Wed, May 14, 2008 - Page 5 News List

King seeks to keep at least ceremonial role in Nepal

AFP , KATHMANDU

Nepal's King Gyanendra sprinkles flower petals on a bird prior to its sacrifice at a Hindu temple at Dakshinkali, 18km south of Kathmandu, on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

Nepal's government has fixed May 28 for the planned abolition of the world’s last Hindu monarchy, but the king is looking to retain a ceremonial role.

"During my meetings with [Maoist leader] Prachanda, I have said that the king should not be given any political authority," said Kamal Thapa, a former royal home minister and unofficial emissary between the Maoists and the palace.

"But he should be given a respectable status that allows him to enjoy his cultural and religious rights," Thapa told reporters yesterday.

Nepal’s former rebel Maoists emerged as the surprise winners in landmark polls last month, garnering 220 seats in the 601-member constitution-drafting assembly -- more than twice the number of their nearest rival.

The ultra-leftists insist that the first meeting of the elected body will end the 240-year-old monarchy, but Thapa believes getting rid of the institution will be dangerous for the impoverished nation.

"It is logical to end the monarchy only after the drafting of the constitution is finalized," said Thapa, the leader of the only royalist party elected to the new assembly, with four of the 601 seats.

But the Maoists dismissed any appeal from the 61-year-old king for a continued role.

"There would be no question about giving him any rights. A republic is in the making and the king does not have the right to ask for any rights," said Mohan Vaidya, a senior Maoist party strategist.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) wants the king to step down voluntarily before the meeting set for May 28 that will formally end the 240-year-old Shah dynasty.

The king made a rare public appearance on Monday, smiling his way through an an animal sacrifice to Kali, the goddess of death and destruction.

"Panchabali [five animal sacrifice] is undertaken to get power, to get what you wish for and to ensure the wellbeing of the family," Mod Raj Bhattarai, a royal priest, told reporters at the ceremony.

As part of the ceremony, temple assistants sacrificed a duck, chicken, lamb, goat and buffalo in front of the king and queen in a centuries-old tradition.

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