A new slanging match
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In early 1987, a little before the India-Sri Lanka accord was signed, the UN country representative in Sri Lanka had a meeting with then President Junius Jayewardene to offer any help the UN could to the conflict-ridden nation. "That would not be a pleasant thing to happen, as Sri Lanka will be kicked like a football by its 180-odd members," was the president's firm answer.
Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, a seasoned Nepali diplomat, recalls his conversation with Jayewardene, and sees how his country and the UN are at loggerheads. The UNDP in Nepal is holding back its report, which stated there were 2.9 million homeless in Nepal. Another UN body on refugees said there are around 8,00,000 people stateless in Nepal. Together, the Himalayan nation will have more than one-eighth of its population either homeless or stateless, a conclusion the government has firmly declined to accept.
Nepal has seen a much larger UN presence since 2006, when the special Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and then that of the UN Mission were set up. The OHCHR's latest report, released in Geneva, said there were more than 30,000 cases of human rights violation in Nepal, with around 9,000 of these possibly making for war-crime cases. The UNMIN left the country in late 2010, with its impartiality and success questioned.
The UNDP office, however, was no less controversial when it came to dealing with the conflict resolution and constitution-making process. It hired Yash Ghai, a controversial legal expert, as the key adviser on constitution-making to the UNDP. Ghai had left his UN assignment in Cambodia earlier following protests from the host government for his "biases". Although Ghai had nothing to do with the UNDP report on the "homeless", he has been harshly critical of the Nepal government in the past for pursuing a policy of "exclusion" against a vast section of the population. But that theory is something the UN was perceived to be following. The government has of late warned UN bodies against coming out with such "imaginary figures". The UN bodies are reworking both reports — on the definition and the figures of stateless and homeless.
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