Prevailing Situation Compelled Takeover: King
Politically powerless but culturally eminent, King Gyanendra, in a Democracy Day message, for the first time publicly accepts moral responsiblity for the rights and wrongs of his 15-month direct rule.
For the outside world, democracy in Nepal arrived last year (2006), during that massive upheaval in April. That is what the news media tend to suggest and that is what Nepalis protesting in the streets tend to convey.
So how come the country is celebrating the 57th National Democracy Day? Does that mean Nepal has had democracy for more than half a century?
In deed, democracy, in the form of limited parlimentary system, began in the 1950s, soon after Mohan Shumshere, the last heriditary Rana premier was forced out of office via a pro-democracy movement jointly launched by political parites and the Shah monarchy. A decade later, King Mahendra launched a one-party Panchayat system. In 1990, King Birendra granted further freedom and soon the country saw multi-party democracy. Last year's upheaval led to the decision to form a constituent assembly that will vote to either retain monarchy or to opt for a republican set up.
Public messages by the King as well as other leaders on the occasion to celebrate the 57th National Democracy Day, then, should be viewed against this backdrop. The king may have lost all his political powers, and the PM may be a de facto head of state, but none seem to downplay the significance of "Falgun 7" (popular reference to the D-day, in the vernacular).
In fact, the government has appealed everyone to celebrate the ocassion. It has set aside 3 days (Feb 18, 19 and 20) to mark it.
In his message, the King has said that he is with the people, and whatever he did during his a year-plus direct-rule, it was inspired by his committment to people's wishes, and compelled by then prevailing situation.
Some may say King Gyanendra's words may not be relevant any more in these days of Maoist Raj and partisan political upmanship. But monarchy's cultural eminence, if not political, is very much around, also underscored by the follwoing message.
The following is the full text of the royal message:
King Gyanendra's Message on the Ocassion of 57th National Democracy Day
Today, the 57th National Democracy Day, reminds us of the joint struggle launched by the King and the people, culminating in the successful restoration of the people's rights. On this historic day, we pay homage to our august grandfather His late Majesty King Tribhuvan, the architect of democracy in Nepal, and all the brave martyrs who laid down their lives for this cause.
Nepal's glorious history is guided by the fact that Monarchy has always abided by the aspirations of the Nepalese people, on whom sovereignty is vested. It is clear that the prevailing situation compelled us to take the February 1, 2005 step in accordance with the people's aspiration to reactivate the elected bodies by maintaining law and order following the dissolution of the House of Representatives at the recommendation of the elected Prime Minister of the day, who was unable to conduct general elections within the timeframe stipulated by the Constitution. Subsequent governments, too, were not successful in this task. Various obstacles thwarted our resolve to install elected representative bodies. We are also morally responsible for any success or failure during the 15 month effort. As our sole wish is that the people should govern themselves through their own elected representatives, it is well known that we reinstated the House of Representatives on April 24, 2006 with the confidence that the nation would forge ahead on the path to national unity and prosperity, while ensuring permanent peace and safeguarding multiparty democracy.
In order to consolidate multiparty democracy, elected representative bodies must be installed, taking into consideration, in a mature manner, the grievances, aspirations and sentiments of all the Nepalese to the satisfaction of all. Nepal is a kaleidoscope of diverse peoples - be they indigenous, dalits or those living in villages, cities, terai, hills or the mountainous regions. It will do well to remember that Nepal's sovereignty and integrity remains safeguarded only because all have accepted and abided by this reality. The Nepalese people alone are the arbitrators of their own destiny and they wish to build a prosperous Nepal through a meaningful exercise in multiparty democracy. The self-respecting Nepalese people have an unshakable belief that one's unique identity can be upheld only by respecting one's history.
While upholding the people's wish as supreme, may this day inspire all to remain dedicated, through multiparty democracy, to the greater welfare of Nepal and her people by ensuring their concurrence and active participation.
May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all!
57th National Democracy Day is February 19, 2007
Posted by Editor on February 18, 2007 8:47 PM