Nepal King Sacks Government, Cuts Off from World


2005.02.02
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
NEPAL_monarchy150.jpg
Feb. 3 — ; A Pro-Nepalese monarchy supporter bears Nepal's national flags during a march in support of King Gyanendra in Kathmandu Photo: AFP

>>Nepal at a Glance

KATHMANDU—Nepal’s King Gyanendra has announced a 10-member Cabinet dominated by his own supporters after sacking the government, declaring emergency rule, and virtually severing his country's ties with the world. An official later said the new government would reach out to Maoist rebels to renew peace talks.

Gyanendra will head the newly appointed Cabinet, state radio said in a terse dispatch. "The king has expressed confidence that everyone will support and cooperate with the new Cabinet," the royal palace said in a statement.

Dozens of politicians have been arrested and many have gone underground, an opposition figure said, as riot police and soldiers patrolled the streets of the capital.

Freedom sharply curtailed

Soldiers were deployed at many of the country’s leading newspapers, where editors said they had been warned by palace officials to be very careful about what they printed in the coming days, Reuters reported.

The king suspended several provisions of the constitution, including freedom of the press, speech, and expression, peaceful assembly, the right to privacy, and the right against preventive detention, according to a palace statement.

The king has the chief executive authority now, so it will be easier for the rebels to come for peace talks. It is what they have been wanting.

Shortly after the king swore in his new Cabinet, Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi said the government would soon approach Maoist rebels to renew talks.

"The king has the chief executive authority now, so it will be easier for the rebels to come for peace talks. It is what they have been wanting,” Shahi said in comments carried on state radio.

The Maoists, who control much of rural Nepal, broke off peace talks in August 2003. The rebels balked at later invitations from the government of ousted Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to renew the talks, insisting that real authority remained in the hands of the king.

The king earlier sacked Deuba’s interim government, accusing it of failing to hold parliamentary elections or control the Maoist insurgency and pledging to do both himself within three years.

An international outcry

World leaders condemned the power grab—Gyanendra’s second in three years—saying it undermined democracy and the fight against the insurgency.

The tiny Himalayan nation remained largely isolated Wednesday, with telephone and Internet lines cut.

Soldiers were deployed at some private Internet service providers to make sure they remained disconnected. The airport was open, but only limited flights were going into Katmandu.

The United States, Britain, and the United Nations all condemned the move, with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling the king’s actions "a serious setback" that would bring neither lasting peace nor stability to Nepal and urged him to take immediate steps to restore "democratic freedoms and institutions."

...We are urging an immediate move toward the restoration of multi-party democratic institutions under a constitutional monarchy and we're continuing to urge the Maoists to abandon their struggle and to join the political mainstream through dialogue.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said the moves "put the Nepalese people at even greater risk of gross human rights abuses."

U.S. 'deeply troubled'

In Washington, the State Department said it was "deeply troubled" by events in the Himalayan kingdom.

"In addition to undercutting Nepal’s democratic institutions, the actions, we feel, undermine the Nepalis’ struggle with the Maoist insurgency, which is a very serious challenge to a peaceful and prosperous future for Nepal," spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"So we are urging an immediate move toward the restoration of multi-party democratic institutions under a constitutional monarchy and we’re continuing to urge the Maoists to abandon their struggle and to join the political mainstream through dialogue," Boucher said

Poor rights record

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2003 report on human rights around the world, the Nepalese government’s human rights record is poor and includes “numerous serious abuses.”

"The security forces used arbitrary and unlawful lethal force and continued to abuse detainees, sometimes using torture as punishment or to extract confessions. The disappearance of persons in custody was a problem," it said.

"Violence against women, including in refugee camps, trafficking in women and girls for prostitution, and child labor also remained serious problems. Worker rights continued to be restricted. There have been instances of forced child labor and forced labor in the past," the report said.

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.