the past few weeks the military struggle between Government and Maoist
forces has intensified to become the biggest civil war in the world. The
average daily casualty rate is higher than the bitter fighting in Palestine
or even Afghanistan. Hundreds are now dying every week. Travel throughout
the country has become a lottery. Kidnappings, robberies and brutal murders
are commonplace events. A nation that only fifteen years ago was regarded
as the most peaceful and happy on Earth has now descended into the pit
of vicious brutality and despair. Our worst fears have become realised.
There can be no hiding from the truth of what is
happening in our country. We cannot go about our daily business and forget
the fact that we are at war. Government ministers might still go about
in fine suits hosting trade conventions, international conferences and
sporting events. There may be new constructions in Kathmandu and trade
agreements with India. But the ugly truth will always remain in the shadows
behind every show of normality. Our sons and our brothers are still slitting
each other's throats in a desperate struggle between two utterly uncompromising
The Prime Minister is now in a very similar situation
to his predecessor. He may be more popular than the accident prone Girija
Prasaad Koirala who was handicapped by persistent allegations of nepotism
and corruption. And the violent Maoist attacks that broke the cease-fire
in November certainly generated more public support for his military campaign
against them. But Mr. Deuba has no greater chance of successfully ending
the war than the last administration. He remains fixed in the stubborn
demand that the rebels must effectively surrender before any meaningful
dialogue can take place between them. And the rebels remain fixed in their
refusal to do so.
The government is therefore obliged to force that
surrender and prosecute a war in which the enemy has no clear identity
and may be disguised in any form. Mistakes will be made and many innocent
people will be killed. Both sides will overreact and send more soldiers
and cadres to avenge the deaths of their predecessors. So it is perpetuated.
This is not a dispute that force alone can settle. Mr. Deuba may eventually
succeed in launching massive hi tech bombardments against the rebels.
He may enlist foreign support and exterminate thousands of Maoist cadres
and sympathetic civilians. But he will never defeat the force behind them
unless his government reduces the desperate poverty suffered by nearly
half the population. Of course the sheer cost of the war is preventing
any general improvement of living conditions. And the chaos of it is rapidly
destroying the economic base of the nation. Military methods can only
buy a little time for political manoeuvre. The real battle Mr. Deuba must
fight is the war against poverty. And it is ultimately one that the whole
world must face.
The struggle in Nepal is not simply a local war
between different social groups. It is not a war confined to our borders.
The entire world is actually facing the same crisis that we are experiencing
here. The wealth gap between rich and poor is growing bigger every year
both globally between nations and socially between people. In short the
rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It is the fundamental
reason why Palestinians cannot live alongside Israelis. Whilst an average
Israeli earns nearly $20,000 a year, the average Palestinian must work
for less than four hundred. It is the same problem in Nepal. Whilst some
people are earning thousands of dollars every year through business or
corrupt practices, the average citizen must live in complete poverty.
Although such circumstances have existed before
in history, something today makes them particularly acute. The wonderful
development of satellite television has recently delivered their reality
to millions of viewers across the globe. A generation ago very few Nepalis
were aware of our hugely disadvantaged situation compared with other nations.
Not only has such knowledge substantially increased but the sheer commercial
nature of media has also encouraged common desire for Western goods and
living standards. Unfulfilled desire will always create disappointment
and that has been the breeding ground for new ideologies to challenge
The Palestinians will never live happily alongside
their Israeli neighbours until both economies are at least within sight
of each other. Where one man eats cake alongside another that is starving
there will always be trouble. Perhaps we cannot expect to have absolute
equality of wealth when some systems are plainly more economically efficient
than others. But the wealthy will always have the moral responsibility
to ensure the basic requirements of everyone. It is a form of natural
law that no degree of human force or dictatorship or even torture can
ever override. No man has the right to demand a second helping before
his neighbour has been served the first. And no nation has the right to
line its streets with gold before its neighbour has even built shelters.
Of course we can make human laws that try to operate
otherwise. We can give tax advantages to the rich and allow some nations
to spend billions of dollars on missile defences whilst others face drought
and starvation. But there will never be peace in the world as long as
such injustices continue. The wealthy will never be able to sleep comfortably
in their beds at night. There will always be the threat of sabotage, terrorism,
assassination and mindless destruction.
And so Mr. Deuba must do more than increase our
military strength or make fine speeches in political gatherings. He must
actually win his war against poverty and demonstrate a radical path ahead
that will give everyone hope for a better future. Constitutional change
is an inherent part of that future and the government should rapidly accept
the principal of it. For by doing so they would immediately open the prospect
of a much more constructive dialogue with the rebels than the current
strategy of force and counter force.
my best wishes to you all,