THT 10 YEARS AGO: Edmund Hillary, first atop Everest, dies at 88

Wellington, January 11, 2008

Edmund Hillary, the modest New Zealand beekeeper who shot to global fame as the first person to climb Mount Everest, died today at the age 88.

A hero to millions for his derring-do, dry wit and dedication to others — he spent much of his life working to help the people of Nepal — Hillary had a heart attack after a spell of bad health, Auckland Hospital said.

The lanky, plain-speaking Kiwi made history on May 29, 1953, when he and Nepalese guide Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made it to the top of the world’s tallest mountain, a feat that had defied mountaineers for decades.

On the way back down, Hillary lifted his mask and uttered what would become one of the most famous phrases in the annals of climbing: “Well, we knocked the bastard off.” Tributes quickly poured in for the legendary adventurer and philanthropist, who also led the first expedition to reach the South Pole by vehicle just four years after conquering Everest. “Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities.

In reality, he was a colossus,” Prime Minister Helen Clark said.

UN for 6-month extension of UNMIN term

Kathmandu, January 11, 2008

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submitted his report to the UN Security Council at New York yesterday, proposing a six month extension of UNMIN’s mandate to support Nepal’s peace process through the Constituent Assembly election.

Along with electoral assistance, UNMIN is also tasked with monitoring the arms and armies of the former adversaries — the Nepal Army and the Maoist army — who are confined to cantonments and barracks in the lead-up to the election due on April 10.

The Security Council is expected to meet on Nepal late next week to decide on the report, UNMIN Spokesperson Kieran Dwayer said in Kathmandu. UNMIN Chief Ian Martin is leaving for New York early next week to brief the Security Council, he said. The meeting on Nepal could take place on January 17 or 18, UNMIN sources said.

The Secretary General said UNMIN should maintain its existing configuration and staffing “subject to some reduction in the electoral staffing, taking into account the technical assistance already provided, and other minor adjustments”.

The UN Secretary-General has advised against any downsizing of the UN’s presence, stressing that it could “endanger prospects for a successful election”. “The deployment of international personnel to the regions and districts of Nepal has consistently been regarded as a key factor in creating a free and fair atmosphere for the election,” Ban’s report said.