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Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: King Be Made President

King Be Made President

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

On Nov. 27, 2006, writing from New Delhi, India, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran says, despite the agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Maoists to put the fate of the monarchy to vote, Senior Minister Gopal Man Shrestha has proposed to make King Gyanendra a president for the interim period. It quotes the Minister, "As it is a difficult and complex task to abolish monarchy through a political decision, why should we not propose him to be the president for the six month interim period. Uprooting the 238-year-old monarchy is easier said than done. I myself favor a republican system but I am of the view that there should be smooth transformation." The Minister thinks that it will be impossible to uproot monarchy without making the king a president. Making the king a president for uprooting the monarchy, is it not a contradictory statement?

Despite President of the Nepali Congress (NC) and current Prime Minster Girija Prasad Koirala has repeatedly said that he was for a ceremonial king, the NC has toned down and has been advocating for following the decision of the people on the fate of the monarchy. The splinter party of the NC, the Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D) has just followed its parent party’s policy on whether to retain the king or not. So, it is not a surprise that the Minister representing the NC-D has proposed for making the king a president, however, it is surprising to note how the Minister exposed his weak mindset on abolishing the kingship.

On Dec. 03, 2006 reported that Prime Minister and President of the NC Girija Prasad Koirala said that the NC would not hold the king on its shoulder to protect the monarchy from extinction in the country. Prime Minister Koirala made this statement at a time when other political leaders have alleged the NC attempting to give a ceremonial role to the king going against the growing aspirations of the Nepalis for making Nepal a republic.

The Minister has displayed his self-defeating attitude toward the king despite the fact that the status of the king has been reduced to almost non-existence. The current House of Representatives has removed the king from all sorts of power and privileges, and changed “His Majesty’s Government of Nepal” into “Government of Nepal” by its declaration on May 18, 2006. Then, the seven-party alliance (SPA) and the Communist party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) signed the historic “Six-point Agreement” on Nov. 08, 2006 stating in one of its Articles that the king shall not have any authority in governance. On Nov. 21, 2006, the SPA Government and the CPN-Maoist signed “Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006” reconfirming that the king shall not have any authority in governance. The Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have taken over the tasks of the head of state. Is it not that the kingship has already been abolished?

Then, why the Minister needs to worry about difficulty of abolishing the monarchy saying, “uprooting the 238-year-old monarchy is easier said than done.” Then, the question is what the motive of the Minister is for saying, “uprooting the monarchy is not so easy.” The Minister must be hinting that he wants to put the monarchy back in place when the SPA and the CPN-Maoist standing on the people’s power have effectively suspended it.

On Nov. 30, 2006, Vinod Sharma writing in the stated that the 238-year-old Shah dynasty is down but not out yet. Far from planning a getaway, King Gyanendra is reportedly working overtime to secure for the king a ceremonial niche or failing that, some political relevance going against the republican mood prevailing in the country. The king’s support for the Peace Agreement reached between the SPA and the CPN-Maoist is not a credible evidence of his coming to terms with the changing reality. General Secretary of Communist Party of Nepal- Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal said that during the selection of candidates for a Constituent Assembly, the King might seek to subvert popular will through manipulation and money power, paving the way for having the majority of Constituent Assembly members voting in favor of the king at its very first sitting for deciding the fate of the monarchy. In these circumstances, is it not the Minister consciously or unconsciously working as the agent of the king?

On Dec. 03, 2006, India reported that die-hard followers of King Gyanendra have kicked off a campaign for saving the crown saying the country should not do away with the monarchy. The former ministers and members of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Thapa) loyal to the king are trying to persuade people that the monarch should have a role in the future governments if not a constitutional king, then at least a ceremonial ruler. Among the royal followers pleading for the return of King Gyanendra are former Education Minister Rabindranath Sharma, another former Minister named in a corruption deal during his tenure whose son was beaten up by Crown Prince Paras and his cronies, Padma Sundar Lawoti, and Minister appointed by the king after his coup in February 2005 and then dropped unceremoniously during a cabinet reshuffle, Jagat Gauchan. The royalists are blaming 'foreign forces' primarily means India for conspiring against the 238-year-old monarchy.

These remnants of the previous regime of the king have no people’s base for their political future. So, they hold political future being loyal to the king. They cannot politically survive without the king. So, they would do whatever possible for keeping the kingship alive. Is the Minister Gopal Man Shrestha also following their trail to save the king?

Judging from his public statement, it seems that the Minister wants to revive the monarchy. To this end, his first attempt has been to prepare the public opinion on it. So, he wants to create a fear in the mind of the people saying that it is not so easy to dissolve the monarchy that has been in place for 238 years. However, he fails to mention the monarchy is responsible for keeping the country poor, and maintaining the status quo state of discrimination against the historically low caste people, women, and ethnic groups, maintaining the supremacy of a small group of people in power, and letting continue the political, social and economic corruption. Does the Minister want to reinstate the king and restore the social, political and economic corrupt system perpetrated by the Shah family rule?

Sudeshna Sarkar writing in the of Dec. 05, 2006 questions who will pay the Nepal-king’s $700,000 junket bill. The palace still owes Nepal Airlines Corporation previously known as Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation Rs 48.6 million about $ 700,000 for the African safari of the king when he was the absolute ruler. Current Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has been warning the businessmen of the government taking strict actions against banks-loans-defaulting businessmen, is silent on what actions he proposes to take against a defaulting king. The monarch kept the best Boeing of the national carrier at his disposal for nearly a month after he seized power in 2005 and went on a mysterious tour of African countries such as South Africa and Burundi rumored to be on the advice of his astrologers. In addition to the royal bill, the king saddled Nepal Airlines with two second-hand helicopters it was forced to buy from China during the King Gyanendra's 15-month dictatorial rule. The government could not scrape the deal although the choppers were priced at almost twice their worth, and the promise it made that it would not honor any commitment of the royal regime that would make a loss to the state exchequer.

Wishing to keep the kingship, the Minister wants to forget the hardship and atrocities people had suffered from the king’s 15-month autocratic rule starting on Feb. 01, 2005 and ending on midnight of April 24, 2006. The Minister himself had to bear the brunt of the despotic rule by staying in custody of the king’s government for at least a few months. Now, the question is whether his stay in the custody of the then-government was a drama or a real battle against the king for people’s welfare and rights.

Nepalis have paid a huge price in terms of lost opportunities of economic development not to mention about the loss of freedom of expression and movement, and the state terrorism perpetrated by the king’s single-handed administration during the 15 months of his direct rule. For all the sufferings brought by the king, Nepalis except for a few that have enjoyed the benefits of the kingship have lost the respect for the king.

The High Level Probe Commission (HLPC) in its report submitted to the Government has put the king in the first place on the list of the names of the perpetrators of suppressing the people’s movement in April 2006 and recommended for taking actions against him. The king as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers was responsible for 21 people killed and more than 5,000 injured by the security forces during the people’s movement. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has already hinted that he would take actions against the king if the king is found to be guilty. On Nov. 20, 2006, reported that Prime Minister Koirala receiving the HLPC report said, “The report will be implemented as it is. Have no doubt about it.”

A prominent human rights watchdog called Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) conducted an opinion poll in 56 districts, and found that 87 % of the 17,000 people interrogated in 1022 places were for a democratic republic whereas 5% preferred a constitutional monarchy and 8% favored a ceremonial monarch. As reported by on Dec. 02, 2006, Head of the Survey Group, Hrishikesh Pandey talking to the Kantipur TV said, "We found that 87 percent of the public voice support for a democratic republican setup, while 13 percent of the people said that a powerless king should be kept." This is what the majority of people want. The Minister needs to take into account the aspirations of the majority of the people rather than attempting to preserve the detested monarchy.

A National Anthem Selection Task Team headed by Eminent Cultural Expert and Academician Satya Mohan Joshi selected a new national anthem and submitted it to the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation for the approval of the Council of Ministers. "The new anthem has been chosen based on the criteria of expressing natural beauty, geographic diversity, cultural and national identity and feeling of the people," said academician Joshi. It has completely ousted the monarch not mentioning anything about the king or the kingship. The king has been boycotted by every quarter. So, is it not time for the Minister to realize it?

On Nov. 28, 2006, local newspapers reported that a parcel titled “Hunting Trophy” shipped from Vienna, Austria in the name of the crown prince remained unclaimed at the Tribhuvan International Airport Custom Office for the last 79 days. As soon as the 56-kg parcel arrived at the Custom Office on September 10, 2006 by Gulf Air Cargo, the officials immediately sent the notice to the palace. A few days later, some palace officials showed up at the airport Custom Office to collect the parcel but they returned empty-handed when the Custom Officials asked them to produce the invoice for charging an appropriate custom duty on the parcel. The historic proclamation of the House of Representatives made on May 18, 2006, brought the palace people under the tax-net as ordinary people. This makes clear that the monarchy as it used to be no more existed. So, why the Minister is so much concerned with making the king a president, and place him in the position of honor.

The Minister wants to make the king again honorable placing him on the position of the president. If it happens as the Minister wants, then it will simply be the repetition of the history of making the last Rana Prime Minister the first Prime Minister of democratic Nepal in 1951, and giving the power taken from the Rana family to the Shah family. Nobody can guarantee if we let the kingship continue, then the history of turning the “Government of Nepal” to “His Majesty’s Government of Nepal” in mid-1950s might repeat in the first decade of this century too.

Does the Minister want to repeat the history of taking the power from the people and giving it back to the king? Does the Minister want to plant a fear in the mind of people stating it will be impossible to uproot monarchy without offering the king a presidency?

The Minister needs to explain how it will be easier to uproot the kingship making the king a president in other words placing the king in the position of power again. For the logically thinking people, the king will have a new life of power and pomp, and will continue to receive salutes from the army people if he is made a president.

In effect, the Minister’s wish might be for replanting the roots of kingship by making the king a president. The roots of the king might branch out and spread deeper and farther down again. Even the currently uprooted roots of the kingship might get new lives making them difficult to uproot again. Later on, these very roots might even assist the king in staging a coup.

Does such a Minister deserve to stay on in the government formed by the people’s power? No, he needs to resign on the moral ground immediately if he is morally a strong man. If the Minister does not resign on his own, the Prime Minister should immediately fire this Minister for such irresponsible comments made going against the people’s aspirations demonstrated in the people’s movement in April 2006. Then, he should apologize to the people in general and to the families of those killed and injured during the people’s movement in particular for saying he is for the king to be a president.

The people should punish the Minister for publicly stating it would be impossible to uproot the kingship that has been already uprooted by the political decisions of the Government of Nepal and the House of Representatives, and the several agreements reached between the SPA and the CPN-Maoist, and between the Government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist.

The Minister should not forget that the monarchy is on the trial, the hearing will be in the first session of the Constituent Assembly to be elected in mid-June 2007. Then, a simple majority vote will decide the fate of the monarchy not by the will of one Minister or some body else. So, nobody needs to talk about the monarchy anymore.


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