Sunday, May 31, 2015

Kathmandu-Eugene Sister City Committee: Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Secretary of the Executive Committee
Kathmandu-Eugene Sister City Committee, Kathmandu, Nepal

Former mayor of Eugene, Oregon Mr Les Anderson had paid an official visit to Kathmandu in 1975. Nepal was still in the grip of the authoritarian Panchayat system. Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) was then known as Kathmandu Nagar Panchayat (KNP). It was during mayor Anderson's official visit to Kathmandu that a memorandum of understanding on establishing sister-city relationship between Kathmandu and Eugene was reached upon.

Kathmandu's mayor at that time was late Juju Bhai Rajbhandari who was the acting Pradhan Pancha of the Kathmandu Nagar Panchayat. Anyway, the memorandum of understanding on establishing sister-city relationship between Kathmandu and Eugene was signed by Les Anderson and Juju Bhai Rajbhandari.


Dr Rabin Man Shakya and his family at the Miteri Garden on the premises of Eugene City office,  Eugene, Oregon.  Naveena Shakya (standing on the left) was also a member of the executive committee of the Kathmandu-Eugene Sister City Committee (1992-2002) in Nepal.                                     (Photo: Daya Shakya)
I have had the honour of serving as Secretary of the executive committee of Kathmandu-Eugene Sister City Committee (KESCC) from 1992 to 2002 for ten years. It goes without saying the KESCC is under the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). The president of the KESCC was Venerable Vichhu Maitri.

Shortly after the formation of the sister-city committee in Kathmandu in 1992, a big 10-member friendly delegation of the Eugene-Kathmandu Sister City Committee headed by the then chair person of Eugene City Council Dr Shawn Boles, visited Nepal. Daya Shakya, the then president of Eugene-Kathmandu Sister City Committee was also a member of the US sister-city delegation. Our Kathmandu committee had hosted a dinner reception in honour of the Eugene delegation at Hotel Yak and Yeti with a  cultural program. I remember popular Nepali singer Prabesh Man Shakya stole the show while dancer Charan Shrestha did a fabulous performance of classical and traditional Nepalese dances. And I still remember my two year-old son Ranjan Shakya had danced with the American guests that evening.

Meanwhile, our committee's delegation headed by the then Deputy Mayor of KMC Nabindra Raj Joshi had visited Eugene and other US cities in 1993 as per the invitation of Eugene-Kathmandu Sister City Committee. The other members of the delegation were our president Vichhu Maitri and Dr Shree Shaha.

The launching of Safa tempos in Kathmandu back in 1990s  was inter-connected with the activities of  Eugene's sister-city leaders like Dr Peter Moulton and Marylin Cohen of Global Resources Institute (GRI).

Likewise, the Eugene sister city  committee had provided financial assistance for launching scholarships to 22 girls of Siddhi Pokhari High School in Pokhari village of eastern Nepal. The project that started in 1990 lasted until 1996 and was instrumental in consolidating female education in conservative eastern Nepal.

Likewise, Eugene-Kathmandu Sister City Committee has also provided help in power systems for health clinics in Nepal and waste management and recycling.

Meanwhile, EKSCC has also been able to raise $32,000 as help to the earthquake victims in Nepal. As far as I remember, the contributions and help of EKSCC were applauded by the then mayor of KMC and other top KMC officials. Besides, EKSCC has won accolades from a lot of people in Nepal.

By the time, the second big delegation from Eugene came to Kathmandu in 2000 AD to mark the 25th anniversary of the sister-city ties between Kathmandu and Eugene, our committee already had a new president - Sunil Shakya, a noted hotel entrepreneur. But I was still working as the Secretary of the executive committee of the Kathmandu-Eugene Sister City Committee. And the mayor of Kathmandu was flamboyant Keshav Sthapit.

A dinner reception was organized in honour of the Eugene delegation at the official residence of the Kathmandu mayor at Lazimpat. Besides, the delegation took part in some cultural and artistic activities at Babar Mahal Revisited as well. Likewise, the committee president Sunil Shakya also hosted a dinner reception in honour of the delegation at his Kathmandu Guest House, Thamel.

It is to be noted that the US recognized Nepal on April 27, 1947 when Joseph C. Satterthwaite presented a letter to His late Majesty King Tribhuvan from late US president Harry S. Truman. The diplomatic relations between Nepal and the United States of America was established on Feb 16, 1948 and we can say that the trajectory of the sister-city ties between Kathmandu and Eugene is a good part of broader Nepal-US friendly relations.

Nepal today is in deep political and socio-economic turmoil. Kathmandu just like other cities of Nepal was left in lurch without any mayor for about 20 years.

Meanwhile, a KMC delegation visited Eugene in May, 2012 in connection with the issue of partnering in waste management sector. Kedar Adhikari, a former chief employee of KMC, who headed the delegation, was mistakenly referred to as the mayor of Kathmandu in a news story published by The Register Guard, a newspaper from Eugene. A mayor is an elected official, but Adhikari was just an employee appointed by the government.

By the way, Eugene is the only sister city in the US with which Kathmandu has the sister-city relations. When the sister city relations between Kathmandu and Eugene was established in 1975, the number of the Nepalese living in the US in general and in Oregon in particular was very negligible.

As a matter of fact, a remarkable event in the history of sister city relations between Kathmandu and Eugene was the installation of Nepali style 'stone spout' (Dhunge Dhara) on the premises of the Eugene City Council garden, called as 'Miteri Bagaicha' (Friendship Garden). It is a matter of great satisfaction that this scribe was at the Miteri Bagaicha twice.

In fact, the people-to-people contact between the people of Kathmandu and Eugene, Oregon dates back to 1955. Although a group of eight Nepalese scholars Trailokya Nath Uprety, Krishna Raj Aryal, Bhuvan Lal Joshi and so on were the first Nepalese to embark on educational odyssey at the University of Oregon in Eugene in June, 1955, they all returned to Nepal in 1956 after successfully completing their Masters Degree at the University.

Anyway, the history of Nepalese immigrating to the US is not very old, comparing to the people from other countries. But the process of globalization and global migration have definitely a tremendous impact on the Nepalese people too. In fact, the number of Nepalese people who immigrated to the US started to increase after the US government launched the Diversity Visa lottery. Today, there are approximately 1,000 people of Nepalese origin in Oregon alone, majority of them living in Portland and its periphery including in Eugene. It is a matter of great satisfaction that some community leaders of the Nepalese living in Oregon are in constant touch with the activists of the Eugene-Kathmandu Sister City Committee in Eugene.

It is to be noted that the sister cities are working across the world to promote and enhance cultural and commercial relations, and to encourage trade and tourism between the different cities. Although the campaign of sister cities was launched after the Second World War to consolidate friendship among cities across the world, in the US, sister city drive kicked off only in 1956 when President Eisenhour launched a people-to-people diplomacy. I am so proud that I was a part of the sister-city activities spanning over ten years.




*Shakya who is the former associate editor of the The Rising Nepal  is Advisor of Nepaa Chhen, a non-profit in Portland and  is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

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