Nepal scraps state holiday on King's birthday | india | Hindustan Times
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Nepal scraps state holiday on King's birthday

india Updated: Jul 03, 2006 19:14 IST

Just three days before King Gyanendra's 60th birthday, the Nepal government dealt another blow to the monarchy by deciding to scrap the tradition of observing the event as a national holiday.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala chaired a meeting of his ministers in the capital on Monday where it was decided that the king's upcoming birthday on July 7 would no longer be celebrated as a national holiday - for the first time in the history of the 238-year monarchy.

Government offices and educational institutions would remain open as usual and only state employees working in the palace would get a holiday.

As the king turns a sexagenarian this week, there are other changes in the offing as well.

Nepal's embassies and high commissions in over 20 countries overseas have been asked by the new government not to celebrate the event officially.

With the palace's profligacy with state money during the king's direct rule having been revealed, lavish birthday bashes at Kathmandu have also been shelved.

Till last year, it was customary for the government to form a giant committee, comprising over 1,000 people and headed by the prime minister, to plan the birthday celebrations.

However, this year not only has that custom been scrapped but at least three former royalist prime ministers have turned down a personal plea by the palace to organise an independent celebration, according to media reports.

The three were Lokendra Bahadur Chand, whom the king appointed premier in 2002 after sacking the government of Sher Bahadur Deuba, Surya Bahadur Thapa, who was chosen by the king to succeed Chand when the latter quit in May 2003, and Marich Man Singh.

All three were approached by the palace secretariat but wriggled out of the proposal, a Nepali weekly reported.

The king's birth month would also see Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat table his budget, which is expected to slash the allowances of the palace.

A parliamentary committee has already asked the king to furnish details of the property owned by him and his family members so that the government can calculate the tax the royal family would have to start paying from now.

Finally, the last nail in the coffin of the birthday celebrations is the enquiry started by a commission to bring to justice ministers and officials responsible for trying to suppress the anti-king protests in April that resulted in the death of 21 people.

The former ministers and security officials questioned so far have denied any responsibility in the killings, tacitly blaming the king, who headed the security forces during his 15-month direct reign.

With parliament having stripped the king of his legal immunity, if the commission finds him guilty he would have to face the music, another bitter first in the history of the royals.