Nepal assembly abolishes monarchyThis should mess with the heads in the US State Department. An authoritarian regime thrown out by democracy by communists who are also capitalist. Oh wait, Marcos in the Philippines was propped up by American governments because he was anti-communist yet unethically non-democratic. Hmmm...
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA –
29 May 2008
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The main palace in Nepal's capital lowered the flag of the country's royal family Thursday, a day after lawmakers, led by former communist insurgents, abolished the monarchy that had reigned over the Himalayan land for 239 years.
Palace staff took down the small red standard with a flag-waving lion and replaced it with Nepal's national flag, a red banner of two triangles adorned with a sun and moon.
The changing of the flag was "a decision by the government to show that Nepal is now a republic," said a palace official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of palace rules.
An overwhelming majority of the assembly declared Nepal a republic Wednesday, sparking celebrations across the country. Thousands marched, danced and sang in the streets of Katmandu, setting off firecrackers, waving hammer-and-sickle flags and denouncing King Gyanendra as a thief.
By Thursday, the celebrations had largely tapered off with Nepalis relaxing at the start of the three-day national holiday declared to mark the country's rebirth as a republic. There were some scattered gatherings across Katmandu, and a few hundred people gathered outside the pink concrete palace, chanting "Gyanendra is a thief, leave the country!"
There was no immediate reaction to the abolition of the throne from the dour 61-year-old former monarch, who remained silent in recent months as it became apparent that his days as king were numbered.
Gyanendra now has 15 days to quit the 1970s-era palace and move to his large private residence in the city — or face the possibility of being removed by force.
Gyanendra assumed the throne after his brother, the late King Birendra, and much of the royal family was slain at a palace gathering allegedly by the crown prince, who then killed himself.
The killings helped pierce the mystique surrounding a line of kings who had once been revered as reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu, and Gyanendra was dogged by rumors that he was somehow involved in the massacre.
His popularity only further plummeted after he seized power from a civilian government in 2005, saying he needed total authority to crush the Maoists.
Instead, he found himself beset by an intensifying insurgency and a faltering economy.
A year later, weeks of massive protests forced Gyanendra to restore democracy, after which the Maoists came out of the bush and began peace talks.
An interim government, meanwhile, slowly stripped away the trappings of a kingdom. Gyanendra lost command of the army, his portrait was replaced by Mount Everest on the currency and references to the king dropped from the national anthem.
Then came April's vote for the assembly in which the fiercely republican Maoists won the most seats, all but sealing the fate of the dynasty, which dates to 1769 when a regional ruler conquered Katmandu and united Nepal.
But now that the monarchy is finished no one is certain what comes next.
While the Maoists say they are committed capitalists and have no intention of nationalizing industries or setting up collective farms, they have promised to bring sweeping change to this largely impoverished country.
But they are struggling to form a government. Wednesday's opening assembly session was delayed for hours while they wrangled with other political parties over who should be president and what powers he should have. At the end of the day, they still had no deal.
It may also be difficult to fashion lasting peace in Nepal, where supporters of every major political party — the Maoists foremost among them — have been linked to killings since the start of the peace process.
I arrived in Brisbane last night and it is not much warmer here than Canberra. Today I had coffee in the city with Steve, an old friend from college (Australian National University), then walked from the city to Southbank then the Gabba, which took an hour.
I watched my football team train (skills) and then went to a player sponsors' function with some of the players. Fantastic evening - I have my favourites, not only because they are great on the field, but are also terrific people. It has also been raining.