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Letter to the Prime Minister

July 29, 2001

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After the most tragic and disastrous year in our history, I am certain that many citizens will join me in welcoming your appointment to lead the Government. The hopes and dreams of an entire nation now rest in your hands and we wish you every fortune in achieving the peace and prosperity that everyone desires.

Over the past five years we have had several meetings in which you have assured me of your personal commitment to fight poverty and end the corruption that has brought the nation into bloody civil war. I was greatly impressed by your promises and by your willingness to accept many of the reforms that are necessary to bring peace. At a time when many around you were opposed to negotiation, you spoke the language of compromise. I strongly believe that is the best path ahead for Nepal and I write now to give that policy every chance of success.

Some citizens have written that you are no better than Girija Koirala. They say that insurgency first began during your last term as Prime Minister and that several lawmakers were sent to Bangkok to avoid a crucial vote of confidence. It is even alleged that severe measures taken when you served as Home Minister were directly responsible for the development of the crisis. But such recrimination does not help when a nation faces civil war. All of us must leave past grievances behind if there is ever to be peace. I feel that your new administration should not be judged on the past but from its record in the future.

Plainly the most immediate problem ahead lies in finding a solution to the 'People's War'. Although there are many other serious issues to deal with, there can be no progress in Nepal without peace. Your success in achieving a truce so quickly has been applauded by all but a long-term solution will be a much more complicated process.

With many districts now under effective Maoist control, the 'People's Movement' is a powerful force in Nepal. The rebellion has drawn substantial international attention and its campaign has grown considerably over the past six months. Inspired by fundamentalist philosophy, the movement rejects conventional democracy, private enterprise and the monarchy. More than 30,000 well disciplined cadres are prepared to fight for it and several million citizens support it. This is not a small terrorist group that can be defeated with increased security measures. Half the population has insufficient food at a time when the national economy is reportedly growing at more than 5%. Plainly we must address the root cause of rebellion rather than dealing with its symptoms.

I believe that is the principal change your administration can bring about. And there are several measures that would immediately lessen the problem. You may consider sending free food supplies to those districts where hunger is common. Instead of carrying troops to these districts, Army helicopters could deliver essential supplies. There are many aid agencies that should assist with the cost of this operation and the political rewards would be considerable. Stronger measures to tackle corruption and tax fraud would also benefit peace. Penalties must be significantly increased and any suggestion of corruption rigorously investigated. Granting decent agricultural subsidies to make life easier for rural citizens would be a long-term measure to stabilise peace. The profits of industry cannot be monopolised by the business class alone. And through proper taxation and sound economic management the State has a duty to distribute this wealth to all those in need.

But this is not just an issue between the Maoists and the Government. There are several powerful interest groups that must also be satisfied with the outcome of any negotiations. Other political parties must feel they are involved in the settlement to prevent constant political warfare. Traders and businessmen need an economic climate in which to prosper. They cannot accept concessions to a Maoist economy in which the State might own and control the industrial landscape. Landowners are threatened by Maoist proposals to redistribute the land to the farmers and yet substantial reform must take place to give agriculture any chance of meeting the needs of a growing population. Foreign governments and investors are threatened by any concessions to the Maoists and yet their support is vital for the development of the economy. And we must not forget the Monarchy and all those who support it. A 'People's Republic' might be a fundamental cause of Maoism but a large majority of ordinary citizens still view the prospect with horror.

A solution to keep everyone happy will not be easy but perhaps everyone should realise that all groups must make some sacrifices if any of them are to prosper. The crucial task for the Government will lie in compensating each group for the sacrifices it must concede. In short everyone must loose a little and thereby gain a great deal more. The Maoists must concede some of their principals in order to benefit the millions of poor people they have come to represent. The business classes and investors will have to reduce their level of profit but increased prosperity should reward them as well. The landowners may have to give up large areas of agricultural land but they can be compensated through the development of residential estates. And the Monarchy may have to lose some of its remaining privileges but the institution should benefit from increased public support.

A lasting peace can only be brought about through a comprehensive treaty that involves all parties involved. That cannot be achieved in a few months of negotiations or a vast summit conference. It will necessitate a policy of shuttle diplomacy and the gradual piecing together of another substantial change to our national system. We must not be frightened of revising the Constitution. The signal of any substantial rebellion is a popular demand for change. That is the cry of the people. For at the heart of everything stand the ordinary citizens of Nepal whose welfare must be the central reason for any administration to govern. It is vital that we do everything we can to avoid the utter tragedy that has befallen our brothers in Sri Lanka. For everyone will benefit from the stability that a lasting Peace Treaty undoubtedly will bring about.

With my best wishes,