INTERVIEW FROM HIS MAJESTY KING GYANENDRA BIR BIKRAM SHAH DEV TO REPRESENTATIVES OF NEPAL TELEVISION, RADIO NEPAL AND RASHTRIYA SAMACHAR SAMITI Monday,
August 29, 2005
Question 1. Your Majesty, you have just completed a visit to various places in the Far and Mid-Western Development Regions of the country. Would Your Majesty please share with us the sentiments and aspirations of the people of these regions?
Answer 1. People of these regions expressed divergent views and sentiments when I met them. While some came up with matters of a more personal nature, others raised issues relating to their district. There were also those who were more specific in their demands and suggestions. But what I found everywhere I went was the unanimous and overriding desire for peace, followed by development.
Question 2. Your Majesty recently visited the Eastern Development Region as well. How would Your Majesty view the situation in the Far and Mid-Western Development Regions, as compared to that of the Eastern Region?
Answer 2. As you can see, the whole country is passing through a difficult phase, but as far as the Far and Mid-Western Development Regions are concerned, these regions face some unique problems. Though their remoteness and distance from the capital could be some of the reasons, I feel the pervasive poverty in the regions could be the primary contributing factor. Compared to these regions, the Eastern Development Region is somewhat influenced by the neighboring country. If terrorism and fear of terrorism are more intense here in the Far and Mid-Western Regions, the topography of these regions is also definitely more challenging. Karnali Zone could be taken as a case in point. I believe that, taking into consideration its geographical makeup – which includes the high Himalayas as well as the trans-Himalayan region, we must change our attitude towards this zone if we are to do something for it. What is needed is a more liberal approach. There are many places, like Dolpa, where hardly anyone has reached. One even tends to wonder whether the government is present there. During my previous visit to Duani, Dolpa’s district headquarters, people from Upper Dolpa told me they walked for seven days to reach there and that they had more contacts and exchanges with the Tibet Autonomous Region than with other parts of their own country. In Humla, people said it was easier for them to go home through Tibet than through our own country. It is for this reason that I continue to stress the need to build a roadway that connects this remote area with the rest of the country. If a road could be constructed up to Jumla, that would open up an extremely beneficial access to the Terai region.
Moreover, this road could also be extended to Jajarkot, from where another road is being built to Chhinchu. Building this road has not been easy as it passes through remote and difficult terrain but planners tell me that it should be complete within a year. If we could extend this road to Dunai, then Dolpa could be brought into the national mainstream. We must somehow have road links to all district headquarters for increased economic activity and human movement. This will contribute greatly towards forging national unity. It was not for no reason that King Prithvi Narayan Shah the Great called Nepal a garden of a variety of flowers. It is the duty of the Institution of Monarchy to nurture and safeguard this garden and I assure you that the Institution will never shy away from fulfilling this responsibility in all sincerity. Coming back to your question, there are definitely a number of differences between the Far and Mid-Western Regions and the Eastern Region but we should never forget one fact – that, in spite of all the difficulties that may trouble us, we are all Nepalese; Nepal is where we will live and fulfill our moral responsibilities and it is from here that we will leave for our heavenly abode when the Almighty desires. This would give a boost to safeguarding our nationalism and territorial integrity.
Question 3. In the course of the visit, Your Majesty had spoken about development and peace, but the people’s emphasis was more on peace than development. Would Your Majesty wish to comment on this?
Answer 3. The people were only venting their inner feelings. As you are aware, the state has also accorded top priority to the restoration of peace. I believe that peace should come from within; it does not only mean a peaceful environment but one should be at peace in heart and soul. Peace that comes from the soul will definitely build an aura of peace around it. But, sadly, we are presently passing through a difficult phase, with some elements engaged in spreading violence, extortion and terrorizing people. I feel the desire for peace is but natural. All the people wish for is to live, sleep and go about their daily business in peace. Even now, we hear that terror is once again targeting industries; this should be brought to an immediate end. The Nepalese people should give due consideration to the fact that outsiders will take advantage of a divided house. Everyone should remain sensitive in ensuring that others are not encouraged to fool around. I would like to reiterate here that those who have deviated could always return to the national mainstream with the central pillar of their concern as national unity and the nation. Having said this, I would like to add that if they were previously hoping to make some gains from their political agenda, that agenda no longer exists. At one time, I had heard that the terrorists’ agenda was pro-people, aimed at introducing reforms. But look at what has happened now. When they went overboard to embrace terrorism, the people abandoned them. In the beginning, we heard that they had 41 demands, which, as you know, kept changing. There is no denying that some of these demands were good. May be the governments of the day did not address them. May be our difficulties would not have multiplied so much if something had been done then. I would like to state that the government’s 21- point programme has tried to address many of these issues. That is why I feel that a solution can definitely be found if every Nepali considers the nation as the focal point.
Question 4. In the course of Your Majesty’s visit, people have filed petitions on issues relating to law and order along with development activities and administrative delays. Many of them have also put forth personal requests. Would Your Majesty wish to comment on this?
Answer 4. As you saw for yourself, the requests were rather diverse – some personal while others related to the district, education etc. We will go through them on our return to the capital. Special attention will naturally be given to the genuine ones which are applicable and within the ability of the State. There are some that should be given priority. We will see how these issues can be incorporated in our national policy. This should address many of the issues. One cannot expect the State, government or one person to do everything. That is why I have been stressing the need for public participation. Moreover, in the modern age, we should leave it to the people and their representatives. But those who claim to be the people’s representatives must represent them in the real sense. The representatives must focus on alleviating the difficulties of the people. Popular aspirations must somehow be reflected in the national plan.
Question 5. Although this Far and Mid-Western Region is relatively more affected by Maoist terrorism, Your Majesty’s visit to various places in the region has witnessed the participation of a large number of people. Would Your Majesty wish to comment on this?
Answer 5. First of all, I would like to thank the people for coming to the places I went. I must also confess that this visit has taught me what patience is all about. In some places, the people were profusely sweating in the scorching sun. The flowers in their hands had dried up but they did not relent, saying that they had to personally give the flowers to their king. I have heard that some elements tried to create disturbances, make their presence felt but the people have given them a fitting reply by coming in large numbers. It is heartening that, in spite of all the difficulties, these people waited very patiently to see and talk to their king. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, sweet or bitter, once we go to the people, we must have the patience to listen to everyone. During this visit, the people taught me to be patient. In some places, they were sweating profusely due to the heat while I am told rains completely drenched the people in other places prior to my arrival. But the fact is that the people were there, patiently waiting for me to come.
Question 6. People were rather surprised to see Your Majesty sweating and walking for over two and half hours. How would Your Majesty respond to their reactions to the press?
Answer 6. Isn’t this question pretty odd? I am only human and it is but natural for a human being to sweat when exposed to heat. But we must turn this sweat into constructive and productive energy. Our country has a difficult terrain. We have to climb hills to go from one place to another. We sweat and inhale dust wherever we go. Our clothes and shoes must match up with this environment. If the people can do it, I don’t see why their king can’t. A unique characteristic of the Nepalese Monarchy is that the king and the Nepalese people are inseparable from each other. Monarchy always moulds itself according to the wishes of the Nepalese people – this is our tradition. Unlike today, our forefathers did not enjoy the luxury of asphalt roads, vehicles or helicopters. They had to ride on horsebacks or walk, but the kings did reach the people’s doorsteps. So we can’t afford to say that this is difficult. No matter what the state of the people may be, we must love and respect them. This is another unique feature of Nepalese Monarchy.
Question 7. Your Majesty, regarding the encouraging public participation during the visit, some elements have charged that the people were coerced into coming there. Would Your Majesty comment on this accusation?
Answer 7. How do I react? I think the people present there are best suited to answer this question – whether they were forced to come or if their presence was spontaneous.
Question 8. Your Majesty, you have spoken directly with people from different walks of life, including the elderly and the disabled. How would you assess the difference between times prior to and after the Royal Proclamation?
Answer 8. One of the things I have experienced is that the Nepalese are growing in confidence. The people are also more nationalistic. I have also heard that since February 1, there has been some improvement in the delivery of services. But some also tell me that this improvement has slackened. I would also like to caution all those responsible for providing the services that this is no time for dilly-dallying. These services must reach the people. Excuses will not be tolerated. A commitment has already been made for good governance.
Question 9. In the course of the visit, people of all ages, from small children to the elderly, came in huge numbers to greet Your Majesty, in spite of the scorching heat. There is also a general feeling that such visits should take place more frequently and in other districts as well. Does Your Majesty plan to continue such zonal and district level visits in the days ahead?
Answer 9. I wish to make it clear that this king has absolutely no problem in meeting the people. We are always willing to go any where the people call us. I assure you that the Institution of Monarchy will never lag behind in alleviating the sufferings and difficulties faced by the people. In this light, I believe such visits should and will continue in future as well.
Question 10. Taking into consideration the current situation of the country, how does Your Majesty think the press should conduct itself?
Answer 10. This might be the most difficult question. Though it is not for me to say how the press should conduct itself, I would like to add that, anyone aware of one’s responsibilities must carry out their duties in a disciplined manner, given the sensitive circumstances prevailing in the country. I wish to reiterate that we should not do anything that encourages terrorism. We must not forget that our nation is still in crisis. Do you think that the fourth state remained quiet during the imposition of the state of emergency? I never thought so. All of us must accept the fact that our country is in a difficult situation and we must work towards achieving one objective – the creation of a self-reliant, peaceful and democratic nation. Of course, we need democracy. But we must be able to exercise it right from the grassroots level up to the parliament. Like a house, the strength of democracy rests on its foundations and pillars. We must, therefore, identify and strengthen them. Then only will higher level democratic institutions be strengthened. Democracy will have real meaning only if the people can enjoy its fruits. What is the essence of the Bhagawat Gita? The essence, as I understand, is that we should continue fulfilling our duties without expecting anything in return. Once we are born into this mortal world, we must continue fulfilling our duties in some form or the other. Now if we get stuck on the consequences, when will we ever attain the goals? Today, the nation has made a firm commitment that terrorism is unacceptable and democracy should be made meaningful and mature. This was also the main objective behind our proclamation on February 1. Different means could be adopted to achieve the goal but we cannot afford to falter or stray away at every juncture. There may be challenges but we must overcome them and continue on the right path. I feel the current relationship between the king and political parties could be compared to the petty daily squabbles between loving couples. The closer they are, the more squabbles there will be. But, as I have said before, political parties must clarify their position on four important issues. First, they must clarify their position on terrorism. Everywhere I went, people, fearful of terror, were clamouring for peace. As for the political parties, some talk about forging an alliance with the terrorists, while others are in favour of initiating dialogue with them. This is not right. The people want answers from these parties. They need not tell the king, but they must take the people into confidence. They must also clarify their views on good governance, corruption, politicisation of different sectors including the bureaucracy and fiscal discipline. If political parties publicly state their position on these issues, there will be room for dialogue to move ahead. As far as I am concerned, my doors are always open. Never have I said that I would not meet them. But there has to be some basis for that too because I am also responsible to the people. Even I have to be able to tell the people what their leaders’ views on these issues are.
Question 11. Some patriots feel that it may be difficult to fulfill Your Majesty’s wishes in the present circumstances.
Answer 11. This is something I too have heard. First and foremost, we must learn that the nation comes before everything else, so we must move ahead with national interest uppermost in our minds. I would like to mention a tradition of ours. Even during King Prithvi Narayan Shah the Great’s reign, he could not select his own ministers because the people did not allow him to do so. We will also uphold this tradition. We are giving due consideration to the people’s opinion. It is unbecoming of patriots to be disappointed or pass comment just because they were not appointed to any public office. This is what I meant when I said that we must learn patience from the people.