Nepal PM skips parliament address, King sidelined | india | Hindustan Times
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Nepal PM skips parliament address, King sidelined

The Parliament, reinstated in April after protests, recently stripped the King of his legislative roles and took over his control of the army.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 11:53 IST

Nepal's new government presented its annual policies in parliament on Sunday at a ceremony which for first time did not include the King, and the prime minister was also absent due to poor health.

Deputy Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, addressed the legislature on behalf of 84-year-old Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who has been in hospital since last week with pneumonia.

"The government is committed to establishing sustainable peace in the country by ending the decade-long violent conflict," Oli said, referring to the Maoist insurgency in which more than 13,000 people have died.

The parliament, reinstated by King Gyanendra in April after pro-democracy protests in which at least 18 people died, recently stripped the king of his legislative roles and took over his control of the army.

In previous years, King Gyanendra, who turned 60 on Friday, delivered the annual address outlining government policy and programmes.

But on Sunday, the ornate throne from where the king used to sit had been removed and a big national flag stood in its place.

The new multi-party government and the Maoists have been observing a ceasefire since the king ended his absolute rule.

Koirala, in a landmark meeting with rebel chief Prachanda, agreed in June to set up an interim cabinet including the guerrillas to oversee elections for an assembly to prepare a new constitution and decide the future of monarchy.

The Maoists say the King must abdicate or face execution. But some, including the ailing Koirala, see a ceremonial role for the monarchy in deeply traditional Nepal.

"Given the present situation that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is engaged with the government of Nepal in a peace process to come to the path of peaceful multi-party competition by giving up arms, it becomes a pious duty of all of us to take a step at a quicker pace in the direction towards establishing peace," Oli told the chamber.

Last week, the government invited the United Nations to monitor weapons held by rebels and government troops ahead of assembly elections expected in 2007.

Nepal's main political parties and the Maoists struck a deal in November under which the guerrillas committed themselves to rejoin the political mainstream.

Officials said Nayan Bahadur Khatri, chief of the National Human Rights Commission and Keshav Raj Rajbhandari, chief election commissioner of Nepal, resigned on Sunday.

Khatri was appointed by the ousted royalist government headed by the king while Rajbhandari was criticised by political parties for holding this year's municipal elections seen as a ploy by the king to legitimise his rule.

The main political parties and the Maoists boycotted the February polls for 58 municipal assemblies.