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Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: Sincerity of Nepal's King

Sincerity of Nepal's King


By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

After a fortnight from the start of the people's movement for restoration of democracy in Nepal, the king gave in, and speaking on the state-run Nepal TV at 7:00 P.M. on April 21, 2006 declared that he was giving the people's power that he got for safekeeping back to the people. Therefore, he wanted to nominate a Prime Minister pursuant to the Article 35 of the Constitution of Nepal of 1990 [1], he called on the seven-party alliance to select a Prime Minister and submit him/her to him for nomination.

Political thinker and Former Minister for Law in the interim government in 1990, Nilamber Acharya in an interview to the Kantipur TV on the evening of April 22, 2006 said that Nepalis did not give the people' power to the king for safekeeping but he usurped it. Therefore, what the king said in his address to the nation on April 21, 2006 was incorrect.

On April 22, 2006, coming out of the meeting of the seven-party alliance held at the resident of former Prime Minister and President of the Nepali Congress (NC) Girija Prasad Koirala, Former Prime Minister and President of Nepali Congress - Democratic (NC-D) Sher Bahadur Deuba said that the king appointed him in June 2004 pursuant to the Article 35 of the Constitution of Nepal of 1990; and the Communist of Nepal - United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) joined his government declaring the regression [2] was partially resolved by his appointment pursuant to the Article 35; however, the king took the power back on February 01, 2005 firing him without any apparent reasons; thus, the king says one thing and does another; we cannot trust him any more.

Thousands of the cadres of the seven-party alliance gathered outside the resident of NC President Girija Prasad Koirala where the meeting of the leaders of the seven-party alliance was held on the morning of April 22, 2006 to make decision on the offer of the king, and put pressure on them for not accepting the king's offer as it was only a ploy to diffuse the spontaneous uprising of the people against the king. They want to settle the political issue for not less than elections for a Constituent Assembly [3}. Braving the afternoon heavy rain showers, the cadres have remained there, shouting political slogans until the spokesman for the NC Mr. Krishna Sitaula came out of the meeting and read out the decision of the meeting of the leaders of the seven-party alliance.

The spokesman read out the decision that the meeting of the leaders of the seven-party alliance remained committed to the demand for restoration of the dissolved House of Representatives, formation of an all-party government and then holding elections for a Constituent Assembly; and the seven-party alliance committed to the 12-point understanding [4] reached with the Maoists on November 22, 2006. The offer of the king was for an appointment of only a Prime Minister selected by the seven-party alliance; therefore, the seven-party rejected it and continues the peaceful movement for achieving its goal.

Political thinker and Former Minister for Law in the interim government in 1990, Nilamber Acharya in an interview with the Kantipur TV on the evening of April 22, 2006 said that the leaders of the seven-party alliance rejecting the king's offer did it right; if they had accepted the king's offer it would mean that they legalized all the unconstitutional things the king had done so far, and the dismantling of the democratic institutions built over the period of democracy.

Some diplomats representing the European Union and others went to the meeting of the seven-party alliance apparently for convincing them of the need for accepting the offer of the king and of the peaceful resolution of the conflict on April 22, 2006. The leaders of the seven-party alliance explained to the diplomats the reasons for not accepting the king's offer. They also convinced the diplomats of the king's offer was not resolving the political conflict peaceful, in addition, the king's offer went against the popular demand for absolute democracy. Hundreds of thousands of people on the streets at the time of the meeting of the seven-party alliance was the indication that the people in general rejected the king's offer and the leaders needed to comply with the popular demand. The people are ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of democracy.

The full text of the king's address to the nation on April 21, 2006 is as follow:

Beloved Countrymen,

You are all aware that, given the situation prevailing in the country then, we were compelled to take the decision of 1 February 2005 to set in motion a meaningful exercise in multiparty democracy by activating all elected bodies, ensuring peace and security and a corruption-free good governance through the collective wisdom, understanding and the united efforts of all the Nepalese. By supporting our decision, the Nepalese people made amply clear their desire for peace and democracy and the civil servants demonstrated sincerity towards their duties. We are appreciative of this. We also have high regard for the dutifulness, velour and discipline displayed by the security personnel, upholding their glorious traditions.

By visiting different parts of the country, we made honest endeavors to acquaint ourselves with the hopes and aspirations of our people, mitigate their hardships and boost their morale. We also called on the political parties to enter into a dialogue in the interest of the nation and people afflicted by violence and terrorism. However, this did not materialize.

The ideals of democracy can be realized only through the active participation of political parties. In keeping with the traditions of the Shah Dynasty to reign in accordance with the popular will in the greater interest of the nation and people and our unflinching commitment towards Constitutional Monarchy and multiparty democracy, we, through this Proclamation, affirm that the Executive Power of the Kingdom of Nepal, which was in our safekeeping, shall from this day, be returned to the people and be exercised in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990. As the source of Sovereign Authority is inherent in the people, harmony and understanding must be preserved in the interest of the nation and people in an environment of peace and security. While safeguarding multiparty democracy, the nation must be taken ahead along the road of peace and prosperity by bringing into the democratic mainstream those who have deviated from the constitutional path. Similarly, a meaningful exercise in democracy must be ensured with the activation of representative bodies through elections as soon as possible. We, therefore, call upon the Seven Party Alliance to recommend a name, for the post of Prime Minister, at the earliest for the constitution of the Council of Ministers which will bear the responsibility of governing the country in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal- 1990. The present Council of Ministers will continue to function until the appointment of the Prime Minister.

May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all! [5]

Comments on the king's address to the nation:

The "decision of February 01, 2006" in the king's address to the nation means the dismissal of the Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appointed by the king in June 2004 pursuant to the Article 35 of the Constitution of Nepal of 1990. Now, he offers the seven-party alliance to appoint a Prime Minster of its choice again pursuant to the Article 35 of the Constitution. There is no guarantee that the king would stick to the provision made in the Article 35, and would not fire the Prime Minister appointed pursuant to this Article at his will.

The king said that he took the decision on removing the Prime minister "to set in motion a meaningful exercise in multiparty democracy by activating all elected bodies, ensuring peace and security and a corruption-free good governance." He held municipal elections on February 08, 2006 without the participation of the seven-party alliance and other major political parties such as Rastria Prajantra Party making the elections a bit of joke. None of the international community accepted the elections. This is what he meant the activating the all-elected bodies. During the last 14 months of his direct rule, the law and order situation has deteriorated even more than used to be. Both the security forces and the insurgents have been the terrors to the innocent people. Fighting between them intensified causing the loss of human lives and properties. So, his intention of "ensuring peace and security" had completely failed. How could the king materialize "a corruption-free governance" when his ministers are know for corruption in their previous incarnations as ministers?

The king said, "By supporting our decision, the Nepalese people made amply clear their desire for peace and democracy and the civil servants demonstrated sincerity towards their duties." "Our decision" he meant his takeover of the power from Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on February 01, 2006. Contrary to the king's claim for the people's support for his decision, currently, the people have made amply clear their desire for peace and democracy by demonstrating against the king's direct rule on the streets. This is true to the civil servants who have been rallying in support of the people's demonstration not supporting the king's decision.

"We also have high regard for the dutifulness, velour and discipline displayed by the security personnel, upholding their glorious traditions." By appreciating the security personnel for their duty, the king has approved the brutality the security forces had shown against the innocent people, and have been showing against the current protestors on the streets of all towns and cities in Nepal.

"Bringing into the democratic mainstream those who have deviated from the constitutional path" by this statement the king meant to bring the Maoists into the democratic mainstream. He ignored the unilateral truce declared by the Maoists from September to through December 2005, and missed the opportunity of talking to them who had deviated from constitutional path (according to the king) for bringing them into the democratic mainstream. Not only the king ignored the truce but also the call of almost all the Nepalis and the international community for responding to the truce of the Maoists.

"A meaningful exercise in democracy must be ensured with the activation of representative bodies through elections as soon as possible." This statement of the king clearly indicated that he did not see the insurgency as a problem and wanted to legitimize his unconstitutional regime by holding elections even if it was impossible without bringing the Maoists into the democratic mainstream. Thus, the king continued to ignore the stand of the seven-party alliance and the Maoists on resolving the political conflict.

"We, therefore, call upon the Seven Party Alliance to recommend a name, for the post of Prime Minister, at the earliest for the constitution of the Council of Ministers which will bear the responsibility of governing the country in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal- 1990." This statement made it clear that the king was offering the seven-party alliance only the position of a Prime Minster nothing else.

Let us see what others have to say on the king's address to the nation.

Speaker of the dissolved House of Representatives, Taranath Ranabhat welcomed the King's address to the nation. He heartily requested the mainstream political parties, the civic society and the Maoists for taking up the king's offer and then the responsibility for establishing durable peace, political stability and socio-economic development. The Speaker said, “His Majesty the King has opened the way for the constitution of the representative government of the people by affirming that the Executive Power of the Kingdom of Nepal, which was in His Majesty’s safekeeping, shall be returned to the people and be exercised in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990." [6]

India welcomed the King's offer to turn over the executive power to the people. On Friday, April 21, 2006, Spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry, Navtej Sarna said, "This action should now pave the way for restoration of political stability and economic recovery of the country. India welcomes his intention to transfer all executive power of the State to a government constituted by the alliance of the seven political parties, which have been in the forefront of the movement by the people of Nepal for the restoration of multi-party democracy and their democratic freedoms." [7]. In view of the rejection of the king's offer by the seven-party alliance, the Indian government change its stance on the political situation in Nepal next day.

On Saturday, April 22, 2006, in a press conference, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan said, "I would like to mention that we have seen the press release issued by the alliance of the seven political parties today. They have had a high-level meeting of the alliance in the afternoon today. The press release has reiterated the agenda of the Seven Party Alliance. We, of course, support the view of the Alliance that restoration of peace and multiparty democracy in Nepal is the need of the hour. The Alliance of course has been in the forefront, as I said, of the peaceful movement for the restoration of multiparty democracy in Nepal. They have given expression to the aspirations of the people of Nepal for democratic values and freedom and we believe that the sentiments of the people of Nepal need to be respected." To a question of whether India is going to resume the military assistance to Nepal, Indian Foreign Secretary said, "We are not looking at this sort of question at this point of time. At this point of time the first order of business is for political stability and economic recovery to be established in Nepal. We would also hope, we have always said this, that with regard to the armed conflict in Nepal, there is no purely military solution. We have to find a political solution. Therefore, if there are negotiations through which the Maoists can be brought into the political mainstream, but on the basis of the principles of multiparty democracy and on the clear abandonment of violence as a political tool, I think this is something that should be welcomed." [7A]

The United States saluted the people of Nepal's courage and resilience in their struggle for democracy. On Friday, April 21, 2006, welcoming the King's decision on returning the power to the people, Spokesman for the US Department of State, Sean McCormack said, "We are pleased that King Gyanendra's message today made it clear that sovereignty resides with the people. We expect the King to live up to his words, and allow the parties to form a government." McCormack also urged the parties to respond quickly by choosing a prime minister and a cabinet. [8]

In an interview with the BBC Nepali Service, Spokesman for the CPN - Maoist, Krishna Bahadur Mahara said the royal proclamation did not address the main objective of the on-going movement. He alleged that the royal proclamation was a conspiracy to continue to hold power by the king. “This agitation should not be stopped. The problem would not be resolved unless the demand for elections to the constituent assembly is addressed,” he added. [9]

On Friday, April 21, 2006, issuing a joint statement from the detention center at Duwakot, Bhaktapur, more than 20 civil society leaders said, "With the Nepali people having rebelled against the kingship, grounds for compromise are rapidly despairing. In this context, the seven party alliance should insist on nothing less than an unconditional constituent assembly to take the country forward.” They further said, “Together with the declaration of the constituent assembly, the Royal Nepalese Army should be converted into a ‘Nepal Army’ that remains under the command of the government to be constituted as a result of the ‘People’s Movement 2006.” Those issuing the statement include former Justice of the Supreme Court, Laxman Prasad Aryal, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Daman Nath Dhungana, Senior Human Rights Leader, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, and Senior Journalist, Kanak Mani Dixit. [10]

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today (April 21, 2006) welcomed a proclamation issued by King Gyanendra of Nepal affirming that executive power will be returned to the people of the strife-torn country. A UN spokesman said Mr. Annan hoped that the development “will result in the speedy restoration of democratic order, an end to the conflict and the establishment of lasting peace through an inclusive process of dialogue.” In a statement released in New York, the spokesman also stressed that the parties must “work out the modalities for the transfer of power in a timely, orderly and responsible manner.” UN human rights monitors have condemned deadly police force against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in Nepal, reporting over a dozen gunshot injuries on Thursday (April 20) alone. [11]

With much of the Nepalese countryside under Maoist control, Kathmandu besieged by demonstrators and foreign powers urging compromise, King Gyanendra yesterday (April 21) ceded to opposition demands for the restoration of multi-party democracy. That may temporarily relieve pressure on an unpopular monarch, but looks unlikely to satisfy the mainstream political parties, let alone the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Along with the rebels, they called last November for elections to a constituent assembly, which could then draw up a replacement for the 1990 constitution; given the public mood, that would have granted the king a minor role at best. By contrast, he has invited them to put forward the name of a prime minister and called for elections to be held as soon as possible, under the terms of the old constitution. Crucially, he retains his traditional authority as supreme commander of the armed forces. The Maoists launched their "people's revolutionary war" a decade ago with the goal of establishing a republic. Given indications that the king has done too little too late, that may still be achieved. [12]

The Nepali Congress appealed the international community for supporting the people's movement for restoration of democracy, and welcomed the India's new stand on the current political situation in Nepal. The people's movement for return of democracy continues with ever-increasing vigor and enthusiasm. The protestors discovered some people with knives infiltrated into their rally in Kathmandu on April 23, 2006.


Footnotes


[1] Article 35: 1) The executive power of the kingdom of Nepal shall pursuant to this Constitution and other laws be vested in His Majesty and the Council of Ministers. 2) Except as otherwise expressly provided, as to be exercised exclusively by His Majesty or at His discretion or on the recommendation of any institution or official, the powers of His Majesty under this Constitution shall be exercised upon the recommendation and advice, and with the consent of the Council of Ministers. Such recommendation, advice and consent shall be submitted through the Prime Minister. 3) The responsibility of issuing general directives, controlling and regulating the administration of the kingdom of Nepal shall subject to this Constitution and other laws, lie in the Council of Ministers. 4) Except in so for as any action is to be taken in the name of His Majesty pursuant to this Constitution and other laws, all other executive actions shall be expressed to be taken in the name of His Majesty's Government. 5) Any decision, order or implementation warrant to be issued in the name of His Majesty pursuant to this Constitution and other laws shall be authenticated in such manner as may be set forth in rules made by His Majesty at His discretion. All other decisions, orders and implementation warrants to be issued in the name of Council of Ministers pursuant to clause (4) above shall be authenticated in such manner as may be set forth in rules approved by His Majesty. 6) No question shall be raised in any court as to whether or not any recommendation or advice has been given to His Majesty pursuant to this Constitution by the Council of Ministers or any other institution or official nor shall any question be raised in any court about what recommendation or advice has been given.

[2] "Regression" means the king's attempts to grab the power.

[3] It is a body of elected people's representatives for crafting a new Constitution of Nepal, as the current Constitution of 1990 has been badly mutilated by the king.

[4] The second point of the 12-point understanding reads as follow: the seven-party alliance engaged in the movement against regression is fully committed to the fact that sovereignty and state power could be fully transfer to the people, and the conflict could be ended by establishing absolute democracy in the country through holding elections for a Constituent Assembly based on the talks and agreement with the Maoists, and they are also committed to restore the parliament through the power of the people's movement, and then set up an all-party government based on its decision. The CPN-Maoist has the belief and the commitment to achieve the goal of holding a national political convention of all democratic forces engaged in the movement against the regression, and of setting up an interim government based on its decision, and then of going for a Constituent Assembly election. We have an understanding that the seven-party alliance and the CPN-Maoist will continue dialogue for reaching a consensus on the procedural matters. There is an understanding between us that the power of the people's movement is the only alternative to achieve this goal.

[5] The Rising Nepal, April 22, 2006

[6] The Rising Nepal April 22, 2006

[7] nepalnews.com pb Apr 22 06

[7A] nepalnews.com April 23.06

[8] nepalnews.com pb Apr 22 06; eKantipur.com posted on: 2006-04-21 11:39:55 (Server Time)

[9] nepalnews.com by Apr 21 06

[10] nepalnews.com by Apr 21 06

[11] UN NEWS CENTER April 21, 2006

[12] Opinion.telegraph, UK, April 22, 2006


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