If Labor wins government, will an Australian republic finally take the crown?



File 20190214 1745 3djk55.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
As prime minister, republican Malcolm Turnbull said there would be no more moves towards an Australian head of state while Queen Elizabeth remained on the throne.
AAP/Ward/WENN.com

Mark Kenny, Australian National University

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine the key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.


Long before the Turnbull government failed to land its climate-energy policy, the new Liberal prime minister had signalled his reluctance to pursue progressive causes, voluntarily garaging the republican campaign bus he had so famously driven.

Reasonably or not, the hopes of millions of Australian republicans had spiked when Malcolm Turnbull replaced the conservative monarchist Tony Abbott in September 2015.

Yet those hopes would quickly be dashed, as the erstwhile face of the Australian Republican Movement turned Liberal prime minister would relegate constitutional self-determination to third-order status. In the process, he depicted himself – only half tongue-in-cheek – as a modern “Elizabethan”.




Read more:
A model for an Australian republic that can unite republicans and win a referendum


In the blink of an eye (or was it a royal wave?), republican ambitions returned to Labor’s Bill Shorten. They were no doubt sobered by the thought of further delays and the grim reality that the fleeting alignment of a republican prime minister and a republican opposition leader had still produced nothing.

But if Shorten becomes prime minister in 2019, will he drive the case for an Australian head of state forward? More fundamentally, can the feted republic even come to pass in the absence of muscular support from both hemispheres of politics?

A history of disappointments

Self-evidently, it is a difficult project burdened with overblown hopes, largely intangible benefits and commensurate disappointments. Reversals have been costly.

Well might Turnbull have described John Howard as the “prime minister who broke this nation’s heart” after the 1999 referendum defeat, because it would be a hardness in his own heart that would lead him to dismiss a republic while Queen Elizabeth II remained on the throne.

And Turnbull would go further, essentially telling voters it no longer mattered anyway. In January 2016, just months into his prime ministership, he said:

There are many more urgent issues confronting Australia, and indeed confronting the government, than the momentum or the desire for Australia to become a republic.

No politician, no prime minister or opposition leader or premier, can make Australia a republic – only the Australian people can do that through a referendum.

Presumably, this statement of the obvious served to remind proponents that, in matters of constitutional change, even starting with majority public support is merely that – a start.

It’s no revelation that constitutional reform is supremely difficult in Australia, given the need to secure a so-called “double majority”. This means a majority of votes nationwide plus a majority in at least four of the six states.

But withdraw the crucial ingredient of governmental leadership and that degree of difficulty switches to impossible.

Shorten’s two-step strategy

This is why Shorten wants to build support in stages. He has pledged to put the case to Australians “in principle” first via an indicative first-term plebiscite. The would be followed by a formal referendum, probably held over to a second term.

Typically reserved, Abbott branded this “completely toxic”. He argued it would “delegitimise the constitution we have without putting anything in its place”.

Some republicans had favoured this in 1999, but Howard saw the danger to the Crown’s authority arising from any popular republican mandate and the reform momentum it might generate.

So he determined to make an ally of the higher bar for success required by referendum, along with the divisions emerging in the republican camp between minimalists and direct electionists.

Perversely, Shorten’s two-stage approach has a more contemporaneous justification in the form of the calamitous 2016 Brexit referendum in Britain.

For all that country’s post-ballot dysfunction, Brexit graphically demonstrates the power of an initial yes or no choice when clearly expressed as an abstract principle. That is, when it is separated from the thornier and potentially deal-breaking details to be faced subsequently.

Few doubt that had Britons been fully apprised of the extraordinary extent of the changes and the enormous economic costs of withdrawing from the European Union, many more would have voted to remain.

However, a simple yes or no question is not the position of the Australian Republican Movement. Its national director, Michael Cooney, told a Museum of Australian Democracy forum in February 2019 that it favours a double-barrelled approach first up.

This would ask voters if they want an Australian head of state, and then how they would like that person to be chosen.

This is based on the group’s social research, which shows support for a directly elected president is as high as 75% among republicans. But that support trails away quickly if the head of state is to be chosen by the parliament – a model pilloried by many as a so-called “politician’s republic”.

That division, with its echoes of the unsuccessful push in 1999, underlines just how fragile the support for a republic is, and just how easily it can crumble when the details are considered.

A question of constitutional priorities

In any event, there are concerns that even a Labor government could delay the plebiscite, for fear of compromising a separate push for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.




Read more:
First reconciliation, then a republic – starting with changing the date of Australia Day


Few republicans would begrudge First Australians that priority, notwithstanding that agreement is yet to be reached on the precise form so-called “Con-Rec” would take.

Labor insiders say Shorten remains committed to the republic plebiscite in his first term, if elected, but will ensure that Con-Rec is prioritised. As one put it:

The republic’s an open question because we don’t even know who would be leading the opposition and whether they’d be a supporter or not at this stage.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Referendum redux: Labor’s two-step plan for a vote on becoming a republic has some precedents



File 20181112 194506 oytr3w.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Australia’s head of state Queen Elizabeth is aged 92. Source: Treasury.

Ron Levy, Australian National University

A recent report suggested Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth, wants Australia to “get on with” moving towards becoming a republic rather than holding a morbid “death watch”. The queen is a sprightly 92 years of age, while her husband Prince Philip, 97, is in somewhat poorer health.

Federal Labor has announced its preference for not one, but two, new public votes on Australia becoming a republic, should the party win the next election. It would act in its first term in office. A republic is a system of government where the people, through their elected representatives, hold ultimate power.




Read more:
Shorten pledges republic vote in first term


The idea is to have an initial plebiscite to gauge Australians’ preferences – that is generally whether they are for or against dropping the British monarchy from our constitutional system. Then, if the answer to the first question is “yes”, a Labor government would hold another public vote, this time a binding constitutional referendum. If the answer were “no”, then no second vote would be necessary. Labor has not indicated specifics, such as how long after the first vote a second vote would be held.

The queen is generally regarded as Australia’s head of state, although some scholars suggest the governor-general, as the queen’s representative in Australia, is technically head of state.

Is Labor crazy to propose not one but two national votes? What about the cost – in both money and time? What could be the rationale? And is there another option?




Read more:
Nine things you should know about a potential Australian republic


The main problem Labor’s two-vote solution aims to solve is that even supporters of a republic might not agree on what kind of republic it should be. That helped scuttle the republic the last time around in 1999.

Polling data on the subject ebb and flow. For instance, an Essential poll from May indicated support of 48%, up from 44% in January. A recent Newspoll showed backing for a republic had fallen to 40%. In 1999 support stood at about three-quarters of the population.

But monarchists argued in 1999 that the precise model put to the people – appointment of an Australian president by two-thirds of parliament – wasn’t the right one. Their posters warned: “This Republic: don’t risk it” and “If you want to vote for the President … Vote No to the Politicians’ Republic”.

These arguments played on Australians’ doubts about the value of replacing the monarchy with just another elitist institution. Many republicans voted to reject the republic. With the vote split on the republican side, Australia remained a monarchy, essentially by default.

The queen attended the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on November 11 at Westminster Abbey in London without her husband Prince Philip.
EPA

Labor’s two-vote approach avoids this trap through what some call a “mandate referendum” (or “mandate plebiscite” if it’s not binding). The initial vote shows whether there is popular support for a reform. Once that’s decided in the affirmative, all that is left is to choose the most popular specific option for reform.

Mandate referendums have worked. For instance, in South Africa, to push through reforms ending apartheid, President F.W. de Klerk first held a referendum. Defying the pundits’ cynical expectations, 68.7% of white South Africans voted for reform. Then the hard work of dismantling the old system could begin. The popular vote put wind in the sails of reform, and within a few years legal apartheid was gone.

Labor’s plan is somewhat different in that if the first vote is “yes”, then the next step is a binding referendum – not simply negotiations as occurred in South Africa. The reason is Australia’s constitution can be changed only if a referendum is carried, which requires a double majority – a majority of voters overall, and a majority of the states.

South Africa’s system of apartheid – separating the white and black populations – was ended by first securing public in-principle approval through a referendum.

So the idea of a mandate vote has some historical backing. (French President Charles de Gaulle’s 1961 referendum on Algerian independence from France is another example.)

However, there are two caveats. First, the cost of not one but two public votes is bound to be an issue. Yet, in my view, we should not begrudge the costs of democracy. For instance, though elections to parliament cost hundreds of millions, that is no reason to cut back on elections. Democracy is worth the cost.

That said, there may be cheaper alternatives. For example, the vote can be run as a “preferendum” – a referendum in which the voters rank a number of choices, much as we do in parliamentary elections. So, instead of two referendums, we could have just one in which every option – from the status quo to several republican models – is included. During vote counting, the least popular option would be eliminated, and preferences distributed, until a majority favoured just one. (Granted, this approach would take some amendments to the law of referendums in Australia.)

The second caveat is that there is an obvious problem with deliberation amid referendums. When we give consent – whether to a medical procedure or a constitutional reform – that consent has to be informed. Another prominent slogan of the 1999 referendum was “Don’t know – vote no”. This resonated with some voters who couldn’t tell whether a two-thirds-appointed or a directly elected president would be best. Many had little knowledge of constitutional pros and cons. And we saw, famously, something worse in the Brexit vote, which was marred by disinformation campaigns.




Read more:
A model for an Australian republic that can unite republicans and win a referendum


Fortunately, it isn’t too hard to regulate to avoid disinformation, and to teach the public more about constitutional issues. We just need to be creative. Beyond the traditional information booklet sent to voters, we can also employ interactive online tutorials, Q&A-style television specials to debate the models, and local town hall-style meetings. All these should run before each public vote.

And note how Labor’s proposed two-vote model might actually have some benefits for deliberation. Brexit, which after all was a mandate referendum, is telling. Once a first vote endorses reform, this can clarify the mind. Suddenly reform is no abstract matter. Now there is a movement for a second Brexit vote on the specifics of exiting the European Union.

Similarly, Labor’s two-vote model may seem cumbersome, but running two votes, separated by several months or even a year or two, might have benefits. It could allow voters to think hard and learn about constitutional details in the intervening time.The Conversation

Ron Levy, Associate professor, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A model for an Australian republic that can unite republicans and win a referendum



File 20180118 53302 1l2z3hv.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A proposed model for an Australian republic encourages active citizenship while preserving the non-partisan, ceremonial role of the head of state.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Benjamin T. Jones, Australian National University

As the debate continues over whether Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, this series looks at the politics of some unresolved issues swirling around Australia Day – namely, the republic and reconciliation. And just for good measure, we’ll check the health of Australian slang along the way.


The lesson of 1999 is that an Australian republic can only come about if republicans unite. Minimalists want a small-change republic, in which parliament appoints the head of state. This, they argue, will ensure the head of state does not have a popular mandate and will not interfere in day-to-day politics.

It will also preserve the character of the role. Like the current governor-general, minimalists want the role to be an honour bestowed on a worthy servant, not a prize sought through ambitious campaigning.

Direct electionists believe the spirit of republicanism is active participation. They do not want politicians to simply choose a head of state; instead, they desire a system in which the people are involved.

The hybrid model below, designed by Paul Pickering and I, aims to ensure the process is democratic but also that the dignity of the office of head of state is maintained. It harnesses the best features of minimalism and direct election.

A hybrid solution

Under our model, each state and territory parliament nominates an Australian citizen to be head of state. There is no obligation to nominate someone who was born in or who resides in that particular state.

In the opinion of at least two-thirds of sitting MPs, the nominee must:

  • be an Australian citizen over 18;

  • have served the nation with distinction in their chosen field or fields;

  • be of exemplary personal character and integrity; and

  • be willing to serve as head of state for a term of five years.

Each parliament must nominate a different person. The eight nominees are then put to a non-compulsory, first-past-the-post, national vote.

The vote is non-compulsory to emphasise this is a titular and ceremonial role. Australians do not currently vote for the governor-general or the Queen, and should not have to vote for the head of state in a republic, either.

This model deliberately casts a wide net but is protected by two hurdles. A nominee must be endorsed first by a parliamentary majority and second by a public vote.

Some minimalists argue that, under a direct-election model, an exploitative populist or crass former sports star might become head of state. The twin hurdles of our hybrid model serve as a bulwark against unbridled populism, but ultimately defer to democracy. If a nominee has the confidence of both an elected parliament and the people, they deserve to be the head of state, regardless of their critics.

The nominee with the most votes becomes the Australian head of state and serves a five-year term.


The Conversation, CC BY-ND

To campaign or not?

In the lead-up to the vote, the merits of each nominee are explained on the Australian Electoral Commission website. A small education budget is allocated to introduce the nominees to the public without any preference shown.

There is no need for nominees to campaign, but no penalty if they do. If supporters of a particular nominee want to conduct a traditional campaign with slogans, posters, advertisements and the like, that is their prerogative.

Many Australians would consider electioneering to be beneath the dignity of the office of head of state. Ultimately, our model puts its faith in the Australian people. They will dictate what kind of behaviour is appropriate on election day.

Casting a wide net

One possible criticism of our model is that the people can choose from just eight nominees. Opening it up to all casts a wider net in theory, but in reality it excludes many worthy candidates.

A simple direct-election model would likely result in only the wealthy, former politicians, or those with support from powerful lobby groups being nominated. In many cases, the kind of person we want as head of state is not the kind of person who would seek out such an honour.

Needing a two-thirds majority, state and territory parliaments will look for worthy individuals in a bipartisan manner. It is then over to the people to choose.

It should also be remembered that citizens are free to petition their government to endorse any particular individual.

The best of both worlds

One of our model’s strengths is that it encourages active citizenship while preserving the non-partisan, ceremonial role of the head of state.

With nominations from across the states and territories, Australians will be presented with a diverse choice of distinguished individuals.

Like the nominations for Australian of the Year, it will be an opportunity to recognise and honour Australians from different walks of life. Citizens are encouraged but not coerced into deciding who they want as their representative on the international stage.

The most important feature of our model is that it preserves the current power relation between the head of state and parliament.

Like the present governor-general, the head of state under our model will be a guardian of the Constitution. They will hold important reserve powers but will be bound by convention and protocol to use them only in the event of a constitutional crisis. They should carry themselves in a manner that brings honour to the country and should tirelessly promote Australia at home and abroad.

Let democracy rule

It’s worth reiterating that republicans must unite and be committed, above all, to democracy. Only with this attitude can the lazy impulse to revert to the status quo be overcome.

An Australian should be the Australian head of state. Our Constitution should be thoroughly democratic and independent. We should be able to tell our kids that they can grow up to be anything, even the head of state.


Benjamin T. Jones’ new book This Time: Australia’s Republican Past and Future is published by Black Inc.


The ConversationCatch up on others in the series here.

Benjamin T. Jones, Australian Research Council Fellow, School of History, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

First reconciliation, then a republic – starting with changing the date of Australia Day



File 20180116 53302 6dzmww.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Changing the date of Australia Day is the first tiny step for Australia to begin the reckoning with its origins.
AAP/Dan Peled

Maggie Walter, University of Tasmania

As the debate continues over whether Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, this series looks at the politics of some unresolved issues swirling around Australia Day – namely, the republic and reconciliation. And just for good measure, we’ll check the health of Australian slang along the way.


I have always been rather taken with Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoon which depicts a man getting out of bed in the morning, reading a very large poster on his wall that says:

First pants, then your shoes.

This stating of an obvious but critical ordering of events has salience for the debate over whether Australia should become a republic. Reconciliation between the Settler and First Nations populations is a self-evident prerequisite for Australia cutting the ties of colonial dependency with Britain to stand on our own.

If we can’t work out that we need to complete the peacemaking between Indigenous Australians – the sole occupiers of the Australian continent for upwards of 60,000 years – and those whose ancestors arrived at or post-1788, we are not ready to be a republic.

We might be attracted to republican prestige, with its sense of a national coming of age, but we can’t just take the title. Being a republic brings with it the responsibilities of being a grown-up country.

Changing the date of Australia Day is the first tiny step for Australia, both as a nation and a society, to begin the reckoning with its origins. The Australian nation-state is founded on the dispossession of the people of the lands the nation-state now occupies, and from which it draws its wealth and identity.

It’s as simple as that. No ifs, no buts. Australia Day observed on January 26 celebrates the date on which the British flag was first raised in Sydney Cove in the act of colonisation.


Further reading: Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds


The debate over the date

I am heartened by the growing calls from so many non-Indigenous people and groups to change the date of Australia Day. But I am also despairing that so many still do not seem to understand why celebrating January 26 is deeply hurtful to Indigenous people.

Perhaps, as Henry Reynolds suggests, many non-Indigenous Australians simply do not know what January 26 represents. Maybe. But most do know that the date is connected in some way to Indigenous dispossession.


Further reading: Henry Reynolds: Triple J did the right thing, we need a new Australia Day


It is also well known what this day represents for Indigenous people: the massacres, the near-genocides, the abduction of women, the forced relocations, and the denial of basic human rights dictated by the euphemistically named Aboriginal Protection Acts – some not fully repealed until the 1970s. Why would Indigenous people choose to celebrate that?

Or, as Mark McKenna writes, for many, Australia Day is constructed as cut loose from history. The past is the past, it is argued, so why can’t we all just celebrate what’s good about Australia on January 26?


Further reading: More than an excuse for a long weekend – how we came to love Australia Day


Yes, colonisation is a fact that can’t be undone. Nobody knows this better than Indigenous people. But celebrating Australia Day on that date is the opposite of a present/future focus.

January 26 was selected purposefully to commemorate that past by declaring the initial act of colonisation as the most important event in the Australian historical calendar. Why does non-Indigenous Australia choose to celebrate that?

That the political proponents of keeping the date as it is know what January 26 is actually celebrating is clear in their deployment of noble sentiment as obfuscating defence.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, in a 2017 speech on the topic, is fairly typical in this regard. Castigating the Yarra Council over its decision to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day, Turnbull argued Australia Day is the day on which we recognise and honour our First Australians and our newest migrants – and to change the date would be to turn our back on Australian values. He has made similar remarks in recent days.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmalcolmturnbull%2Fvideos%2F10156167474656579%2F&show_text=1&width=560

I don’t dispute Turnbull’s sentiments. What he describes is what Australia Day should be. But what he describes is not what it is now.

Dressing up the pre-eminent day of commemoration in the Australian calendar as something other than this, as somehow about Australian values or a day that all Australians can take pride in, or – even as Turnbull asserts – a day when we recognise First Australians and our history, is just a dishonest diversion from the actuality.

We are convincing no-one, not even ourselves, that we are doing anything else on January 26 but celebrating colonisation and the dispossession of Indigenous people.

If we aren’t celebrating the colonisation of Australia, then there should be no problem in changing the date. If we are, then be honest about it without resorting to self-deceptions.

An Australia Day worth celebrating

Again, on January 26 this year, I, along with many other Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, will march down Elizabeth Street to the Tasmanian parliament lawns for rousing speeches and emotional protest.

In fact once the date is changed – as it inevitably will be – I will miss the event’s camaraderie. It has become a January ritual.

But imagine what Australia Day could be. What if Australia Day was actually those things Turnbull says it is. What if Australia Day was a genuine celebration of all that’s good and unique about Australia? What if Australia Day celebrated our 60,000 years or so of human history as something that belongs to all of us – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and that we can and should all take pride in?

What if Australia Day was a day on which we came together rather than celebrating the dispossession of one by the other?

Now that is an Australia Day worth celebrating.

But that day has not yet come. Instead, our leaders resolutely insist that this is the date most appropriate to hold our national day of celebration – and sanction those who disagree.

For Indigenous people, this tenacity can only be read as callous disregard. To do so in the shadow of overt refusal of the efforts of Indigenous people to advance reconciliation through the Uluru Statement from the Heart reinforces the political message of callousness. It also demonstrates a national immaturity.


Further reading: Listening to the heart: what now for Indigenous recognition after the Uluru summit?


A developed society reconciles its past with its present, resolving what needs to be resolved, settling what needs to be settled. For Australia, the result could be a new national narrative: one we wouldn’t have to resort to duplicity to celebrate, one more befitting an aspiring republic.

Drawing from the wisdom of the Far Side cartoon: Australia, first change the date to begin a just settling, then contemplate becoming a republic.


The ConversationCatch up on others in the series here.

Maggie Walter, Pro Vice Chancellor (Aboriginal Research and Leadership) and Professor of Sociology, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nine things you should know about a potential Australian republic



File 20180115 101483 1d9u92h.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Australia’s Constitution vests executive power in the Queen and says that that power is exercised ‘on her behalf’ by the governor-general.
AAP/Alan Porritt

Bede Harris, Charles Sturt University

As the debate continues over whether Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, this series looks at the politics of some unresolved issues swirling around Australia Day – namely, the republic and reconciliation. And just for good measure, we’ll check the health of Australian slang along the way.


Whether Australia should become a republic or remain a monarchy is a perennial topic of debate, particularly around the time of Australia Day. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull briefly floated the idea of a plebiscite on an Australian republic earlier this year.

Many would have questions about how such a change would affect our system of government. But the questions and answers below show there is nothing unique about Australia’s situation, and the issues that need to be addressed are not particularly difficult.

1. Who is Australia’s current head of state?

Possible answers to this question range from “no-one” to “the governor-general” to “the Queen”: it all depends on what you mean by “head of state”.

The term is not used in the Constitution, so there is no office of “head of state”. Section 61 of the Constitution vests executive power in the Queen, and says power is exercised “on her behalf” by the governor-general.

What is incontrovertible is that the Queen is undoubtedly the source of executive power, even though the governor-general exercises it. So, if there were no Queen, there would be no governor-general. The governor-general’s powers are therefore entirely derivative.

So, you can say the Queen is head of state, as long as by “head of state” you mean “the person who is the ultimate source of executive power”.

2. What benefit would there be in Australia becoming a republic?

Such a move would be purely symbolic in that it could be effected without any change to the way functions are distributed under the Constitution. The Queen and governor-general would be replaced by an Australian president.

It would mean that any Australian could aspire to be the person embodying the ultimate source of executive authority in Australia.

It would also signal to the world that we are wholly independent, both in appearance and in fact, because we would no longer have a foreigner as our monarch.

3. Would having a president change the functions of the office?

No. Whatever changes were necessary to substitute a president for the Queen and governor-general could be made without changing the powers of the office.

Many Commonwealth countries have done this over the past 50 years, and have become republics while retaining the system of parliamentary government in which day-to-day power is vested in a prime minister.

4. What method of selecting a president is most likely to be supported by a majority of voters?

Surveys show that most voters favour the popular election of a president.

In that sense, the 1999 referendum was doomed to fail – not because a majority of Australians wanted to maintain the link with the Crown (polls showed a clear majority in favour of a republic), but because the Howard government put to voters a model (selection of a president by parliament) that most republicans did not want.

5. Would an elected president be compatible with our parliamentary system of government?

Yes.

Both Ireland and Germany are parliamentary democracies that have an elected head of state who performs the same limited role as Australia’s governor-general. Because the way these presidents exercise their powers is determined entirely by the constitution, presidential candidates cannot make campaign promises.

Campaigning for president in these countries does not revolve around party politics or political platforms, but around who voters think would best personify the country and represent it on the world stage.

6. Is there a danger in having a popularly elected president?

Some argue that a popularly elected president might think they had a mandate equal to that of the government, and so disregard the conventions that govern the role currently discharged by the governor-general.

7. What are the conventions and how do they operate?

There is a difference between a legal rule and a convention. A legal rule is enforceable by the courts; a convention is not – it is a rule whose effectiveness relies purely on customary compliance.


Further reading: How unwritten rules shape ministerial accountability


Confusion arises from the fact that what the governor-general may do according to the law can be very different from what they can do according to convention. For example, Section 58 of the Constitution says the governor-general can decide whether to assent to legislation “according to his discretion”. In reality, convention dictates that the governor-general must always assent to bills passed by parliament.

Almost all the powers given to the governor-general by the Constitution are either expressly stated as being exercised on the advice of the government or are exercised on advice by convention.

However, the governor-general has four powers they exercise independently – that is, not on anyone’s advice. These are to: appoint a prime minister, dismiss a prime minister, dissolve parliament, and refuse to dissolve parliament.

The circumstances in which these powers should be exercised is governed by convention. Therein lies the problem that led to the 1975 constitutional crisis.


Further reading: Australian politics explainer: Gough Whitlam’s dismissal as prime minister


There was no doubt that, under Section 64 of the Constitution, the governor-general had the legal power to dismiss the prime minister. What was in dispute was whether, under convention, failure to get supply passed by the Senate justified the exercising of that power.

8. How would we prevent a president from acting contrary to the conventions?

A governor-general or a president could act contrary to the conventions. The obvious solution to either of them doing this is to codify the conventions – that is, clarify what they are and put them into the Constitution, so they become rules of law enforceable by the courts.

There is nothing new in this: codification has been effected by many Commonwealth countries.

Some have retained the link with the Crown and have codified the powers of a governor-general. Others have become parliamentary republics, with presidents with codified powers.

9. How should reform be conducted?

To ensure genuine majority support for change, there should be a compulsory plebiscite legislated for by parliament, followed by a referendum.

The plebiscite should have two questions:

  • The first should ask whether voters want Australia to become a republic.

  • The second should ask which of a list of methods of selecting a president voters would prefer, assuming the first question showed a majority in favour of a republic.

If a majority had favoured a republic, the ensuing referendum should ask voters to approve the model that obtained most votes in the plebiscite.

The ConversationMany other parliamentary democracies have become republics over time. We should broaden our thinking to take their experiences into account.

Bede Harris, Senior Lecturer in Law, Charles Sturt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shorten pledges republic vote in first term



File 20170728 1689 1o8gnbg
Bill Shorten will seek to elevate the issue of a republic by pledging.
a policy for quick action.
Julian Smith/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A Shorten government would ask voters in its first term whether they supported Australia becoming a republic.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, addressing the Australian Republic Movement’s dinner on Saturday, will seek to elevate the issue by pledging
that “by the end of our first term, we will put a simple, straightforward question to the people of Australia: Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?

“If the yes vote prevails – and I’m optimistic it will – then we can consider how that head of state is chosen.”

He will say that in a Labor government a minister would be given direct responsibility for advancing the debate.

The Shorten policy for quick action on a republic contrasts with Malcolm Turnbull’s position, which is that the public will not want the issue back on the agenda until after the Queen’s reign ends.

Labor’s two-stage process – with the first stage a general plebiscite question about wanting a republic, followed by a referendum which would incorporate a model – is designed to maximise the chances of support.

But the issue of the model and the requirements of a referendum – which needs an overall majority and a majority of states to pass – would still remain the difficult hurdle.

The 1999 unsuccessful referendum proposed the president of the republic be chosen by parliament, but it is likely that these days people would want a directly elected president – a model that raises more issues.

Shorten will say in his speech: “We cannot risk being caught in a referendum like the last one, where Australians were given one vote to settle two questions. When a lot of people voted ‘no’ because of the model, not because of the republic.

“The first, clear question we ask the people should be whether we want an Australian head of state. And the debate should be about why. About our sense of Australia, our history and above all, our future.”

In London recently Malcolm Turnbull declared himself an “Elizabethan”. In contrast, Shorten will say: “I have tremendous regard for the Queen and her service. But I am not an Elizabethan. I’m a Victorian. I’m an Australian.”

He will say he is confident that if Australia became a republic, “Queen Elizabeth would farewell us with the same affection and good grace she has shown every time a Commonwealth nation has made the decision to cut its ties with the monarchy.

“We can vote for a republic and still respect Queen Elizabeth.”

Shorten will acknowledge that the republic issue “isn’t front of mind of everyone, but I don’t buy the argument that we can’t have this debate until every other problem in the nation has been solved.

“In these fractious times, governments age quickly and lead short lives.

The Conversation“It’s no good hoping for a popular groundswell – we must set a direction and bring people with us, and we have to do it early.”

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/axx2w-6d8662?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian Politics: 23 November 2013 – Governor General Stirs Republic Debate


New Threats, Old Enmity Pummel Nepal’s Christians


Armed group that forced over 1,500 government officials to quit now threatens pastors.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, September 16 (CDN) — A year after police busted an underground militant Hindu organization that had bombed a church and two mosques, Nepal’s Christians are facing new threats.

An underground group that speaks with bombs and has coerced hundreds of government officials into quitting their jobs is threatening Christian clergy with violence if they do not give in to extortion demands, Christian leader said.

The Nepal Christian Society (NCS), an umbrella group of denominations, churches and organizations, met in the Kathmandu Valley yesterday (Sept. 15) to discuss dangers amid reports of pastors receiving phone calls and letters from the Unified National Liberation Front (Samyukta Jatiya Mukti Morcha), an armed group demanding money and making threats. The group has threatened Christian leaders in eastern and western Nepal, as well as in the Kathmandu Valley.

“The pastors who received the extortion calls do not want to go public for fear of retaliation,” said Lok Mani Dhakal, general secretary of the NCS. “We decided to wait and watch a little longer before approaching police.”

The Front is among nearly three dozen armed groups that mushroomed after the fall of the military-backed government of the former king of Nepal, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, in 2006. It became a household name in July after 34 senior government officials – designated secretaries of village development committees – resigned en masse, pleading lack of security following threats by the Front.

Ironically, the resignations occurred in Rolpa, a district in western Nepal regarded as the cradle of the communist uprising in 1996 that led to Nepal becoming a secular federal republic after 10 years of civil war.

Nearly 1,500 government officials from 27 districts have resigned after receiving threats from the Front. Despite its apparent clout, it remains a shadowy body with little public knowledge about its leaders and objectives. Though initially active in southern Nepal, the group struck in the capital city of Kathmandu on Saturday (Sept. 11), bombing a carpet factory.

The emergence of the new underground threat comes a year after police arrested Ram Prasad Mainali, whose Nepal Defense Army had planted a bomb in a church in Kathmandu, killing three women during a Roman Catholic mass.

Christians’ relief at Mainali’s arrest was short-lived. Besides facing threats from a new group, the community has endured longstanding animosity from the years when Nepal was a Hindu state; the anti-Christian sentiment refuses to die four years after Parliament declared the nation secular.

When conversions were a punishable offense in Nepal 13 years ago, Ishwor Pudasaini had to leave his home in Giling village, Nuwakot district, because he became a Christian. Pudasaini, now a pastor in a Protestant church, said he still cannot return to his village because of persecution that has increased with time.

“We are mentally tortured,” the 32-year-old pastor told Compass. “My mother is old and refuses to leave the village, so I have to visit her from time to time to see if she is all right. Also, we have some arable land, and during monsoon season it is imperative that I farm it. But I go in dread.”

Pudasaini, who pastors Assembly of God Church, said that when he runs into his neighbors, they revile him and make threatening gestures. His family is not allowed to enter any public place, and he is afraid to spend nights in his old home for fear of being attacked. A new attack occurred in a recent monsoon, when villagers disconnected the family’s water pipes.

“Things reached such a head this time that I was forced to go to the media and make my plight public,” he says.

Pudasaini, his wife Laxmi and their two children have been living in the district headquarters, Bidur town. His brother Ram Prasad, 29, was thrown out of a local village’s reforms committee for becoming a Christian. Another relative in the same village, Bharat Pudasaini, lost his job and was forced to migrate to a different district.

“Bharat Pudasaini was a worker at Mulpani Primary School,” says Pudasaini. “The school sacked him for embracing Christianity, and the villagers forced his family to leave the village. Even four years after Nepal became officially secular, he is not allowed to return to his village and sell his house and land, which he wants to, desperately. He has four children to look after, and the displacement is virtually driving the family to starvation.”

Since Bidur, where the administrative machinery is concentrated, is safe from attacks, Pudasani said it is becoming a center for displaced Christians.

“There are dozens of persecuted Christians seeking shelter here,” he said.

One such displaced person was Kamla Kunwar, a woman in her 30s whose faith prompted her husband to severely beat her and throw her out of their home in Dhading district in central Nepal. She would eventually move in with relatives in Nuwakot.

Pudasaini said he chose not to complain of his mistreatment, either to the district administration or to police, because he does not want to encourage enmity in the village.

“My religion teaches me to turn the other cheek and love my enemies,” he said. “I would like to make the village come to Christ. For that I have to be patient.”

Dozens of villages scattered throughout Nepal remain inimical to Christians. In May, five Christians, including two women, were brutally attacked in Chanauta, a remote village in Kapilavastu district where the majority are ethnic Tharus.

Once an affluent people, the Tharus were displaced by migrating hordes from the hills of Nepal, as well as from India across the border, and forced into slavery. Today, they are considered to be “untouchables” despite an official ban on that customary practice of abuse and discrimination. In the villages, Tharus are not allowed to enter temples or draw water from the sources used by other villagers.

Tharus, like other disadvantaged communities, have been turning to Christianity. Recently five Tharu Christians, including a pastor and two evangelists, were asked to help construct a Hindu temple. Though they did, the five refused to eat the meat of a goat that villagers sacrificed before idols at the new temple.

Because of their refusal, the temple crowd beat them. Two women – Prema Chaudhary, 34, and Mahima Chaudhary, 22 – were as badly thrashed as Pastor Simon Chaudhari, 30, and two evangelists, Samuel Chaudhari, 19, and Prem Chaudhari, 22.

In June, a mob attacked Sher Bahadur Pun, a 68-year-old Nepali who had served with the Indian Army, and his son, Akka Bahadur, at their church service in Myagdi district in western Nepal. Pun suffered two fractured ribs.

The attack occurred after the Hindu-majority village decided to build a temple. All villagers were ordered to donate 7,000 rupees (US$93), a princely sum in Nepal’s villages, and the Christians were not spared. While the Puns paid up, they refused to worship in the temple. Retaliation was swift.

The vulnerability of Christians has escalated following an administrative vacuum that has seen violence and crime soar. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who had been instrumental in the church bombers’ arrest, resigned in June due to pressure by the opposition Maoist party. Since then, though there have been seven rounds of elections in Parliament to choose a new premier, none of the two contenders has been able to win the minimum votes required thanks to bitter infighting between the major parties.

An eighth round of elections is scheduled for Sept. 26, and if that too fails, Nepal will have lost four of the 12 months given to the 601-member Parliament to write a new constitution.

“It is shameful,” said Believers Church Bishop Narayan Sharma. “It shows that Nepal is on the way to becoming a failed state. There is acute pessimism that the warring parties will not be able to draft a new constitution [that would consolidate secularism] by May 2011.”

Sharma said there is also concern about a reshuffle in the largest ruling party, the Nepali Congress (NC), set to elect new officers at its general convention starting Friday (Sept. 17). Some former NC ministers and members of Parliament have been lobbying for the restoration of a Hindu state in Nepal; their election would be a setback for secularism.

“We have been holding prayers for the country,” Sharma said. “It is a grim scene today. There is an economic crisis, and Nepal’s youths are fleeing abroad. Women job-seekers abroad are increasingly being molested and tortured. Even the Maoists, who fought for secularism, are now considering creating a cultural king. We are praying that the political deadlock will be resolved, and that peace and stability return to Nepal.”

Report from Compass Direct News

‘Unchecked Extremism’ behind Attacks on Churches in Indonesia


Christians, moderate Muslims blame growth of Islamism under ‘weak’ government.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, August 17 (CDN) — The country that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population celebrated its 65th Independence Day today amid a widespread sense of distrust in the government’s ability to check attacks on churches by Islamist groups.

Muslims and Islamic organizations, Buddhists and Hindus joined hundreds of Christians for an ecumenical worship service near National Monument Square in Jakarta to protest “government inaction” over attacks on Christians and “forced closure of churches,” reported The Jakarta Globe. They had planned to hold the service outside the State Palace, but the government prohibited it due to preparations for Independence Day celebrations, the daily reported.

“Why did it take President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono so many days to speak against the attacks?” the Rev. Dr. SAE Nababan, president of the World Council of Churches from Asia, told Compass. “Such carelessness can be dangerous for our democracy. Officials must not forget that they are accountable to the people.”

Nababan was referring to President Yudhoyono’s call for religious harmony a day before the month-long Islamic festival of fasting, Ramadan, began here last Wednesday (Aug. 11). According to the Globe, it was the president’s “first public comment” addressing “a recent rash of violence against religious minorities.”

The president’s statement came after a fifth attack on the Batak Christian Protestant Filadelfia Church (HKBP Filadelfia) in Bekasi city, a suburb of Jakarta, on Aug. 8.

More than 300 members of the extremist Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) broke through a police barricade and injured at least a dozen people during the Sunday worship in a field. The church has faced attacks since November 2000, when it was constructing the church building. (See http://www.compassdirect.org, “Hundreds Injure Church Members in Bekasi, Indonesia,” Aug. 9)

 

Rising Christian Persecution

Endy Bayuni, former editor of The Jakarta Post, told Compass that churches were being attacked every week but that media were avoiding coverage because it is an “emotional and controversial issue.”

“You also risk being accused of taking sides when you report on religious conflicts,” he said, adding that Christians and the Ahmadiyya, a Muslim sect regarded as heretical because it does not believe that Muhammad was the last prophet, bear the brunt of Islamism in Indonesia.

A report by the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy stated that violations of religious freedom of Christians had grown from previous years. It recorded at least 28 violations — mostly by Islamist groups – between January and July – up from 18 in 2009 and 17 in 2008.

The violations included forced closure of churches, revocation and delays in issuing building permits, and attacks such as torching and damaging churches. Political motives, economic interests involving illegal extortion, and ideological clashes of “intolerant groups” refusing the presence of those of a different religion impeded justice in most cases, noted the report.

 

Powerful Minority

Most Muslims in Indonesia are moderate and tolerant, said Nababan, former bishop of the HKBP Filadelfia church, but he added that the extremist minority poses a “great threat” to the nation.

“Extremism always starts in small numbers,” he said, alluding to alleged government inaction.

Dr. Musda Mulia, a Muslim research professor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told Compass all Indonesians have a right to freedom of faith.

“It seems the government doesn’t want to deal with the radicals,” she said. “Persecution of Christians and other minorities has been my concern for many years, but the government is very weak.”

Extremism in Indonesia, now a republic with a presidential system, dates back to the country’s struggle for independence, when Islamists called for an Islamic state. The Dutch transferred sovereignty to Indonesia in 1949 after an armed struggle.

Not heeding the Islamists’ call, the country’s leaders chose “Pancasila” as the official philosophical foundation comprising five principles: belief in the one and only God; just and civilized humanity; the unity of Indonesia; democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations among representatives; and social justice for all.

In line with Pancasila, “Unity in Diversity” (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika) became the official national motto of Indonesia. The Indonesian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the government only recognizes six religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,508 islands – about 6,000 of which are inhabited – has around 300 distinct native ethnicities and 742 languages and dialects. Over 86 percent of the over 138 million Indonesians are Muslim. Christians are around 8 percent, Hindus 3 percent and Buddhist 1.8 percent.

Islamist militant groups remain active and growing and are still fighting pluralism. According to the Globe, police recently unearthed a terror plot against President Yudhoyono, “part of a larger trend as militant groups widened their targets from Westerners to include state officials” considered to be “symbols of secularism.” One of their aims was to “accelerate the transformation of the country’s democratic system into one controlled by Islamic law.”

In 2002, over 200 people (including 164 foreigners) were killed in a terror attack by Islamist militants in Kuta town on the island of Bali. Indonesia has also fought violent Islamist insurgents, such as in Aceh Province, which now has a special status and implements sharia (Islamic law).

Mulia of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, who is the first woman to obtain a doctorate degree in Islamic political thought, identified the FPI and the Forum Betawi Rempung (Betawi Brotherhood Forum or FBR) as two of the Islamist groups chiefly responsible for Christian persecution.

The FPI, a national-level organization infamous for vigilante violence and allegedly part of the al Qaeda network, was established on Aug. 17, 1998. The FBR, a similar group based in Jakarta, was formed to fight for the interests of the ethnic Betawi Muslims on July 29, 2001.

Both groups exist legally in the country.

In June, several Indonesian parliamentarians asked the government to ban the FPI, which “has threatened ‘war’ against Christians in Jakarta and urged mosques to set up militia forces,” reported the Globe on July 26. The government, however, thinks that banning such groups will only lead to re-formation of the same organizations under new names.

The deputy chairman of Setara, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, was quoted in the Post’s July 29 edition as saying that local administrations, especially in cities in West Java Province, see these groups “as assets for local elections.”

“They [local governments] bow to pressure from mass organizations that insist the churches’ presence and activities have caused unrest,” he reportedly said.

As for the national government, added Nababan of the World Council of Churches of Asia, “it is preoccupied with its free market economy and apparently has no time to uphold the Constitution.”

 

Church Building Permits

The sealing of churches and the refusal to grant building permits top the list of major violations of Christians’ religious rights in Indonesia, according to Setara. The Aug. 8 attack on the HKBP Filadelfia church was also rooted in denial of permit for constructing its church building.

Setara’s deputy chairman told the Post that churches in Jakarta mainly faced trouble in renovating and expanding their buildings, which require building permits.

“They have to start over again by obtaining 60 signatures from residents living around the church, and sometimes residents refuse to provide signatures,” he said. The Setara report recommended that President Yudhoyono review a 2006 joint ministerial decree that requires signatures from congregations and residents living nearby, as well as approval from the local administration, to build a house of worship.

According to Setara, at least three churches in east and south Jakarta were experiencing difficulties in obtaining permits for church building at press time.

Nababan complained that some local governments would not give permits for churches for years without stating any reason.

“If this current government can become courageous enough to prosecute those who break the law and allow religious freedom, including the freedom to construct churches where we live, there is hope for Indonesia,” added Nababan.

A Christian source who requested anonymity said he agreed that there was hope for minorities in Indonesia.

“Violent attacks awaken the silent majority, which then speaks up and holds the government accountable,” he said.

Report from Compass Direct News

Threat of Return to Hindu State in Nepal Looms


With deadline for new constitution approaching, Christians fear end of secular government.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, March 30 (CDN) — Four years after Nepal became officially secular, fear is growing that the country could revert to the Hindu state it was till 2006, when proclaiming Christ was a punishable offense and many churches functioned clandestinely to avoid being shut down.

Concerns were heightened after Nepal’s deposed King Gyanendra Shah, once regarded as a Hindu god, broke the silence he has observed since Nepal abolished monarchy in 2008. During his visit to a Hindu festival this month, the former king said that monarchy was not dead and could make a comeback if people so desired.

Soon after that, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, a former prime minister and respected leader of the largest ruling party, said that instead of getting a new constitution, Nepal should revive an earlier one. The 1990 constitution declared Nepal a Hindu kingdom with a constitutional monarch.

There is now growing doubt that the ruling parties will not be able to fashion the new constitution they promised by May.

“We feel betrayed,” said Dr. K.B. Rokaya, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Nepal. “The Constituent Assembly we elected to give us a new constitution that would strengthen democracy and secularism has frittered away the time and opportunity given to it.”

The clamor for a Hindu state has been growing as the May 28 deadline for the new constitution draws near. When a Hindu preacher, Kalidas Dahal, held a nine-day prayer ritual in Kathmandu this month seeking reinstatement of Hinduism as the state religion, thousands of people flocked to him. The throng included three former prime ministers and top leaders of the ruling parties.

“The large turnout signals that Hinduism is enshrined in the hearts of the people and can’t be abolished by the government,” said Hridayesh Tripathi, a former minister and Constituent Assembly member whose Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party is the fifth-largest in the ruling alliance. “It was a mistake to abolish Hinduism in a hurry.”

Another blow for a Hindu state was struck by the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N), the only party that fought the 2008 election in support of monarchy and a Hindu state. It is now calling for a referendum. As a pressure tactic, it paralyzed the capital and its two neighboring cities in February by calling a general strike.

“The election gave the Constituent Assembly the mandate of writing a new constitution, not deciding issues of national importance,” said Kamal Thapa, the RPP-N chief who also was home minister during the brief government headed by Gyanendra. “Most people in Nepal want a Hindu state and a constitutional king. If their demand is not heeded, they will feel excluded and refuse to follow the new constitution. We are asking the government to hold a referendum on the two issues before May 28.”

With only two months left, it is clear the demand can’t be met if the constitution is to come into effect within the stipulated time. Now the specter of anarchy and violence hangs over Nepal.

Nepal’s Maoists, who fought a 10-year war to make Nepal a secular republic and who remain the former king’s most bitter enemy, say attempts have begun to whip up riots in the name of a Hindu state. The former guerrillas also allege that the campaign for the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion is backed by ministers, politicians from the ruling parties and militant religious groups from India.

Effectively Hindu

Even if a new, secular constitution is approved by the deadline, there is still no guarantee that the rights of religious minorities would be protected.

Nilambar Acharya, who heads the committee that is drafting the new constitution, said it would be merely a broad guideline for the government; compatible laws would have to be drafted to protect rights.

“The previous constitution abolished ‘untouchability’ [a practice among Hindus of treating those at the bottom of the social ladder as outcasts],” Acharya told Compass. “But untouchability still exists in Nepal. To achieve all that the constitution promises, the mindset of society has to be changed first. For that, you need political will.”

Though Nepal became secular in 2006, Hinduism still gets preferential treatment. The state allocates funds for institutions like the Kumari, the tradition of choosing prepubescent girls as protective deities of the state and worshipping them as “living goddesses.” The state also gave money to organizers of a controversial, five-yearly religious festival, the Gadhimai Fair, where tens of thousands of birds are slaughtered as offerings to Hindu gods despite international condemnation.

There is no support, predictably, for Christian festivals. When the Constituent Assembly was formed – partly though election and partly by nomination – no Christian name was proposed even though the prime minister was authorized to nominate members from unrepresented communities.

Christian leaders want such religious bias abolished. Rokaya of the National Council of Churches of Nepal said Christians have recommended full freedom of religion in the new constitution: allowing one to follow the religion of one’s choice, to change one’s religion if desired or have the right not to be associated with any religion.

The churches have also asked the state not to interfere in religious matters.

“We are asking the government not to fund any religious activity, not to be part of any religious appointments and not to allow public land for any religious event,” Rokaya said.

The recommendations, however, may not be heeded. During their brief stint in power, the Maoists tried to stop state assistance for the Kumari. It led to violence and a general strike in the capital, forcing the party to withdraw the decision.

In its 2009 report on religious freedom in Nepal, the U.S. Department of State notes that while the interim constitution officially declared the country secular, “the president, in his capacity as head of state, attended major Hindu religious ceremonies over which the king previously presided.”

It also notes that there were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

“Those who converted to a different religious group occasionally faced violence and were ostracized socially,” it states. “Those who chose to convert to other religious groups, in particular Hindu citizens who converted to Islam or Christianity, were sometimes ostracized. They occasionally faced isolated incidents of hostility or discrimination from Hindu extremist groups. Some reportedly were forced to leave their villages.”

Dr. Ramesh Khatri, executive director of Association for Theological Education in Nepal, has experienced such persecution first-hand. When he became a Christian in 1972, his father disowned him. Then in 1984 he was arrested for holding a Bible camp. Though the case against him was dropped in 1990 after a pro-democracy movement, Khatri said hatred of Christians still persists.

“Christians can never sleep peacefully at night,” he said wryly. “The new constitution will make Nepal another India, where Christians are persecuted in Orissa, Gujarat and Karnataka.” The Oxford University-educated Khatri, who writes a column in a Nepali daily, said violent responses to his articles show how Nepal still regards its Christians.

“I am attacked as a ‘Rice Christian,’” he said. “It is a derogatory term implying I converted for material benefits. The antagonistic feeling society has towards Christians will not subside with the new constitution, and we can’t expect an easy life. The Bible says that, and the Bible is true.”

Christians continue to face persecution and harassment. In March, missions resource organization Timeless Impact International (TII) noted that a church in northern Nepal, near the foothills of Mt. Everest, was attacked by a local mob.

The newly established church in Dolakha district was attacked during a fellowship meeting in January. An ethnic mob headed by religious leaders destroyed the church meeting place, assaulted participants and warned them not to speak about Christianity in the village, TII said.

The situation, even now, remained unchanged.

“None of the church members have been able to return to their homes,” TII stated. “They feel completely unsafe and at risk.”

Report from Compass Direct News