High Level Australian Delegation Visits Nepal


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By – Harish Velji

A VIP Trip to Nepal, from 6th March to 8th March 2016, was organised for Parliamentary Secretary to The Leader of Opposition, Senator Sam Dastyari, Senator for New South Wales representing Australian Labor Party, along with Harish Velji and Aisha Amjad from Australia to observe the earthquake damaged areas in Nepal and update with the recent rebuilding initiatives taken by the Nepal Government. This is the highest ranking delegation to visit Nepal post-earthquake.

After the VIP welcome the team settled down into immediately the business. They met with Australian Ambassador for Nepal HE Glenn White for about two hours for a private briefing.

Nepalese Consul General for NSW Australia, Mr Deepak Khadka, who provided accommodation at his residence to the delegation, later hosted a welcome dinner for the guests. There was a large array of VIP’s including UML Secretary and former Minister Mr Pradeep Gayawali , Illa Sharma, Election Commissioner, Mr Sushil Gyewali CEO National Construction Authority, Dr Rajan Bhattarai MP, Shesh Ghale Special Envoy, Mr Deepak Raj  Joshi, CEO Nepal Tourism Board and former Nepali Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khana .

The delegation from Australia met with the Prime Minister of Nepal Hon Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli at his residence. He is the first Prime Minister under the newly adopted Constitution of Nepal. There was discussion on the new constitution, Australia Nepal relationship and the progress of the rehabilitation work since the earthquake.

Nepali Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Thapa brought up the Australian Delegation up to date about his recent trip to India and told us of the current status of the play with India. Initiatives such as the Community Re-Forestation Scheme (helping locals with environmental planning and sustainability) by Australia according to the Deputy Prime Minister was a great success. He also went on to explain in details about the new constitution.

There was a lengthy discussion with Mr Shushil Gyewali CEO of National Reconstruction Authority on the progress of the rehabilitation work and a lot of Q&A took place on the progress, logistics etc of the reconstruction work. Under the structure PM is the head of the committee and the leader of opposition is the deputy. It was clear from the discussion that the government was ill prepared for this size of disaster.

The meeting with Mr Yubaraj Kathiwada, National Planning Commissioner showed that the money being given to the earthquake victims to rebuild the houses would not be enough. Commissioner feared that the money given as loan may be converted to a grant.

After visit to Patan Durbar Square Senator Dastyari Aisha Amjad and Harish attend a dinner hosted by Mr Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO Nepal Tourism Board.

We were given a tour of the one of the sites near the epicentre of the earthquake. As I have been through many of the hurricanes I knew what to expect in terms of the destruction. Nothing was going to surprise me. There was a difference from Fiji. In Nepal it’s the tyranny of the heights whereas in Fiji it’s the oceans. But the damage is same. The difficulty is the same. The other common factor is the resilience of the people. However what stunned me was that these people have waited patiently for about 10 months for things to happen and are still waiting. They have just gone through winter and have seen through the snow and now they are about to go through monsoons. They must be wondering when the respite will come for them. We were given beautiful dhal soup and potatoes which was organic and making taste more like a sweet potato. They love and affection from the people was phenomenal.

Former Prime Minister and senior leader of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba had just been elected as the party president. Following his election, Senator Sam Dastyari became the first foreign politician to meet him. This was just hours before our return flight. Former Prime Minister called us to his house to meet him. There was a massive crowd outside his home. Both Mr and Mrs Deuba kindly asked us to have lunch with them but unfortunately we could not oblige as we were not only departing for airport but with such a crowd outside would have been inappropriate. In the time we had a discussion on the Australia Nepal relationship and the resettlement of earthquake victims. Dr. Arzu Rana Deuba is a Nepalese politician and a social worker in her own right.

Joining Senator Dastyari, Harish Velji and Aisha Amjad were local Nepali community leaders Mr Ganesh KC, Mr Raj Khanal, Mr Megh Raj Shrestha, Mr Prem Sapkota , Mr. Samip Katuwal and Mr Krishna Giri who coordinated the trip

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