May 16, 2006

Nepalis protest delay in curbing king’s powers

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Hundreds of Nepalis took to the
streets of the capital on Tuesday, burning tires, uprooting
pavement barriers and blocking roads as they protested against
a delay in plans to curtail the king's powers.

The demonstrations came a day after the country's new,
multi-party government deferred tabling a landmark resolution
in parliament to check King Gyanendra's powers, saying it
needed to expand cabinet and debate the move there first.

The government, formed last month after weeks of often
violent demonstrations against the king, urged calm and assured
people the resolution would now be tabled on Thursday.

The protesters came in buses to various places around the
capital and used the vehicles to block roads, witnesses said.

They shouted slogans against the king and the political
parties, burned tires on roads and uprooted metal barriers on
sidewalks. Four vehicles were damaged.

Dozens also gathered outside the secretariat which houses
parliament and the prime minister's office. "Down with
monarchy," "Gyanendra thief, leave the country," "Down with
corrupt leaders," they shouted.

"I don't think these leaders are capable of doing this,"
said Govinda Rayamajhi, one of the protesters, referring to the
special proclamation that needs to be approved by parliament.

Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula urged calm.

"The government will present it (the proclamation) on
Thursday. We are committed to presenting it to parliament. The
delay was just to complete some procedures," he told a news


Analysts said people were expecting quick changes and
lacked confidence in the political leaders who are now in

"People have very little faith in politicians and think
they are slow in taking decisions," said Rajendra Dahal, editor
of the widely-read magazine, Himal.

Cutting the king's powers was a key demand of pro-democracy
protesters during weeks of demonstrations last month which led
to King Gyanendra reinstating parliament and handing the
administration to a multi-party government.

The proclamation is expected to wrest control of the army
from the king and give it to parliament.

The administration would no longer be known as "His
Majesty's Government" and the king's key advisory body, the Raj
Parishad or Privy Council, is likely to be abolished. The draft
also aims to tax the king's income and property and allow his
actions to be challenged in court.

Early this month, the government matched a ceasefire by
Maoist rebels and offered to hold talks with the guerrillas to
end a decade-old conflict in which more than 13,000 people have

The Maoists have accepted the offer and said they want the
conclusive talks. On Tuesday, Maoist leader Prachanda repeated
demands for the release of all jailed rebels before the

"We will not sit in the talks without the release of our
jailed friends and the information about those who have
disappeared" during the conflict, he said in a statement.

Last week, the multi-party cabinet freed two top Maoist
leaders from prison saying the move was aimed at creating a
conducive atmosphere for the planned talks.