Nepal's Fight Against Terrorism
Remarks of Sher Bahadur Deuba,
Prime Minister of Nepal
Mr. Michael Van Dusen, Mr. Bob Hathaway, Excellencies, Distinguished Scholars, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am so very delighted today to be in the company of this distinguished gathering and personalities like Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and at this Center dedicated to a great scholar and world leader—the twenty-eighth president of this great nation—Woodrow Wilson. I am told that the Asia program of this Center has been instrumental in promoting understanding and public service, and shaping and influencing thinking about South Asia. President Woodrow Wilson was a great advocate of protecting democracy and the public. On October 27, 1913, he said, and I quote, "We shall not be poor if we love liberty, because the nation that loves liberty truly sets every man free to do his best and be his best." This message has cross-country, cross-continental appeal and inspiration. The spirit of liberty is what guides us and motivates us in daily life. It is the desire to live in liberty that has plunged hundreds and thousands of people across the globe into the struggle for freedom.
I am proud to share the story of my own past days behind bars for democratic conviction for nearly a decade. Our days behind bars during the movement for restoration of democracy in Nepal have convinced us that it is freedom alone that unleashes the best of every individual and nation, and that freedom is the strongest source for bringing dignity to one's life, and peace, prosperity, and development to nations. It is this belief that makes us continue to fight for protecting the democratic way of life against the brutalities of terrorism. Nepal will leave no stone unturned to fight again and again to liberate our people from terror and to ensure for each and every man, woman, and child security, peace, freedom, and improved quality of life.
All of you are well aware that Nepal is going through a difficult time in its history. We are fighting against terrorism in Nepal. The terrorists call themselves Maoists. Their objective is to end multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy and establish a totalitarian communist republic through violent means. Their methods include torture, killing people brutally and indiscriminately, as well as destroying infrastructure and vital democratic and development institutions. They have also used innocent citizens as human shields during attacks and conscripted children as soldiers. They have instilled fear in the minds of the people by summary killings, torture, and inhuman treatment of people who do not support them. They have infused romantic utopia into the young minds of unemployed youth and have provided them weapons and training.
Last July, when I assumed the office of the Prime Minister, I tried to negotiate with them with utmost flexibility and sincerity to bring an end to this cycle of violence. My government negotiated with them in good faith. I released some of their middle-rank leaders from jail and asked security agencies to halt operations. I also suspended internal security regulations to create an atmosphere of trust and goodwill. Three rounds of talks were held. I was willing to negotiate on anything except abolition of the system of multiparty democracy, for which we struggled for years and decades, and the institution of monarchy, which symbolizes unity in Nepal. All of a sudden, when I was waiting for dates of the fourth round of talks, they unilaterally withdrew from the negotiations and staged most vicious attacks against the district administrative headquarters of the country, including district police offices and army barracks. They looted arms from the military and money from the financial institutions.
While we were holding talks in sincerity, they were regrouping, reorganizing, and consolidating their positions secretly. Our trust was betrayed. Then I had no option but to declare emergency in the country and mobilize all the security forces, including the army, against the Maoists. With the support from all the major political parties, the Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the imposition of the emergency in the country. It is the primary duty of the Government to protect and promote the life and liberty of the people, as all of us know that is the first and foremost priority of any government. It is also the basic human rights of the people that every body should be able to live in peace and make a living in an environment of security and certainty. As the American declaration so eloquently and succinctly expresses, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are fundamental to the progress and prosperity of a nation.
Without an exaggeration, let me sincerely tell you that Maoists are bent on destroying Nepal's hard-earned young democracy. They have been deliberately targeting democratic institutions at the local level to hamper efforts at providing better governance through decentralization. They are destroying bridges, telecom towers, electricity plants, rural airports, health, posts, and drinking water projects, as well as forest and agriculture offices. There is simply no logic in destroying these physical infrastructures except to instill terror in the hearts and minds of the public. They have also used the most barbaric methods of torture and almost ritualistic execution of those who oppose them.
In the 1990s, when Nepal entered the era of democracy, these terrorists had participated in the first parliamentary election and had won a few seats. Later, when they realized their diminishing popularity, they boycotted the general elections and took up arms in 1996. They began their violent campaign for overthrowing the democratic system of polity and imposing a totalitarian republican state, which is already discredited from the international community.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in the midst of our fight against terrorism and for the consolidation of the democratic system in our country. We believe that our fight deserves international support and cooperation. Terrorism today knows no boundaries. This was sadly and palpably made clear by the heinous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11 last year. We extended our deep sympathy to the American people and expressed full support for the war against terror. We know well your pain and loss.
We all know that destabilization of a country by a terrorist group with heinous purposes can have adverse effects around the world. Terrorism in any form and anywhere is a threat to the international community. The evil weapons and strategies of terrorism, such as kidnapping, drug and arms smuggling, hijacking, suicide bombing, and the trafficking of human beings affect each one of us no matter wherever we live. This is the downside of globalization. Evil minds always try to make use of the revolutions in technology and communication to achieve their nefarious objectives. The only defense against them, we all have learnt, is to nip them in the bud, to act decisively against them and to promote international solidarity and action on a sustainable basis.
Terrorists everywhere try to exploit perceived grievances of the peoples. The Taliban tried to use the supposed opposition of Islam by the West for the justification of its despicable acts. Maoist terrorists in Nepal have tried to exploit illiteracy and underdevelopment of the remote rural regions as justification for inhuman killings and attacks against the government and the people, especially those at the forefront of defending liberty and democracy. No cause, however noble it may sound, justifies terrorism. Violent methods cannot and should not be sanctioned in this century. Civilizational progress of human beings demands doing away with violence and killings. International commitment and decisive actions are crucial for successes to root out terrorism. The fight against terrorism needs to be sustained, coordinated, and one step ahead of the terrorist. Enhanced capability and resources are as important to defeat terrorism as is our determination and resolve to fight them.
In our fight against the terrorists, the government has specifically instructed the security agencies to take extra care and be vigilant about the protection and promotion of human rights of all while conducting the operations. The IRCA has been authorized to visit different places of the country. The national human rights commission has been active in ensuring the civil liberties of the people.
I would like to assure you that we are determined to root out terrorism from Nepal ourselves and we have taken many initiatives, both security-related and developmental. However, these initiatives are costly. We know that there has been a sharp rise in the security expenses because of the mobilization of all the security forces, while on the other hand our internal revenue collection is decreasing because of the disruption of economic activities. The tourism industry, which is one of the major sources of foreign currency and has strong forward and backward linkages, has also been badly hurt. Our earnings from this sector, which were approximately U.S.$210 million up to year 2000, are now expected to be less than U.S.$70 million this year. Similarly, the terrorists have already destroyed public property worth U.S.$250. The cost of reconstruction is becoming almost unaffordable. As such, there is a tremendous economic pressure on the Government at the moment as well.
I strongly believe international support, solidarity, and cooperation will be crucial in this fight. We, as a people, are fully determined to restore the peaceful image of our country, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Violence and killings are not in the nature of the Nepalese people. Those of you who have visited our country or know of it identify with serenity, lush green valleys, majestic mountains, and ever-smiling and hospitable people. Nepal has been projecting its peaceful image through participation in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations around the world since 1958. With your support and cooperation, I am confident that we will succeed in effectively implementing long-term and short-term measures to restore this image of the country.
At the moment peace and security need to be strengthened by confronting these savage attacks with full force. That will be followed by rehabilitation and employment-generating activities in the remote and other targeted areas. Socioeconomic transformation and strengthening of good governance with decentralization of authority are our longer-term priorities to alleviate poverty and deprivation. I have already initiated a number of reform measures such as land reforms, formation of a national women's commission, and the commission for the oppressed people. Similarly, a tough anti-corruption law has been enacted and oversight institutions have been strengthened.
Democracy in Nepal has ensured liberty and fundamental freedoms to the people. The open environment combined with globalization has naturally increased the aspirations of the people for a better and more prosperous life. It is an irony that the terrorists have abused the freedom provided by the democratic system to mount attacks against democracy itself. Therefore, the international community should look at the ways and means of strengthening the newly democratic countries with more capability and resources. This will help us to consolidate our democratic roots and enhance our capacity to deal with armed violence and terrorism. This fight could be long and sustained, demanding a higher level of resolve, as well as greater amount of resources and capability. But this is a fight worth fighting.
I fought to bring democracy and freedom to my country and fellow citizens for over three decades. I went to jail for nearly a decade for my convictions. Most of my colleagues in parliament in my cabinet are also soldiers of democracy. We will leave no stone unturned to fight again to liberate our people from terror and to ensure for each and every man, woman, and child security, peace, freedom, and improved quality of life.
We all have to be together in this fight, as the promotion of international peace and security is our common responsibility. The freedoms have to be defended everywhere. For better or worse, the world has become a global village. What happens in one country reverberates all over. Let us join hands to make the world a better place for our children.
I thank you for your attention.