Baker claims he is innocent

Kathmandu, May 24:

American explorer Ian Baker, who is on the wanted list of Nepal Police, today pleaded innocence, saying he had no intention of doing any kind of business out of the objects that the police seized from his rented flats and he only wanted to put them on display in a resort portraying Nepali tradition.

In an e-mail sent to the media, Baker asked the authorities to release his house staff-cum-gardener Rajesh Maharjan, who is in police custody, arguing that Maharjan had nothing to do with the collection of the objects in question.

The Oxford graduate, who is also a famous writer, said he got the seized animal skins from an old Rana palace where he lived in 1984. He claimed that his landlord had asked him to keep the skins, as they no longer wanted them, when he moved from his first home in Kathmandu to a larger apartment.

Baker also questioned the way the police raided his flats and said the search without warrant would be considered illegal in many other countries.

He said he had bought old Tibetan boxes and tribal artifacts from shops in Durbar Marg and Thamel.

“The items have simply been collected in the course of my many years of living in a country that I loved and respected. The skins are all old and were given to me and the wood pieces are all about 20 to 30 years old and were intended for a resort hotel featuring traditional Nepali architecture,” the statement said, adding that he believed that there was nothing illegal in having such items in his home.

The irony, Baker says, is that almost all other objects that the police confiscated, including those in his puja room, can be bought openly at shops in Thamel, Boudha, Patan, and Durbar Marg.

Baker noted if it was illegal for him to have such things in his house, then all curio dealers on Durbar Marg and most Rana families in Kathmandu, Tibetan lamas and Buddhist followers would all have to be arrested.

“If shops on Durbar Marg can openly display and sell such objects, it’s only logical that foreigners can also keep such items in their homes,” he said.

He said he was a staunch advocate of wildlife and the Himalayan environment conservation and was prompted in part by his uncle who was both an ambassador-at-large and president of WWF to visit Nepal for the first time in 1977.

He said he devoted the better part of his life in promoting Nepal and its culture through his books, films, magazine articles, and lecture tours.

Baker, however, admitted that he was negligent not to register some of the goods in his collection or that were given to him as presents by his landlords and Tibetan lamas.

He said he was shocked by the fact that the police did not first notify him or ask how those things came into his possession before taking action against him and putting him on the wanted list.