Exiting Nepal king defends himself against ‘brother killer’ slur

June 11th, 2008 - 10:29 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 11 (IANS) On the verge of exiting from the royal palace for good, Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra Wednesday spiritedly defended himself at his maiden press conference called inside the palace, saying he had no hand in his brother Birendra’s assassination, nor did he or his family ever harm anyone during his five-year reign. The Narayanhity royal palace, from where the former king and queen Komal will make their final departure at night, ahead of a 15-day notice to vacate it, was the scene of unprecedented chaos Wednesday.

Scores shoved, jostled and pushed one another to gain admission to the Kaski hall where, watched impassively by two huge mounted tigers and a rhino head, the former king read out a statement, defending his takeover of the government in 2005 and warning that the country was in an “extremely critical state”.

The last king of the Shah dynasty that had ruled Nepal for 239 years said the crown had been a partner of the nation through good days and bad days and would remain devoted to the cause of a sovereign, democratic and peaceful Nepal in future, just as it had been in the past and present.

While saying that he had accepted the verdict of the April election to abolish monarchy without fuss and had cooperated with the proclamation of the assembly last month that formally declared Nepal a republic, the dethroned king said he had seized power in 2005 in accordance with the constitution as there was no other way to ensure peace and the development of democracy.

“I had no other motive,” the 61-year-old said.

Admitting that his attempt had failed due to “various reasons”, the former king said that before his departure, he was speaking out with god as his witness to defend himself against the slurs that had haunted him since 2001, when he ascended the throne following the assassination of his brother king Birendra.

“I was forced to wear the crown as an uncomprehending child,” Gyanendra said, referring to the turmoil in 1950 when his grandfather, the then king Tribhuvan, and father, crown prince Mahendra, fled to India fearing for their lives under the all-powerful prime minister Mohun Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana.

Though the fugitives took away Gyanendra’s elder brother Birendra with them to safety, they left the three-year-old Gyanendra at the mercy of the Ranas, who spared the child’s life and crowned him king.

“Neither did I desire nor wish for the crown nor had any role (in the turn of events),” the ill-fated former king said.

Gyanendra said that he became king a second time in 2001 when his brother and his wife were killed and he had to once again assume the heavy role without even “being given time to shed tears and lessen the load on my heart”.

During his reign, the former king said he was relentlessly and ruthlessly vilified by “various quarters” who pursued a war strategy against him and accused him of having engineered the palace massacre in which 10 royals died.

“My wife still bears shrapnel from the shooting,” he said.

The former king also repudiated reports that he had stashed away money in foreign countries.

“My entire property is in Nepal. I have no moveable or immoveable assets abroad.”

Gyanendra said he had invested the property he had inherited through institutions to protect them as per the law of the land.

“I too have the right to own property,” he said.

Rebutting reports that he had transferred the land and mansions of his nieces in the name of his daughter, the former king said: “In these seven years, I have not acquired any property nor usurped the property of any other royal members. Neither I nor my family have harmed any Nepali or trampled anyone’s rights.”

The king reiterated that he would stay on in his “own motherland” and “work for greater welfare and peace”.

“I have handed over the crown, sceptre and throne to the government,” Gyanendra said.

In a touch of grace, the former monarch expressed his gratitude to all the people who had supported him, ranging from constitutional bodies and religious organisations to peasants and workers.

The hall was packed with people. But the crowd hooted at him and later, when Gyanendra tried to interact with journalists, made a lunge towards him, causing agile palace officials to quickly surround the former king and rush him to a safe place.

Outside the palace gates, hundreds yelled, clapped and shouted, ignoring a sudden downpour, and giving rise to fears that the former royals’ departure could be a rough one.

Late at night, the former royal couple will head for the Nagarjuna summer palace on the outskirts of Kathmandu, where the government has allowed them to stay till they find “suitable accommodation”.

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