End of an era as Nepal celebrates Republic Day

May 28th, 2008 - 12:27 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 28 (IANS) “We will never forget our immortal martyrs,” sang hundreds of voices in Kathmandu’s biggest public park, marking the end of an era as Nepal’s 239-year monarchy gave way to a federal democracy with the birth of the world’s newest republic. “We have been awaiting this day for years,” said Radha Gyawali, newly sworn in member of the historic constituent assembly, whose Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist had in the past spearheaded a signature campaign against the members of the royal family who committed excesses.

Though Nepal would officially become a republic after Wednesday noon, when the newly elected 601-member constituent assembly officially proclaims the monarchy’s end, the erstwhile kingdom began celebrating its new-found freedom from Tuesday.

“Long live the republic of Nepal, hail to a new Nepal,” thousands cried out in unison in the Tundikhel public square in the capital at a cultural programme organised to remember the people who had laid down their lives in the anti-monarchy protests in 2006 that finally forced King Gyanendra to end his absolute reign of 14 months.

Close to Nepal’s Supreme Court, the Nepal Bar Association, which had played a major role in opposing the king’s authoritarian rule, also celebrated the dawn of Republic Day with a festival of lights.

“Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala will today table a proposal to make Nepal a republic in the constituent assembly and the assembly will endorse it,” said Subhash Nembang, speaker of the interim parliament that was dissolved Monday to make way for the assembly.

After the formal proclamation, the message will be officially conveyed to King Gyanendra in the royal palace, following which he will have, at the most, a month’s grace period to vacate the Narayanhity, the pink pagoda palace which his father is said to have sold to the government but never handed over.

The government has declared May 28 Republic Day with a three-day national holiday to celebrate the new change as well as prevent untoward incidents.

All government offices, schools and diplomatic missions in Nepal remained closed Wednesday while rallies were taken out through prominent public places, hailing the Republic Day.

Rallies have been banned around the palace and the king’s private residence while on Tuesday midnight, additional armed forces were rushed to the palace to prevent possible mob attacks.

With the abolition of the royal throne, Nepal will look for a ceremonial president to replace King Gyanendra as head of state.

Reduced to a commoner, the former omnipotent ruler who had the full backing of the army will now have to pay tax on property, face the wrath of courts if he transgresses against the law, and face the disconnection of water and electricity supplies if he fails to pay his utility bills.

Despite the humiliation, the king has expressed his determination not to leave the country for asylum abroad.

Nepal’s diplomatic community said they did not apprehend any confrontational attempts by the king.

“He has kept a low profile and the two messages he issued to the nation before and after the election did not indicate any desire for confrontation,” said a diplomat who wished to remain anonymous.

The former Maoist guerrillas, whose 10-year war on the state coupled with the battle of the ballot last month finally succeeded in ousting the monarch, have indicated that the royal family would face no threat to their security or private property though the seven palaces and other inherited wealth would be taken over by the state.

Once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, whose Shah dynasty of kings were considered to be divine and above law, Nepal’s throne began crumbling in June 2001, when a midnight massacre in the tightly guarded palace wiped out the then king Birendra, his heir, crown prince Dipendra and eight more members of the royal family, including the queen Aishwarya.

Though initially Dipendra was said to have been the assassin, impelled by a medley of drinks and drugs as well as his animosity towards his parents for their opposition to his fianc

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