Nepali Times Asian Paints
A royal delusion


WEB EXCLUSIVE | Posted on 23 April

Ever since King Gyanendra began his phased coup with the dissolution of parliament in the dead of night in May 2002, a red-brick house at the end of a blind alley outside Ring Road in Maharjgunj has remained at the centre of oppositional politics.

In this two-storied house lives Girija Prasad Koirala, the octogenarian leader of seven party alliance (SPA) spearheading People's Movement II for the restoration of democracy and peace. On Saturday Koirala nibas was once again at the epicentre of Nepali politics.

Angry that the king\'s proclamation didn\'t go far enough, thousands of party activists surrounded the house from early morning on Saturday urging their leaders huddled inside not to sell out.

In an astounding contrast, envoys from EU countries, the Brits and the Americans were asking Koirala to convince his alliance partners that King Gyanendra's announcement was a reliable basis of cooperation with the monarchy. This disconnect between domestic politics and international pressure is starker than it has ever been.

Later in the day as curfew was clamped and storm clouds gathered over the western rim of the Valley, politics triumphed over diplomacy. The alliance leaders decided to go ahead with the peaceful protests and even hand the king an ultimatum: restore parliament by Sunday or else. How did these politicos dare thumb their noses at the international community? That's what politics is all about: people power not plenipotentiaries.

Having known and worked with five kings (if you count King Dipendra, the only monarch in the world to have spent his entire reign in coma) Koirala has institutional memory of royal backstabbing. He knows the nature and culture of our kings better than all well-meaning diplomats put together. He instinctively knew that the royal address was high on rhetoric and low on substance.

The speech itself was a masterpiece of verbiage. In the entire speech, there are only six words that can't be contested: "May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all." Other than that, the speech of the Chairman of Council of Ministers was bad in law, in intent, in timing, in logic, and in morals.

The proclamation is as unconstitutional as all the putsches and powergrabs in the past: executive powers are not for the king to "return", just as it was illegal for him to appropriate it for "safekeeping". Article 35 expressly forbids the king from exercising the executive authority without the recommendation, advice, and consent of Council of Ministers.

The councils that the king has been forming and dissolving at will since October 2002 have no constitutional basis. The Supreme Court in its judgement over RCCC has said as much in as polite language as legalese would permit (See adjoining Guest Column by Sambhu Thapa, #295).

Because the intent is malafide instead of defusing the constitutional and political crisis, the king has complicated matters further by ignoring the six-point agenda of agitating parties. The address brushed aside the 12-point understanding between seven parties and what the king calls \'those who have deviated from the constitutional path\'-the Maoists.

The king erred grievously by not granting even a face saving device-the reactivation of parliament to those who still support a constitutional or ceremonial monarchy. Demonstrators in the streets will extract much more.

Had he wished to reactivate governance, the king should have begun his democratisation exercise by dismantling the infrastructure of autocracy. Illogically, he wants yet another premier to do his bidding.

With TADO in force, lawyers can't withdraw their protests. The media ordinance has forced journalists out into the streets. Draconian civil service regulations and autocratic zonal administrators have made the life of bureaucrats unbearable. Labour laws enacted through royal fiat have enraged trade unions in every organised sector including banks and telecommunications. With increasing number of retired generals trampling their turf, foreign ministry officials are seething. No political party, not even Maoist rebels, can afford to ignore this demonstration of People Power II. And the king continues to ignore the concerns of just about everyone except the soldiery.

Concerns of a 21st century citizenry can't be addressed with the structures of an 18th century monarchy. People want total change and all the king wants to do is tinker. The king is answerable to nobody, the leaders of the seven party alliance have to answer to the the people in the streets and even the jungles tobring them to the mainstream.

An immediate restoration of parliament is perhaps the last chance to save this tottering monarchy. If party leaders too lost their standing by swallowing a compromise with the king as the international community demands, it will be the Maoists who will finally acquire the legitimacy they sought but never got. --END--

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)