9 June 2020 I Ram Khatry I A source within Nepalese embassy in Canberra has rubbished suggestions that the mission gave preferential treatment to 11 passengers who flew out of Canberra today.
The source claimed that all passengers will pay for their air tickets once they arrive in Nepal.
The Nepalese nationals flew on board a chartered Nepal Airlines aircraft which had earlier landed in Canberra with 153 Australians, 140 Australian permanent residents and 3 New Zealanders. It was the third NA flight that would have otherwise returned without passengers while hundreds if not thousands of Nepalese citizens continue to be caught up down under. The empty flights back home have generated considerable frustration amongst members of the Nepalese diaspora who fail to understand why their government could not accommodate their request to be repatriated home on the return Nepal Airlines flights.
The news of the 11 passengers today has frustrated Nepalese Australians even further as many view it as a preferential treatment to those close to the powerful and connected.
The Nepalese embassy had no role in sending 8 of the 11 Nepal nationals who were allowed to fly back home on board flight RA4135, the embassy staff clarified, adding that the mission was not even consulted about the matter.
The embassy staff told southasia.com.au that they began putting pressure on the Nepalese government only after receiving the list of 8 people whose passage was already confirmed by the Kathmandu-based Australian embassy and the Nepalese foreign ministry. “The three people we sent home from our side had to be repatriated on pressing humanitarian grounds. I was so unhappy not being able to send hundreds of others who had applied to be repatriated that I could not even go to the airport to see them off,” the diplomat rued.
Of the 8 people who were given green signal by Kathmandu, two were Nepal government employees (Ministry of Home) invited by the Australian government for some sort of training programme. “Their training was long finished. Their continued stay in Australia was fraught with issues including costs. So the Australian government itself was keen on in their repatriation via the chartered flight,” the source said in a telephone conversation. Their extended stay was becoming an unnecessary burden on Australia as they were government-invited trainees, the source explained.
Another 2 of the 8 passengers repatriated today were siblings – brother and sister. “They had no one in Australia and they had run out of funds. The sister had gone into serious depression needing hospitalisation,” the Nepalese embassy source, requesting anonymity, said. The family of the two siblings put immense pressure on the Government of Nepal for their tickets, it is understood.
However, it was not immediately clear who the remaining 4 of the 8 people recommended by the Nepalese foreign ministry were. Brisbane resident Ishwor Kuinkel posted a Facebook status in Nepali language to claim that two of the 11 people were the family members of high-ranking Nepal government officials.
“The government did not turn out to be for the common people after all,” he took a swipe at the Government of Nepal through his social media post.
“The embassy, from its side, lobbied the Government of Nepal for 3 of the 11 people only after we came to know about the list,” the source further revealed.
“We campaigned for the repatriation of 3 people on strong humanitarian grounds. Two were advanced-stage cancer patient and his spouse while the third passenger was a singer whose life in Australia was becoming completely untenable,” the source explained.
Another member of the diaspora, Sydney-based Nepalese national Dila Kharel, has also taken to Facebook to express his angst, “It is exactly such events due to which the current government and leadership is weak.”
The case of Sunita Pariyar was extremely serious. She was performing in Brisbane when Australia went into lockdown and flights were cancelled. As she is from the Dalit community, there were issues around her accommodation in Brisbane, the source revealed, due to which she eventually moved to Sydney. She had no money or soon ran out of money, it is understood. Some kind members of the community paid some of her hospital bills initially but it became impossible after she had to be admitted into emergency departments repeatedly. “She was taken to emergency may be 6 to 7 times,” the source said. Apparently, “even hospitals began to say no” due to her lack of funds as well as her insurance company refusing to take up the bills. “So we had to try hard for her on humanitarian grounds,” the embassy staff said.
During the past two months of her ordeal, Ms Pariyar had apparently developed “high depression”, the embassy staff said.
this article has been edited for clarity 10.06.2020 7:01 am – editor