Kathmandu, August 1, 2006

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala today sought an explanation from Defence ministry Secretary Bishnu Dutta Uprety on why the Chief of Army Staff Pyar Jung Thapa did not present himself before the commission probing the suppression of Jana Andolan II.

Secretary Uprety, on his part, ordered the army chief to go to the commission to give his statement on Thursday and informed the commission that the army chief will present himself on Thursday.

According to a source close to the Prime Minister, Koirala asked Uprety why he (General Thapa) created such a controversy by not heeding the panel’s summons.” The PM also directed Uprety to tell the CoAS to attend the Commission,” the source quoted Koirala as saying.

Uprety, however, told this daily that the army chief had gone to Pokhara only after informing the Prime Minister who is holding the portfolio of defence.

“How can the army chief go out of Kathmandu Valley without informing the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister?” Uprety asked. The Defence Ministry had informed the commission that Thapa had gone to Pokhara to attend a pre-scheduled programme and so would not be able to attend the commission.

“Though he informed the PM, it created misunderstandings, but he will go to the commission on Thursday,” Uprety added.

“Since he has already taken oath of office by attending the House of Representatives he will attend the commission,” Uprety said. He added that the other army officers will attend the commission after the army chief’s statement is recorded.


WFP airlifting food for starving far-west

The United Nations World Food Programme has begun emergency helicopter operations to help feed 250,000 drought-affected people in the far-west. “This is only the first stage of a much larger planned airlift.

Of the 10 districts we’re hoping to feed, only Bajura, Dailekh, Kalikot and Jajarkot have benefited so far. The other six hard hit areas of Rolpa, Rukum, Dolpa, Humla, Jumla and Mugu won’t get any food unless we are able to raise more funds,” WF Representative Richard Ragan was quoted as saying in a press statement released by UNIC.

WFP has also asked for government support and it might get the Nepal Army’s assistance for transporting the food. “Many of the targeted locations can only be accessed by helicopter, making this US$ 5.3 million programme logistically one of the most difficult and expensive operations in the world for WFP,” said Ragan.

Three commercial MI-17 helicopters would be used to airlift four metric tonnes of food per flight. As of July 30, 188.12 metric tonnes (Mt) of food had already been airlifted to Bajura district. An additional 1,300 Mt of food will be airlifted to Humla, Jumla, Dolpa, and Mugu districts.