Nepal’s ex-crown prince pleads illness, calls off press meet

December 17th, 2010 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Dec 17 (IANS) Charged with committing a public offence and freed on bail after cooling his heels in police custody for 48 hours, Nepal’s controversial former crown prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah Friday decided not to shoot his mouth off and land himself in further trouble.His eagerly awaited press conference, scheduled for 8 a.m. in Pokhara city, was called off subsequently with the 39-year-old pleading illness.

The former heir to Nepal’s throne, who had been dominating the headlines since Tuesday after a drunken brawl with a high-profile son-in-law and allegedly firing his gun, declined to speak to a crowd of reporters and photographers making a beeline for his hotel early morning after he had said he would disclose what actually transpired during the row.

The ponytailed former prince was advised by family members and friends to call off the press conference scheduled at the upmarket Fishtail Lodge owned by his relatives for fear that he would say something discriminating once again or the media would “distort” what he said.

The belated precaution came after an earlier statement dashed off by the former crown prince landed him in hot water. In the statement issued Tuesday, Paras had admitted firing a shot in the Tiger Tops wildlife resort in southern Chitwan Saturday but blamed it on being insulted by the other people involved in the brawl.

Paras, who was freed on a bail of NRS 10,000 by the Chitwan district authorities Thursday, was given a hero’s welcome by royalists, who garlanded him, showered him with bouquets and draped traditional silk scarves round his neck.

Hundreds of supporters greeted his release, shouting slogans for the restoration of monarchy and demanding action against Paras’ adversary, Bangladeshi national Rubel Chowdhury, who was dubbed the “new crown prince of Nepal”.

Chowdhury is married to the daughter of Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala and the row saw him face counter accusations that he was involved in several shady deals in Nepal under top political patronage.

As he got inside the car waiting to take him away, Paras told the cheering crowd that he was grateful to his countrymen for taking his side and listening to his part of the story.

He also said he was ready to court arrest once again, be it by police or the government, for “the sake of the country and people”.

Known for his patronage of exclusive resorts and nightclubs, Paras also said the 48 hours he spent in detention was no hardship at all since he did it for “Nepal and Nepalis”.

The brush with law was used by royalists to turn Paras into a martyr, portraying him as the victim of a political vendetta by Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress party.

Alarmed by the growing public demonstrations in support of the once hated prince, Nepal’s government banned protests and street-corner meetings in key areas of the capital, including near the residences of the president, vice-president and prime minister.

Paras, who now faces only a light charge of boisterous behaviour in public, will have to report to the district authorities in Chitwan once again March 3, 2011.

Serious charges like carrying an illegal gun and attempt to murder had to be dropped after Chowdhury refused to lodge a formal complaint despite his earlier allegations that Paras had held a gun to his head and threatened to kill him, his wife and their child.

Paras too denied having admitted to firing while eyewitnesses to the brawl said they had not seen him cock or fire a gun.

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