Kantipur Report, KATHMANDU, Aug 10 – While World Indigenous Day was being marked around the globe Wednesday, the indigenous people of Nepal have agreed on a democratic republic for bringing about reform in the country.
Thousands of indigenous people from around the country gathered in Kathmandu, took out a cultural possession along city thoroughfares and chanted the slogan “Democratic Republic, Election for Constituent Assembly and State Reforms, the desire of indigenous people.”
Reading out the 24-point Kathmandu Declaration 2006 issued by a meeting of the indigenous people, Dr. Om Gurung, general secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Peoples (NEFIN), said the constituent assembly (CA) should decide the issue of whether or not to maintain a king. “CA should ensure sovereignty, freedom and the republican nature of the state,” Gurung said.
The declaration has demanded a proportional electoral system for the CA. It says that the eligible age for voting should be 16 years, while 21 years should be the age for filing candidacy. It has also demanded 50 per cent women’s representation at all levels of the state.
Similarly, the declaration has demanded a referendum to decide whether to keep monarchy or go for a republican set up. Nepalese residing in foreign lands should also be allowed to participate in the CA election and proportional representation of indigenous peoples at all policy making and implementing agencies should be ensured, stressed the 24-point declaration.
Speaking at the program Amik Sherchan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, said that the government should declare August 9 a national day.
Suresh Ale Magar, central member of CPN-Maoist, and Malla K. Sundar, human rights activist, said that they would never accept a power center like the king, “which never acknowledged the identity of the indigenous people”. They said that those advocating the relevance of monarchy would be washed away along with the monarchy.
Speaking at the program David Johnson, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal, said that the struggle of Nepal’s indigenous peoples for the recognition of their fundamental human rights has been a long one, and is entering an important period in this democratic transition. He said that Nepal has not yet ratified Article 169 of the International Labor Organization Convention, which is an important international human rights instrument for the rights of indigenous people.
“…I urge you to focus your attention on some of Nepal’s most disadvantaged indigenous communities, and I recommit the efforts of OHCHR-Nepal to work with you to that end,” Johnson said.