From The Nepali Press
Samaya, 9 December
FROM ISSUE #277 (16 DEC 2005 - 22 DEC 2005) | TABLE OF CONTENTS
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So, predictions that the king's costly trip abroad was a prelude to political changes were true after all. Immediately after meeting with security officials, the king named new ministers to the cabinet, thus proving that he is not yet ready to give up power. With the reshuffle, new entrees like Kamal Thapa and Keshar Bahadur Bista have been given key ministeries. The president of the new Democratic Nepal Party, Bista has been given the fourth most important position in the cabinet, even above that of Ramesh Nath Pandey. The role of vice president of the Council of Ministers, Tulsi Giri, has been limited to the hydropower ministry while the other vice president, Kirti Nidhi Bista, has not been allocated any department. Despite its stance against dialoguing with the rebels, the government chose to bring in Narayan Singh Pun in response to international pressure to reciprocate the ceasefire. Pun has been always in favour of talks with the Maoists. Madhukar Shumser Rana was relieved of his duties as finance minister and other ministers like Dan Bahadur Shahi, Ram Narayan Singh and Khadga Bahadur GC were also removed due to their involvement in the fertiliser scam. The notorious Jagat Gauchan was included in the cabinet on the day that the UN's Lakhdar Brahimi met the king and requested him to restore democracy. Another important minister, Tanka Dhakal, has been transferred from the information ministry to local development. So far, the parties have remained indifferent to the king's move but some of the royal appointees are saying that the king wants to appoint a prime minister so that the municipal elections will be held without fail in February. The only question is how the king will manage to elude both an economic crisis and criticism from the international community. He is not ready yet to increase the price of petroleum products because it will be unpopular. And there are already signs the government is becoming openly hostile to India by importing arms from China. Although Delhi has not yet mentioned imposing an economic blockade as it did 18 years ago, there is growing pressure from south of the border that the king reinstate democracy. It is also apparent that the king feels that the street protests led by the political parties have not been strong enough to force him to relinquish his executive powers. Even his isolation from the international community will not budge him.