"I don't believe in democracy, the king does," said Tulsi Giri, first vice-chairman of the council of ministers to a western diplomat who was paying him a courtesy call last week. The international community has stressed that the absence of democracy would weaken the struggle against the Maoists and Giri was delivering the government's response.
Senior officials are doing everything to prove that the commitment for democracy expressed in the royal proclamation is just lip service. They are spreading doubts among the people about whether the king's move was aimed at restoring peace and democracy in the country. They view peace and democracy as separate issues. These government representatives are the reason why the international community is still sceptical about the king's reiterated commitment to democracy.
Giri has ruled that the political parties can only talk to the king through him. At this rate, there will never be harmony between the king and the parties. At a time when unity and trust is needed between constitutional forces, this is a serious problem.
Two months ago, the Chinese Ambassador Sun Heping said the king's move was Nepal's internal affair. He is now saying that it is important to "unite and work together". Government officials are making it difficult not only for the ambassadors but also the political leaders to get an audience with the king.
But officials are doing everything to oppose democracy in the name of nationalism. This isolates the king from the democratic forces. Even royalists and former Panchayat leaders like Surya Bahadur Thapa, Pashupati Shamsher Rana and Lokendra Bahadur Chand are asking for unity and consensus with the democratic forces. They have not supported activities to destroy national unity or to create a gap between the king and the people because they have to face voters in future elections. But even Chand, who was always regarded as being close to the king, was under house arrest for seven days and has not been able to get his telephone connection back yet.
The behaviour of the king's supporters contradicts the king's avowed commitment to democracy. While the king says that he supports an independent media, the Ministry of Information and Communication is doing its best to curb the media. They are making every effort to take the country back to the days of autocracy and isolation. They are narrowing the options for the monarch and they don't realise that one day they have to face the public. It is sad to have such people represent the government that believes the people's desire for democracy will diminish by provoking public hatred towards the political parties. Now, even the judiciary seems to be involved in shattering the true essence of the royal proclamation. Chief Justice Hari Prasad Sharma appeared as a government spokesperson during an international conference of Asian chief justices in the Australian Gold Coast.
If the international community feels that Nepal lacks an independent judiciary, then Sharma deserves a share of the blame. It seems clear that the so-called royalists are doing everything to ridicule the king's commitment to democracy. This is what one western diplomat observed and said, "Above anyone else, it is the royalists who are contradicting the king."