HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: A visiting British minister today refuted allegations that the UK government funding was responsible for stirring ethnic tension in Nepal, but he clearly conveyed the message of the UK’s moral support for those “excluded” groups waging inclusion campaigns, including a federal Nepal based on ethnic lines.
Minister for State of the Department for International Development (DFID), Alan Duncan said he wanted “to set the record straight”. He said the DFID—Nepal office was helping Nepal implement its “own commitment on inclusion”. Terming the comments “biased”, he said DFID was maintaining its “neutrality”. He categorically denied it was supporting the ongoing campaigns for federalism based on ethnic lines, but strongly conveyed the message that the voices raised in the campaigns should be heard.
“It’s untenable and unacceptable that any society can have second class citizens and I have no doubt that lasting peace will only be achieved when Nepal has a truly inclusive society,” Duncan said addressing a press conference at the British Embassy this evening.
Duncan, a gay himself, did not elaborate how some Nepalis were being treated as second-class citizens.
Duncan, who landed in Kathmandu for a three-day visit on Tuesday, faced hard questions from scribes regarding the role of international donor agencies, including DFID’s support for indigenous groups who are waging campaign for ethnic rights, including federalism based on ethnic lines.
DFID is one of the largest bilateral donors to Nepal. Duncan announced that the UK aid package would hit Sterling Pound 100 million (Rs 14.25 billion) next year.
Asked about DFID’s funding for political activities in Nepal, including the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), who had imposed three-day violent strike from May 20 to 22, demanding single identity based federalism, he said “We funded NEFIN projects. We have not funded any political organisation. We had stopped funding NEFIN after it enforced the national strike,” he added. The international community along with donor agencies had maintained unusual silence regarding that NEFIN strike, when media persons were targeted.
The British official was trying to clarify that his visit was not intended to meddle in Nepal’s political process. Earlier, the visit of Norwegian Minister for International Development Heikki Holmås was taken negatively by a section of Nepali media and polity.
Duncan met the President, Prime Minister, both Deputy Prime Ministers, Finance Minister and top leaders of major parties. In all meetings, he stressed the politics of consensus. “My message has been consistent: we support Nepal, we encourage you to find a solution which will provide the country with political stability,” he said.