Nepal palace scorns tale of former king’s midnight flight

May 30th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 30 (IANS) Nepal’s besieged palace Friday scorned a report in the local media that dethroned king Gyanendra had exited from his official seat at midnight and returned to the old private residence where he had lived as a prince before his ascent to the throne in 2001. “Gyanendra departs from the Narayanhity (royal palace) at midnight,” said Nepali tabloid Naya Patrika in a sensational front-page report Friday.

“As the constituent assembly at its historic first meeting proclaimed Nepal a republic, 25 hours 20 minutes later, Gyanendra left the palace.

“His son Paras held day-long consultations with him in the palace. Goods were carted away by trucks while the king left in his private car.”

The report created a furore as there has been growing anticipation that the last king of Nepal would vacate the palace soon, following the assembly’s formal notice to him to leave within 15 days.

On Thursday, there was mounting tension in the area surrounding the sprawling pink palace as an uncontrolled crowd defied prohibitory orders and staged demonstrations before it, vilifying the former king and screaming for his departure.

Nearly a dozen people were injured in clashes with security forces.

The palace secretariat Friday scornfully rejected the report about the king’s flight.

“The media has been on a one-point mission to demolish the monarchy,” an outraged official at the palace secretariat told IANS.

“The king was never anti-people or anti-democracy. He himself Thursday asked the palace staff to lower the royal standard at the palace gate.”

After the royal standard with a flag-waving lion was lowered at the palace, the growing mob pressured the government to raise the triangular national flag with the sun and moon in its place.

“The king did not raise the national flag because, according to the law of the land, an ordinary citizen can’t hoist the national flag at his residence,” the royal secretariat said. “He is an ordinary citizen now, as per the constituent assembly’s declaration. The king has always listened to the people.”

On Friday, Nepal’s outgoing government is expected to send a formal letter to the palace, asking the former king to move out. The palace is to be now turned into a national museum and its employees brought under the state.

Royalists said that while Gyanendra had complied with state directives, the state was violating the law at every step.

“As per the constitution, there should be a 601-member constituent assembly,” the palace official said. “However, the assembly held its first meeting without nominating 26 members.

“Also, with the assembly removing the king, who was head of state, Nepal is now without a head. How can you have a state without a head of state?”

After lengthy - and often acrimonious - negotiations, Nepal’s three largest parties, including the Maoists, agreed that the king’s place would be taken by a constitutional president. However, due to bickering over power-sharing, they have not yet been able to choose the first president of Nepal.

After ruling Nepal directly for 14 months, Gyanendra’s reign ended in April 2006 due to a national uprising spearheaded by the Maoist guerrillas, who had been waging a 10-year underground war to overthrow monarchy.

The new government pledged to hold a constituent assembly election - that had been a national dream for 60 years - and on Wednesday, the newly elected assembly voted overwhelmingly to proclaim Nepal a republic, abolishing its 239-year-old royal dynasty of Shah kings.

While the dynasty is being blamed for all problems in the country, the king’s supporters say the crown had united Nepal and was an integral part of its Hindu culture.

“The hasty decision to abolish monarchy would lead to a catastrophe,” warned Kamal Thapa, who had contested last month’s election in support of the monarchy and lost.

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