Gyanendra, government discuss safe exit from palace

June 2nd, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 2 (IANS) In a sign of the turning tide in Nepal, deposed king Gyanendra Monday opened talks with the government to ensure his safe exit from the Narayanhity palace, which he has been ordered to vacate by June 12. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula led a team of senior officials to the palace, which is to be turned into a national museum after the royal family departs.

It is the first time since the proclamation of a republic by lawmakers last week and an order to the ousted king to hand over the palace to the state within a fortnight that the former monarch is directly discussing his exit with government officials.

In the past, when Gyanendra had ruled the country directly for 14 months and the palace was the seat of power, ministers went to the palace only when they were summoned.

However, a senior minister is urging Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to let bygones be bygones and adopt a charitable stance towards an institution that was an integral part of Nepal’s society for almost 240 years.

Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel said he had urged Koirala to allow the former royals to stay in some other palace till they were able to find a suitable residence.

Before he became king in 2001 following the murder of his elder brother Birendra and his son, Gyanendra as a prince had stayed in Nirmal Niwas, a spacious private residence close to the palace.

However, after he became the king in June 2001 and shifted to the Narayanhity palace, his son and heir Paras took up residence in Nirmal Niwas.

On Saturday, the king’s principal secretary and trusted aide Pashupati Maharjan met the prime minister, asking for time for the former royals to find a new abode.

“I have asked the prime minister to allow the former royal family to stay in some other palace till they find suitable accommodation,” Poudel said.

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

Although 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.

Soon after the proclamation of a republic Wednesday, the royal standard at the Narayanhity palace was lowered. Jubilant crowds hoisted the national flag to indicate that it had become public property.

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