Republic at Last : Nepal Made History

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Republic at Last : Nepal Made History

When the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal late in the evening of May 28 formally adopted the motion to declare Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic, it marked the end of an era from the world history. Though the world still has many countries with monarchy, Nepal’s case was unique.

For one, on the throne was a person who descended from the same dynasty that had unified the kingdom with its own valour. Second, he was, till a couple of years ago, an absolute monarch. Elsewhere, the present monarch is either not a descendent of the one who unified the country (i.e. he or she is put on the throne by the people themselves) or is simply a figurative head (mostly with support from some foreign power). Even in exceptional cases where the monarch wields absolute power, it is with a strong support of some forcing power.

One more unique feature of the Nepal is transition from a kingdom to a republic was the case with which it is being implemented, at least till now. A lot of bloodshed has been the feature of such transition in almost every other country. However, though the removal of the king has proved very simple so far, replacing it with a republican system is proving tricky. Since the constitution making process is still to start, it may take another couple of years at least for the country to decide at exactly what sort of republic it will be.

Yet another historical event is expected to occur in a couple of months when the United Nations peace mission in Nepal (known as UNMIN) leaves Nepal as the political forces are reported to be unwilling to extend the UNMIN tenure any further. As may be recalled, it is very hard to find a country from where the UN peace mission could withdraw with the satisfaction of re-establishing a lasting peace. Almost everywhere, either such mission has become a permanent feature or the conflict has resurfaced after its withdrawal. Let's hope Nepal will not fall in either category.

Other major events of the month in the political front were as follows:

May 24: US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Dr. Evan A Feigenbaum arrived Nepal for a three-day visit just when the country's political parties were scrambling for formulating a new coalition government and the CA was going to have the first sitting with the declaration of a republic as the prime agenda.

May 27: CA members took oath of office (including Baban Singh, sought by police for murder and bombing). Major political parties agreed to amend the interim constitution to provide for ceremonial President and powerful Prime Minister. Narayan Kaji Shrestha alias Prakash, the General Secretary of CPN (Unity Centre-Mashal), appeared in public ending 18 years of underground political activities. His party is expected to be merged into CPN Maoist.

May 28: First sitting of the CA declared Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic

May 29: Royal palace employees removed the royal flag from the front of Narayanhity Palace during the day and hoisted the national flag there in the evening as a group of people demonstrated in front of the palace asking the king to leave the palace immediately. The government said the change of the flag was not ordered by it.

May 30: Government sent letter to the former king to vacate the Narayanhity Palace within the 15 days deadline fixed by the CA.

June 3: Pro-Royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal led by Kamal Thapa, which voted against the motion of declaring republic in the first session of the CA, welcomed the implementation of republic.

June 4: Government decided to allow former king Gyanendra to stay in Nagarjun resort formerly owned by the king and later nationalized.  Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara who is also a top leader of CPN-Maoist returned home after a week-long visit to China where he had gone as a representative of the party.

June 8: Hearing started at the Supreme Court on a writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the declaration of republic.

Government decided to allow former king Gyanendra’s step-mother and step-grandmother to stay inside Narayanhity palace.

The central committee of the CPN Maoist decided that the president of the republic should be from outside the political parties. The central secretariat of CPN-Maoist had earlier decided to drop its claim on the post of President and instead proposed to appoint someone from the civil society at the post. The names suggested by Maoists are reported to be Sahana Pradhan, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, tam Raja Prasad Singh, Nara Bahadur Karmacharya and Dr. Devendra Raj Pandey. While Pradhan is senior leader of CPN-UML, Tuladhar was once MP from UML ticket and now he is independent human rights activist with inclination towards Maoists. Singh has a long history of republican activism though he was absent from Nepali political scene for a long time. Karmacharya once was a senior leader of the communist movement while Dr. Pandey is former bureaucrat who later became finance minister in the government after restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1990. Now Pandey is independent social activist and he is said to be very much supportive of Maoists.

Nepali Congress held a mass meeting at the open air theatre celebrating the declaration of republic. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala addressed the meeting without caring the heavy downpour of pre- monsoon rain despite the previous day rumour about his worsening health.

Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist formed a joint task force to formulate a package for the settlement of the ongoing political deadlock.

June 9: Nepal Oil Corporation, with the permission of the government, increased the prices of petroleum products making petrol Rs. 100 per litre (earlier Rs. 80), diesel Rs. 70 per litre (earlier Rs. 0.25), kerosene Rs. 65 per litre (earlier Rs. 51.20) and IP gas Rs. 1,200 per cylinder of 14.2 kg (earlier Rs. 1,100) in Kathmandu. Meanwhile, the government also slashed the duties and local development fee on petroleum imports and reduced the shrinkage and loss margin allowed to the dealers. Still the Corporation says its monthly losses will remain nearly at Rs. 1.5 billion from earlier Rs. 2.6 billion.

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