KATHMANDU, Sept 14: The Embassy of Japan in Nepal has expressed grave concern over an incident involving the stoning of JICA Nepal Chief, Akimitsu Okubo, on Wednesday.
In a press statement issued on Thursday, the embassy reported that Akimitsu Okubo sustained injuries, and his vehicle was damaged when it was pelted with stones by a group of demonstrators. The incident transpired as a group of Nepal Students Union (NSU) students organized a torch rally to protest the attack on Nepali Congress (NC) leader Mahendra Yadav, who was assaulted with a Khukuri the previous week. The NSU is a students' wing of ruling NC.
These students affiliated with NSU had initiated the torch rally to demand action against Shyam Sapkota, who had attacked Yadav shortly after he left the premises of Reporters’ Club Nepal in Bhrikuti Mandap on September 6.
District Police Range Kathmandu SP Kumud Dhungel confirmed the incident and stated, " We have come to learn that the stones were thrown from inside the compound of Tri-Chandra Campus. We will initiate an investigation into the incident. Nepal Police is committed to the safety and security of all individuals in the country."
SP Dhungel also said that they have not received a complaint regarding the incident yet.
Police sources claimed that the vehicle carrying JICA Nepal Chief had been advised to take an alternative route due to the torch rally taking place in the vicinity of Tri-Chandra Campus. However, the driver allegedly ignored the police recommendation and proceeded along the same route.
*While refuting the claim, the JICA Nepal office stated that the vehicle had strictly followed the instructions of the police personnel at the site. The vehicle of the JICA Nepal Chief Representative, along with other vehicles on the road, was initially blocked by the police personnel to avoid the ongoing demonstrations. However, it was later released as the situation seemed to be under control. Gradually, the vehicles were guided by the police to proceed ahead.
"Okubo's car too sincerely obeyed the instructions of the police and moved further without any doubt," stated a press note issued by JICA Nepal. "JICA Nepal said it wants police to recognize these facts as well."
It is yet to be definitively established whether the attack on the vehicle carrying JICA Nepal Chief was intentional, according to police.
The Embassy stated, "The right to engage in peaceful demonstrations is an integral part of the freedom of expression, a fundamental tenet of democracy. However, when such demonstrations turn violent, they amount to nothing more than a criminal offense."
The statement underscored Japan's long standing support for Nepal's democratic progress and development as a sincere friend, with JICA playing a pivotal role in this regard. It lamented the regrettable incident involving the injury to its representative. The Embassy further highlighted that the Government of Nepal has been actively promoting foreign tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI), and such an incident detracts from these efforts.
The Embassy of Japan in Nepal also said it has alerted Japanese nationals residing in Nepal to remain vigilant and avoid similar incidents. It also expressed hope that Nepal will continue to be a peaceful and attractive destination for foreigners.