Nepal’s king-turned-commoner pledges to quit palace with dignity (Lead)

June 2nd, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 2 (IANS) For the first time since the abolition of monarchy in Nepal last week, the government Monday officially said that dethroned king Gyanendra had accepted the lawmakers’ decision to strip him of his crown and pledged to leave the palace, once his official residence is given to him before the June 12 deadline. “I welcome the formal proclamation of republic by the (newly elected) constituent assembly (on May 28) and am ready to leave the palace,” the last king of Nepal told the envoy sent by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to the Narayanhity palace Monday to chalk out a secure and dignified departure of the former royal family.

“But I am saddened by the (false) reports in the media about my departure.”

Nepal’s media had earlier erroneously reported that the former king had furtively exited from the palace at midnight and ordered palace officials to burn secret documents.

For the first time since he stepped down as head of government in 2006 following a mass uprising, King Gyanendra Monday met Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, the first official envoy sent to the besieged palace by the government.

“I saw a huge change (in the king),” the minister told the media after holding talks with the former king and undertaking a rapid inspection of the palace, once out of bounds even for the government.

“I did not find any regal air about him. He talked normally, addressing me the way a minister is addressed. And I spoke to him in the way one addresses an honourable citizen.”

The minister also said he did not use an honorific earlier reserved solely for the royal family but later scrapped with the fall of the king’s 14-month government.

Dignified in his fall, the deposed king did not make any complaint about the abolition of his crown, Sitaula said.

The minister also denied the reports that the Koirala government had made a secret pact with the king in the past, assuring him that his throne would be safeguarded if he stepped down.

The king asked the government for help to find a suitable residence for him, to which the government had responded positively, Sitaula said.

Gyanendra lived in his private residence, Nirmal Niwas, before he became king following the assassination of his elder brother Birendra in June 2001. He says it would be improper to return to the same house since he has given it to his son Paras, who now stays there with his wife and three young children.

Along with the former king and his wife Komal, the king’s stepmother Ratna would also have to leave the palace by June 12.

Though there have been media reports that the 95-year-old concubine of the king’s grandfather would also have to leave, there has been no official confirmation.

On Monday, the government set up an office in the palace to start work on the preservation of the riches inside it that are national property and destined to be showcased in museums.

The office has also been entrusted with the security of the palace.

Currently, over 2,000 soldiers of the Nepal Army are deployed in the palace.

Earlier, Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel said: “I have asked the prime minister to allow the former royal family to stay in some other palace till they find suitable accommodation.

“After such a huge achievement (of republic), it would be churlish to fight over trivial matters.”

Though the Shah dynasty owned seven palaces, the government announced they would all be taken over and put to public use after a mass uprising ended Gyanendra’s government in April 2006.

Following the decree, the former king has also lost ownership of his summer residence, the Nagarjuna Palace north of Kathmandu.

On Sunday, the former Maoist guerrillas, who caused the downfall of the Shah dynasty, put up a signboard at another royal palace, proclaiming it to be the property of the federal, democratic republic of Nepal.

Maoist supremo Prachanda and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai spearheaded the action in Gorkha district in western Nepal, that had been the ancient kingdom of the founder of the Shah dynasty, 18th century king Prithvi Narayan Shah.

After the proclamation of a republic Wednesday, the royal standard at the Narayanhity palace was lowered and soon, jubilant crowds hoisted the national flag there to indicate that it had become public property.

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