Nepal’s last king bids adieu to aides

June 11th, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 11 (IANS) Before making his final exit from the royal palace and beginning life as a commoner in an inferior summer palace in the suburbs, Nepal’s last king Gyanendra began bidding adieu to his former ministers and advisors, expressing his gratitude for their support. Dispensing with the elaborate protocol of the heady past days of power, the king-turned-commoner began telephoning former royalist prime ministers and other aides soon after the newly elected constituent assembly formally proclaimed the nation a republic, abolishing its 239-year-old monarchy, Nepali weekly “Ghatana R Bichar” said Wednesday.

The people he called up included Lokendra Bahadur Chand, the veteran politician he had appointed as prime minister in 2002 after sacking the elected government of prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, and Surya Bahadur Thapa, who stepped into Chand’s shoes after the latter was forced to resign, following protests by the opposition parties.

The former king also telephoned Tulsi Giri and Kirti Nidhi Bista — two other former prime ministers who were brought back from political retirement as his deputies when he seized power with the help of the army and imposed his direct rule for 14 months, the weekly said.

During the brief calls, the former king, stripped of all his titles and privileges by the government, introduced himself simply as Gyanendra Shah and addressed his old mentors with respect.

“You supported my elder brother and myself,” the former king reportedly told the stunned royalists. “I have called to express my gratitude for that.”

On the eve of beginning a new and uncertain life, the deposed king took care to reassure his followers.

“Don’t worry, everything will be all right,” he reportedly told them. “Time heals everything.”

It was also a gesture of extending the olive branch.

Since the fall of the royal government in 2006, some of his old ministers had begun criticising him, holding him responsible for the collapse of his 14-month government.

Giri had accused the former king of being headstrong and not heeding the advice of his cabinet while Thapa fought the April election in support of a republic.

The calls were made on the eve of his final departure from the Narayahity royal palace, where he had shifted in July 2002, 13 months after being crowned the new king of Nepal, following the stunning assassination of his elder brother Birendra in the palace.

Before the final exit at night, regarded as an auspicious time, the deposed king will hold a press conference in the palace.

Angered by the way political parties and media have projected him as a villain, Gyanendra, who imposed media censorship during his direct rule and banned the criticism of the royal family, will present his side of the story to the media.

He has always maintained that the royal coup three years ago was intended to end the Maoist insurgency and restore peace and stability in the country.

Gyanendra stepped down as head of government in April 2006 after a mass revolt. Two years later, Nepal held its first constituent assembly election that saw the nation vote in favour of abolishing monarchy.

Finally, on May 28, the assembly formally proclaimed Nepal a secular, federal democratic republic and asked the former king and queen to vacate the Narayanhity palace in 15 days.

The former royals will depart from the palace Wednesday night, 24 hours before the expiry of the deadline.

The government has allowed them to stay in the Nagarjuna summer palace, a former royal hunting lodge, till they are able to find suitable accommodation.

The former king’s stepmother Ratna Shah and a former palace maid, who was the concubine of his grandfather Tribhuvan, have been allowed to stay on in the palace.

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