A lonely Nepal king celebrates birthday
The new Govt of Koirala last month asked Nepali embassies and consulates abroad not to officially celebrate the royal birthday.india Updated: Jul 07, 2006 13:35 IST
Nepal's King Gyanendra turned 60 on Friday, but the celebrations were the most muted since his ascension in 2001 with the government axing official bashes and even corporates deserting the monarch in public.
From this year the royal birthday stops being a national holiday. Also scrapped is the earlier tradition of forming a mammoth committee headed by the prime minister and key government officials to coordinate celebratory programmes.
The new government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala last month asked Nepali embassies and consulates abroad not to officially celebrate the royal birthday.
On Thursday the cabinet decided to do away with the tradition of the prime minister and ministers trooping to the palace to offer best wishes to the king.
With the government distancing itself from King Gyanendra, the corporate sector Friday followed suit with just a handful of diehard royalists issuing public greetings.
There were just six greetings published in four major newspapers Friday, in stark contrast to earlier birthdays when corporates vied with one another to hail the king.
Leading the receding pack of royalists was the five-star Hotel de l'Annanpurna, owned by the king's aunt.
The only two other big names were Thai Airways and Himalayan Bank Ltd, a joint venture with Pakistan's Habib Bank.
Nepal's largest-selling newspaper Kantipur and its sister daily, the Kathmandu Post, did not even extend greetings to the king and the former carried only a minuscule paid for greeting by a little-known newspaper agent.
The low-profile celebrations reflect the diminishing popularity of the king after he began controlling the government in 2002, followed by a coup last year when he seized absolute power with the help of the army, jailed political leaders and suspended civil liberties.
In sharp contrast, Nepalis continued to mourn the loss of former Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who died earlier this month, remembering his contribution to healthcare and education in Nepal.
Only the Nepal Army, which had supported the king during his 15-month absolute rule, remained loyal to him despite parliament stripping the monarch of his designation of supreme commander of the army.
The army officers' club, named after the king's grandfather Tribhuvan, would celebrate the birthday while army chief Gen Pyar Jung Thapa would go to the palace Friday to offer greetings in person, media reports said.