentation of the draft "is a welcome step towards the promulgation of the new constitution of Nepal." "The measures in the religious theme – he added – will bring democracy, because people will be free to choose or leave any religion."

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