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Nepal: Comments on King's Address to Nation

Nepal: Comments on King's Address to Nation


By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

"Your strength will be your destruction"
- - Homer in The Iliad

King Gyanendra completed one-year of usurping power from the elected government on February 1, 2006. Appearing on Nepal TV to celebrate the first anniversary of his power grab, the king addressed to the nation on February 1, 2006. He wants to make this day historic as his father did in 1960s. His father King Mahendra grabbed power from the elected government on December 15, 1960, and made it a historic day for 30 years until the people's movement abolished it in 1990.

In his address to the nation, King Gyanendra repeated the same words and statements that he has been telling to Nepalis and the world since he seized power on February 1, 2005. The whole world knows that his words did not match his deeds but he has been repeating the same statements pretending that he is really committed to democracy, human rights and prosperity of Nepalis.

Leaders of the democratic countries and international human rights organizations, and professionals such as journalists' and lawyers' organizations have been condemning the king's takeover of power, and insisting the king on restoring democracy, human rights and freedom of press. The king has been pretending not to hear all these things and continue to repress human rights, democracy and freedom of press.

The king knows and acknowledges it that Nepalis want peace at any cost. However, he refused to reciprocate the truce declared by the rebels, and continued the armed confrontation with them thinking that his army has broken their back. The recent brutal attack launched by the rebels on the administrative town called Tansen in the Mid-Western Nepal on Tuesday night, January 31, 2006 demonstrated their power and strength. They destroyed almost all administrative buildings, captured the Chief District Administrator, number of police officers, security people and soldiers, and declared them POWs.

The king has ignored the Constitution of Nepal, and has been ruling the country by decrees. He refused to form all-party government and hold general elections for electing House of Representatives but has been attempting to hold municipal elections riding on the back of the Royal Nepalese Army despite the refusal of the seven-party alliance participating in such elections. The intention is clear, to legitimize his authoritarian rule.

The validity of the municipal elections has been already in question as candidates for about half of the municipal positions, have been declared elected unopposed before the elections on February 8, 2006. For the rest of the municipal positions, there are no candidates contesting for municipal positions in the elections. So, voters need not go to polling centers and cast their votes for anybody. Thus, the king has been making the municipal elections mockery of democracy.

The king's government passed on its responsibility for law and order, and security of the people to the Royal Nepal Army thus demonstrated its inability to maintain law and order, and to provide Nepalis with security. The army does not take orders from the government, hence, the army in effect would be running the country in the name of keeping peace, law and order. Thus, the king is risking the army takeover.

The king's Foreign Minster Ramesh Nath Pandey in an interview given to Nepalnews.com dubbed the king as an emergency light. The world leaders have been insisting on the king to put back the light of democracy that went off on February 1, 2005. The state-run newspaper 'The Rising Nepal' proudly published the foreign minister's interview given to the private media website. The state-run press, TV and Radios have been making the mockery of press freedom thus effectively putting off the light shining democracy.

The author's comments on the king's February-1 address to the nation is as follow:

Para 1 The king said, "We will be able to ensure for the nation peace, stability and prosperity within the next one year through mutual understanding and with patriotism as the focal point." How could the king ensure mutual understanding when he did not want to talk to democratic leaders and the rebels? Therefore, this statement does not hold any sense in view of the king's refusal to talk either to the leaders of the seven-party alliance or to the Maoists for resolving the political crisis prevailing in the country. The king wrongly denotes patriotism because patriotism he means is the support for his authoritarian rule. So, he thinks all people including him, active in killing democracy are patriots, the rest are anti-nationals, deserve to be in jail.

Para 3 The king said, "Measures are also underway to improve public service utilities for the benefit of the people. Attain self-sufficiency in the energy sector through optimum utilization of water resources." The state-run Nepal Electricity Authority has load-shedding for 17 hours a week since January 2006, and the Nepal Drinking Water Corporation has to cut the drinking-water supply due to the power shortage causing severe deficit of drinking-water in Kathmandu. The Nepal Oil Corporation also a state-run-business company has not been able to supply cooking-gas causing inconvenience to the residents of Kathmandu. How could the king claim that measures are underway to improve the public service utilities when almost all public service companies are doing business without regards to the people's needs and convenience? The king's government has been spending major chunk of the national budget on the activities of the Royal Nepal Army, and the State Minister for Finance has reduced the custom duty on many items that his companies import thus reducing the national revenue considerably. How could the king anticipate self-sufficiency in energy by harnessing the water resources without the investment required for doing so? Economists predict that the king's government will be bankrupt by June 2006 if the current economic trend continues.

Para 6 The king said, "Nepal’s foreign policy is now clear and stable. Our foreign policy and relations are solely guided by how best to serve and protect our national interest in a rapidly changing world. This has restored Nepal’s prestige and credibility in the international arena." Nepal's foreign policy is clear, and primarily directed to legitimizing the king's authoritarian rule. So, it certainly does not serve and protect the national interest if the national interest is democracy and economic prosperity. It has not restored the Nepal's prestige in any way but tainted its image as the authoritarian country enlisted on the list of undemocratic countries. The aggressive foreign policy followed by the king's Foreign Minister has helped in losing the king's credibility for listening to the international community for restoring democracy and human rights in Nepal.

Para 7 The king said, "The people must be allowed to exercise their democratic rights in a peaceful manner, with due consideration to national security." The king's government has put the leader of civil society such as Dr. Devendra Raj Pandey behind bars for indefinite period for holding peaceful rallies for restoration of human rights and democracy in the country. The king does not mean what he says in the statement. In addition, the king related democratic rights to the national security; in other words, he restricted the people's fundamental rights under the pretext of security. His government could not provide security even to the district administrator as the Maoists more than once seized the Chief District Officer in the combat. Nepalis have been living in terror from both the Royal Nepalese Army and the rebels since the king seized the power on February 1, 2005. What is the national security the king is talking about?

Para 8 The king said, "The vigilant Nepalese have well understood the conspiracy to foment further acts of terrorism in the name of momentary cessation of violence." The truce declared by the Maoists lasted for four months so it cannot be termed as the momentary cessation of violence. His government's refusal to match the Maoists' ceasefire certainly fomented the acts of terrorism after the expiry of the truce on January 2, 2006. Failure to reciprocate the ceasefire declared by the Maoists saying it was only a ploy to strengthen their position cost innocent Nepalis their lives lost in the combat. If the king and his government have positively responded to the truce, Nepalis would not lose so many beautiful lives. Are not the king and his government accountable for the loss of so many lives?

Para 10 The king said, "A clear decision was made for the country last year. Today, let us, once again, pledge to achieve this national goal. The Nepalese are determined to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Nepal in tune with the 21st century." Last year, the king grabbed the power from the elected government killing democracy; possibly, it was a clear decision-made he was talking about. Is that his national goal to achieve this year? The king called for a pledge to achieve the goal of killing democracy started on February 1, last year on one hand and on other hand said the Nepalis are sure to see democratic Nepal in the 21st century. Is it not a contradiction?

Para 11 The king said, "Patriotism is the only means of creating a democratic society." All Nepalis fighting for democracy even risking their lives are patriots but the pro-palace people fighting against democracy and the king's authoritarian rule are anti-nationals. When all Nepalis become patriots, the king's statement comes true.


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Siddhi B. Ranjitkar is a political analyst in Kathmandu. Email: srilaxmi@wlink.com.np

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