SAPI

Kathmandu, Nepal - Nepal’s last elected Prime Minister, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, said that “parliamentary democracy has failed” and Nepal needs a new model of government. He was speaking at the 14th South Asia Peace Initiative conference on August 7 in Kathmandu, Nepal to an audience of more than 150 high-level delegates.

Addressing the theme, Realizing the South Asian Dream: Democracy, Peace and Development, Dr. Bhattarai said, “People are still looking for an alternative model of democracy simply because the old model of parliamentary democracy has failed to address the people’s problems.”

In addition to calling for a new model of governance, Dr. Bhattarai reassured the nation that elections scheduled for November 19 would be held on time, saying that the “election is a must… we are committed to holding the election on the scheduled date in a genuinely free, fair and credible manner.”

The program began with interreligious prayers from eight faith traditions: Father Bill Robinson (Christianity); Mr. Ayer Singh (Bramha Kumari Raj Yog); Mr. Narendra Panday (Baha’i Center); Hon. Bhikchhu Ananda (Buddhism); Mr. Naman Upadhyaya (Jainism); Swami Damodar Gautam (Hinduism); Mrs. Seema Khan (Islam); and Rev. Kashi Nath Khanal (Unificationism).

Earlier Amb. K.V. Rajan, former Ambassador of India to Nepal, echoed Dr. Bhattarai’s sentiments regarding the need for a better form of government, saying that South Asia may have missed the bus of the Asian century as it lurches from crisis to crisis. India, he said, was struggling with two issues: (1) meaningful democracy—with an emphasis on ‘meaningful’, and (2) rapid, ‘inclusive’ economic growth.

Amb. Rajan said that democracy must not be criminalized; the power of politics must be used for the purpose of serving the public good. He added that the Universal Peace Federation’s message of living for the sake of others needs to be applied in politics, government administrations, businesses, and civil society. (The South Asia Peace Initiative is a project of UPF-Nepal.)

During his 35 years in diplomacy, Amb. Rajan served as India’s ambassador in a number of nations, including Nepal, held important positions in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, and was a member of the Indian Foreign Service.

Dr. Chung Sik Yong, the Regional President of UPF-Asia, highlighted three elements of good leadership: the unselfishness of a true parent, the vision of public well-being given by a true teacher, and the responsibility of a true owner. He noted that all of these models exemplify the principle of public-mindedness in one way or another.

Dr. Yong underscored this by pointing out that the biggest enemy of peace and development was selfishness. He concluded his remarks by saying, “The priority of putting others above myself—which is learned in the family—is absolutely essential for building nations of peace.”

Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, conference convener and former Minister of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation in Nepal, gave an overview of the 13 previous SAPI conferences. Initially these programs focused on moving Nepal’s peace process forward. Nevertheless, conferences have also been held in Afghanistan and India.

The first SAPI conference was held in Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, in early November 2005. Two weeks later the late Dr. Sun Myung Moon came to Nepal to launch UPF in the nation. He spoke to a live audience of 4,500 people, and his speech was broadcast nationwide to the nearly 30 million people via Nepal TV. The same day, November 22, 2005, the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance signed a Memorandum of Understanding that began Nepal’s peace process.

Dr. Sreerupa M. Chaudhary, Chairperson of the Committee for Review of the Policy for Empowerment of Women at the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India, emphasized the vital role of women in helping to create a world of peace. She quoted Rabindranath Tagore saying that women are more than the deity of the household fire; they are the soul of the flame itself.

Just as a bird cannot fly with one wing, so peace cannot be achieved if we discriminate or marginalize women, Dr. Chaudhary stressed. Dressed in a beautiful red sari with a large red tikka on her forehead, she concluded by saying that when she is next invited to speak she would like to offer her chair to a woman from the underprivileged sectors of society in order to have their voices heard.

Prof. Dr. Mohan Prasad Lohani noted that South Asia, home of one fifth of humankind, is rich in natural resources but ironically the vast majority of people lived below the poverty line. This was all the more disheartening because the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation was formed in 1985, not from a common threat, but specifically to promote regional prosperity.

Known for his diplomatic and academic expertise, Dr. Lohani served as Nepal’s ambassador to the United Nations as well as other countries and is currently the principal of the Kathmandu Modern College and president of the Literary Association of Nepal.

Dr. Bhattarai presented an Ambassador for Peace certificate to Mr. Pardip Kumar Rai “Byakul Maila,” the writer of Nepal’s national anthem.

Education Director for UPF-Asia, Dr. Robert Kittel, delineated the universal principles of democracy, peace, and development as envisioned by UPF. Mrs. Ursula McLackland, Secretary General of UPF-Asia, spoke about post-conflict resolution using the experience of World War I and World War II from her native country, Germany, as models.

Vice President of UPF-Nepal, Mr. Narayan Sharma Gajurel, summed up the two-hour program with a Vote of Thanks, and guests were invited to high tea.