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UN hails dawn of republic in Nepal

world Updated: May 29, 2008 12:17 IST

IANS
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The dawn of a new republic in Nepal, ending its 239-year-old royal dynasty that had become a symbol of oppression, has been hailed by the UN, which called the event historic and urged for the speedy formation of a new government.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office in New York issued a statement early Thursday congratulating the people of the new republic of Nepal for successfully holding the first meeting of its constituent assembly Wednesday and voting overwhelmingly to turn King Gyanendra into a commoner and ask him to vacate the royal palace in 15 days.

"The people of Nepal have clearly spoken for peace and change through the April 10 assembly election," the statement said. "The secretary-general encourages all parties to continue working in a cooperative manner and to form a new government as soon as possible."

Ban's special representative for Nepal Ian Martin, who attended the near-midnight proclamation of republic Wednesday, called the meet an achievement and said the UN was proud to have assisted in the election of the "most inclusive body Nepal has yet known".

Martin said the assembly, with its democratically-elected representatives, now has the "solemn responsibility to prepare a new constitution as well as to act as an interim legislature during this next important phase of Nepal's peace process, and to fulfil the people's aspirations for sustained peace, economic and social progress, democracy and human rights".

Celebrations had started in Nepal from Tuesday. The government announced a three-day state holiday from Wednesday and pledged to celebrate May 28 each year as Republic Day.

As the monarchy becomes a thing of the past, the assembly has been given the task of electing a new president to take the king's place as head of state.

The president will also head the Nepal Army, which in the past had been virtually the private army of the palace and assisted in royal coups, and have the power to declare and revoke a state of emergency on the recommendation of the council of ministers.

Gyanendra, now stripped of his title as well as crown and sceptre, has 14 days left to vacate the Narayanhity Palace or face constitutional and legal action.

He has also lost his legal and tax immunity and will have no extra privilege that an ordinary citizen does not enjoy.

The king's fall will have a grave impact on the other members of the royal family who in the past used the palace's clout to flout the law of the land and gain undue advantages.

All members of the royalty have lost their titles and other privileges with the proclamation of republic.

The assembly has also ordered the government to disband the palace secretariat, which served as a parallel mini government, and take measures to preserve the property inside the palace that has now become a national heritage.

The pink palace, where royalists used to flock during Hindu festivals to receive the blessings of the king who was once regarded as the incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu, will now become a national museum, opening its tightly guarded portals to the masses.

Nepal's media Thursday acknowledged the contribution of the once dreaded Maoist guerrillas towards the establishment of the republic.

"The first and foremost credit for the republic goes to none other than the Maoists," the Kathmandu Post daily said in a front-page editorial. "Though (we) never agreed with the violent methods the Maoists adopted, it would be unjust not to recognise their role in bringing this day about."

After a 10-year savage war to end the royal dynasty, the Maoists, who emerged as the biggest party in last month's election, are now expected to form the new government with their chief Prachanda as the new prime minister.

With monarchy extinct, Nepal now faces the new challenge of drafting a new constitution within two years that will restore peace and stability and promote equal rights.

"The political forces owe it to the nation to guarantee that the Nepali people will not have to fight for the same things again," the Himalayan Times daily said.

"A republican order should mean better things to come."