Royalists seek time for Nepal king

May 12th, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 12 (IANS) With only 17 days remaining before Nepal’s embattled King Gyanendra is officially stripped of his crown and asked to leave the Narayanhity royal palace from where his ancestors ruled the kingdom for generations, the only major party still supporting the monarchy is appealing for two more years before the axe falls. “Such a grave issue should not be decided in haste,” said Kamal Thapa, who was King Gyanendra’s home minister during the last days of the royal regime and now heads the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal - the only national party that fought last month’s historic constituent assembly election in support of the growingly unpopular institution of monarchy.

“Else, it could lead to a huge disaster.”

Thapa, who has been holding consultations with both the king and his arch-enemy, Prachanda, chief of the Maoist party that brought the downfall of Nepal’s 239-year-old royal dynasty, MOnday said the current status should be maintained till the newly elected constituent assembly members draft a new constitution. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has pledged that the new constitution would be drafted in two years.

“You can’t turn a country into a republic by just writing it in the constitution,” the former minister said. “You need a long process for that. We are asking that the huge differences that still exist between the parties be first resolved and an environment for national harmony and reconciliation be created first.

“Otherwise, there will be a huge vacuum which will lead to a catastrophe. It may not even be possible to draft a new constitution.”

Thapa indicated that he has been meeting the leaders of the major parties, including Prachanda, to moot the idea of a cultural or ceremonial king. It would mean the king is willing to forego his constitutional position as head of state and be content with a role at cultural ceremonies.

“In private conversations, most of the leaders agree that status quo should be maintained till the new constitution is drafted,” Thapa said. “But no one is willing to say it in public for fear of being branded regressive. Who will bell the cat?”

Thapa, whose daughter’s wedding last week was attended by the king, said that despite the upheaval awaiting him by the end of the month, King Gyanendra remained serene. “He has a strange confidence,” Thapa said, “though I don’t know the reason for it. Other people would have become desperate but I have seen no sign of desperation in him.”

The royalist leader also said the king himself had told him that come what may, he had no intention of leaving Nepal and fleeing abroad.

Thapa’s appeal comes at a time when Nepal is gearing to hold the first meeting of the newly elected constituent assembly and officially proclaim the end of monarchy.

As per the constitution, the fateful meeting has to be held by May 29.

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