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Nepal parliament orders action against king

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IANS
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Nepal King Gyanendra's Democracy Day message to the nation has landed him in trouble with parliament asking the government to take action against the monarch for his "unconstitutional" act - an unprecedented gesture in a country where kings were revered as the incarnate of god.

On Monday, observed as Democracy Day in Nepal to celebrate the end of an oppressive regime in 1950, the king had issued a statement, defending his coup two years ago and subsequent 15-month rule as being dictated by public wish and the failure of the then prime minister to hold elections in time.

The statement came as a surprise. According to the new constitution of Nepal, the king no longer has any role, remaining "suspended" till the June elections decide if the crown should remain or make way for a republic.

The royal message triggered rallies and demonstrations in the capital as well as outer districts.

Besides the Maoists and political parties, civil society members, lawyers and other professional organisations also condemned the statement.

As a sequel to the unrest, former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel tabled a proposal in parliament Wednesday, asking for action against the king for his "unconstitutional, unnecessary and undemocratic" statement.

"Monarchy always suppressed people's rights," the leader from the Nepali Congress party, once a supporter of the crown, told the house.

"It shows the king and democracy can't go together."

While a communist party is demanding an answer from Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the Maoists are pressing for an immediate amendment to the constitution to abolish monarchy without waiting for elections in June.

Newly nominated Maoist MP Dev Gurung has asked the house to revise the new constitution and add a provision that will allow the impeachment of King Gyanendra if two-thirds of the MPs agree to the proposal.

"If we accord Gyanendra the status of constitutional or ceremonial king, he could conspire again to get the leaders of political parties arrested," Gurung said.

"We should not wait till the elections to decide the fate of the crown."

Another former deputy prime minister, Bharat Mohan Adhikari, whose Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist party is the second biggest in the ruling alliance, has demanded that the prime minister inform the house what action the government plans to initiate against the king.

After the proposal for action against the king was approved by an overwhelming majority of legislators cutting across party lines, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said Koirala would call a meeting of the ruling alliance as well as the Maoists to decide on what steps to take against King Gyanendra.

This is the first time that Nepal's parliament has endorsed the decision to take action against the crown.

However, though the move was unprecedented, so far, all action against the king and royal family has remained confined to paper.

The government has not been able to make the royals disclose the extent of their wealth or cut down the number of employees in the royal palace.

It has not made public the report of a high-level commission formed after the fall of the royal regime to bring to task ministers and officials responsible for trying to suppress the anti-king protests.

It could not even make the king answer the questionnaire sent by the commission during its interrogation of royalist ministers.