Diplomat summoned over envoy’s conversion note

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
Diplomat summoned over envoy’s conversion note

Dec 15, 2014-

In a string of controversies over British Ambassador Andrew Sparkes’ recent message to the Constituent Assembly members of Nepal to ensure in the new constitution that the people’s right to change their religion is protected, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday expressed the concerns of the Nepal government to the Charge d’Affaires of the British Embassy.

Acting Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi summoned Guy Harrison on Monday over an article by Sparkes entitled ‘Letter to sabhasad-jyus’ published in an English language daily on December 10, the Foreign Ministry said a statement.

The British Embassy in Kathmandu said on Monday, “Some have misunderstood the letter’s reference to protecting an individual’s right to change religion. This was simply a reference to a fundamental individual right, set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was not a reference to supporting ‘forced’ conversion or proselytising.”

After the write-up got into a controversy, Ambassador Sparkes is reportedly on a two-week leave beginning Sunday. Some Nepali Congress leaders raised the statement in Parliament on Sunday. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala instructed Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey to seek clarification from the ambassador.

“Bairagi drew the attention of the embassy to the sensitiveness of the matter in the context of the constitution writing process and cautioned that such uncalled-for remarks might have negative impact on harmony and tolerance prevailing in the Nepali society. He also advised the embassy to refrain from making such remarks in future,” the ministry stated.

Several pro-Hindu organisations submitted a memorandum to the embassy on Monday, asking the British government to recall the ambassador.

“It is for the CA members and Nepal’s citizens to decide what kind of constitution Nepal should have. As Ambassador Sparkes emphasised, the letter was ‘a message of support’ from a long-standing friend at this critical time,” the British embassy stated.

“Nor was the Embassy or its officials preaching or imposing any religious

point of view on Nepal’s democratically elected representatives and Nepal’s citizens. Contrary to some claims, the Embassy does not hold any position on secularism--that is a matter for Nepal’s people and their elected representatives to decide.

“The Embassy has enormous respect for the beliefs and cultures of Nepal’s

many and diverse peoples. The Embassy regrets any

misunderstanding that the comment may inadvertently have caused.”

Published: 16-12-2014 09:04

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