PM pledges fresh probe into Nepal palace massacre (Lead)

February 26th, 2009 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 26 (IANS) Eight years after the beloved king of Nepal, Birendra, and his entire family were wiped out in a midnight massacre in the tightly guarded royal palace in Kathmandu, the new Maoist government Thursday pledged a fresh probe into the carnage that eventually ended the world’s only Hindu kingdom.

“This is the place from where Nepal’s culture of impunity grew,” Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda Thursday said in an emotional message as he inaugurated the Narayanhity, once the palace of the Shah dynasty of kings, as a national museum.

“My government will take initiative to start a fresh investigation into the massacre and expose before people the true perpetrators,” Prachanda said before a large gathering of diplomats, government officials and journalists.

“Till we can resolve that mystery, Nepal will not be truly developed as an institutionalised republic.”

The prime minister’s declaration will resurrect Nepal’s darkest tragedy when King Birendra, regarded as the most democratic of the Shah kings whose portrait graced most Nepal households, was gunned down during a family dinner attended by 20 guests.

Nine more royals died in the hail of bullets, including queen Aishwarya, the three royal children and five relatives.

An inquiry commission formed by then government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala blamed crown prince Dipendra for the massacre.

The slayings were said to have been triggered by the queen’s opposition to his wish to marry a girl she disapproved of. After the orgy of killings, that included his sister and brother, the heir to the throne was said to have turned the gun on himself in a lethal fit induced by alcohol and drugs.

The commission report is still not believed by thousands of Nepalis, who see a darker design behind the deaths that paved the way for the king’s younger brother Gyanendra to ascend the throne.

The Maoists, who fought a 10-year guerrilla war trying to overthrow the king, openly blame Gyanendra for the massacre, an accusation that he refuted strongly last year while leaving the palace as a commoner.

Prachanda called the transformation of the palace, once the centre of power in Nepal, into a museum a “historic victory” for the Nepali people and a death blow to feudalism.

From Friday, the museum will allow people to view, for the first time in Nepal’s history, the site where the royal family was killed June 1, 2001.

Prachanda said the last king of Nepal, Gyanendra, had ordered the demolition of the Tribhuvan Sadan, the mansion where the family dinner turned into grisly killings, in a bid to destroy evidence and prevent people from knowing the truth.

“It was a massacre that the Nepali people will never forget,” he said.

He also said that he was optimistic that all Nepal would support his government’s bid to find out the real killers.

The announcement comes at a time the deposed king is on a nearly three-week-long visit to India that started Wednesday.

Gyanendra is heading for Bhopal in India’s Madhya Pradesh state to attend a family wedding, following which he will visit some famed Indian temples, including the Somnath temple in Gujarat.

It is his first visit abroad after handing over power in 2006 and finally, his palace to the government last June after the kingdom overwhelmingly voted for the abolition of monarchy.

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