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A State of Emergency

April 8, 2001

Nepal news


There are no words that can truly describe the horror of civil war. All over Nepal families are grieving for sons and fathers killed in a week of bloody battles. Some will even be mourning the loss of daughters and mothers. Brother is fighting brother and our nation family is tearing itself apart on the rocks of despair.

The massacre at Rukumkot last week was a national disaster. In three days of utter chaos and mismanagement nearly 100 armed policemen were killed in various battles and accidents. Whatever we may think of the Government, there can be nothing but tears and sadness for these unfortunate victims. Most of them originally joined a police force that had nothing to do with war. But they were sent into battle with poor equipment and no real military training against an experienced rebel force. Their officers were trained to fight crime but they were ordered instead to face an organised army that outnumbered them 6 to 1. The men fought bravely in trenches defending their position to the last. They died as heroic examples of our national sense of duty and service. It was a tragedy that must never be forgotten.

I suppose that history will eventually determine who is truly responsible for these events. But at the moment both sides will blame each other. That is the way of all wars. The Government claims that violence has no place in a democracy and that public elections are the only proper battleground for political dispute. The rebels argue that a corrupt system cannot be reformed through 'democratic elections' because the power of money will always win against the interests of ordinary citizens. And so the argument between them is fundamental. Neither side is willing to compromise and negotiation becomes more difficult as the casualties rise.

But in reality we are all responsible for this terrible situation. Those who support the Government must accept that millions of citizens are living in desperate poverty and that nothing has really been done to help them. And those who support the rebels must understand that killing their brothers in bloody gunfights will never unite the nation. Even those who refuse to take either side must accept the responsibility of silence. A democracy can only work if everyone participates in it and those who remain silent automatically hand power to those with voices. Either way we all have attitudes that have partially contributed to the breakdown of peace within our nation family.

The highest level of responsibility however must lie with those who have the power to act. I was once an officer in the British Navy and I was able to learn a great deal from that experience. I knew that a Captain was responsible for everything that happened to his ship and crew. If my sailors fought each other, whatever the circumstances of that argument, I would carry the blame because their behavior and morale was my responsibility. It is the same duty and responsibility that a good father will have for his family. If your children are hungry then you must make certain that they are fed. If your sons fight together then you must look to yourself for the reason and intervene to solve their differences. It is the same for all Captains and all fathers. And I very much believe it is the same responsibility that a King has for his nation.

Of course every Captain is dependent on the good sense, loyalty and efficiency of his second in command and His Majesty has been poorly served in this respect. Whatever the truth behind the Lauda Air scandal, Mr. Koirala has now seriously failed his King and his people. The disaster at Rukumkot was clear evidence of complete mismanagement at the highest level. Field intelligence should have detected the chance of attack by such a large force. Air support should have been available under emergency circumstances. The whole unit should have been better trained and equipped to defend themselves. In fact, as so many believed at the time, the whole idea of launching an Armed Police Force to fight a highly organized and hugely supported Rebel Army was a fatal mistake. It was certain to inflame the conflict and yet it offered no chance of decisive victory. If the Government was determined to ignore the Maoist demands they should have drawn support from the Army. Without an Army willing to fire on their own people, a sensible government has no alternative but to reach political agreement with the Rebels or resign from office.

But this administration has not acted with such wisdom. They have used an inadequate method to deal with a deadly problem and our people are dying on both sides of the conflict as a result. They have not listened to the Maoists and accepted some of their demands so that rebel support might weaken. They have not listened to the opposition and addressed their concerns. And they have not listened to the people whose opinions are clear to read in any newspaper. In consequence they have offended Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution that charges the State to protect and enhance the lives, property and liberty of all the people.

Under these circumstances any Head of State must face his greatest test of leadership. Under Article 115 of the Constitution, His Majesty is perfectly entitled to declare a State of Emergency in the event of an armed rebellion threatening the internal security of the Nation. There may be other less dramatic measures he may take in private, but the ultimate authority, and the ultimate responsibility, belongs to the King in this matter. He has the Constitutional power to suspend Parliament and do whatever is necessary to bring about peace. That is why the essence of Article 115 exists in every National Constitution. And from what I read in my mail and in the newspapers it would seem that the majority of citizens would loudly support such a proclamation. I can only wish that someone acts to resolve this war before the human cost of it becomes unimaginable.

With my best wishes to you all,