Dethroned king bids adieu to kin, palace staff before final exit (Lead)

June 11th, 2008 - 10:45 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 11 (IANS) As the countdown began to his final exit from the royal palace and the beginning of life as a commoner in an inferior summer palace in the suburbs, Nepal’s last king Gyanendra Wednesday bid adieu to relatives and staff in an atmosphere heavy with grief and distress. His son, former crown prince Paras, daughter-in-law Himani and other close family members began gathering in the palace for the last time.

Improving in adversity, the former king, once regarded as arrogant and conscious of his blue blood, met the palace staff and security personnel, expressing his appreciation of their work and urging them not to worry about the future.

Accompanied by his wife Komal, the deposed king will leave the Narayanhity palace for the Nagarjuna summer palace on the outskirts of Kathmandu late evening after addressing, for the first time in the history of Nepal’s monarchy, a press conference in the palace.

He is expected to put forward his perspective of the chain of events he started after ascending the throne in June 2001 following the assassination of his elder brother Birendra and repudiate the image painted of him by the ruling parties as a ruthless dictator.

As the former royals began their final preparation to leave the palace where the deposed king’s great-grandfather had first taken residence in the 1880s, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala started consultations with Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, army chief Gen Rookmangud Katuwal and the heads of other security agencies to ensure a safe passage for the former royals as well as their future security.

After Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly last month proclaimed the Himalayan kingdom a republic and ordered the dethroned king to quit the palace within 15 days, the government decided to slash Gyanendra’s security cover of over 2,000 soldiers, deputing only 50 armed policemen and 25 soldiers to Nagarjuna for his security.

Before he leaves the palace for the final time, the former king has been asked to hand over his crown and sceptre to the government team taking inventory of the valuables in the palace.

Besides memories, Gyanendra will also leave behind his 80-year-old stepmother Ratna Shah and the 91-year-old palace maid, who was the concubine of his grandfather Tribhuvan, as the government conceded his request to allow them to stay on where they are.

Though the government this week opened the Nagarjuna palace to the public to explode the myth that it was a luxurious retreat, members of civil society, who had played a prominent role during the anti-monarchy protests two years ago that brought the downfall of the royal regime, refused to be appeased.

Dozens of prominent citizens and intellectuals began a sit-in in front of the convention centre where the newly elected constituent assembly had started its session, condemning the government’s decision to allow the former king to shift to another palace.

“Give alms to beggars, not palaces,” said a placard held aloft by a protester. “No more conspiracies,” warned a second.

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Posted in South Asia |

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