By brazenly violating the government decisions and policy, the army chief has signaled that royal palace still take the shots in Nepali politics
Based on today’s editoral in Kantipur
The visit of army chief Pyar Jung Thapa along with top army officers to the royal palace on the birthday of king Gyanendra gives the impression that the Royal Nepal Army is still into effect. In addition to that, the army also presented a 21-gun salute from Army Dais at Tundikhel making us forget the historical political change [a few weeks back in Nepal]. The royal palace trip of the army chief and the salute can’t be considered ordinary events. This is the open challenge to the democratic government by those who do not trust the political change and express unwillingness to accept that change.
The SPA (seven party alliance) government had decided no to celebrate the king’s birthday as a national event. As per that decision, embassies abroad didn’t organize formal programs. No public holiday was given inside the country. The cabinet had decided to limit the celebrations in palace by giving holiday to only palace staffs. Cabinet had also decided not to send high level officials to the palace. There is no doubt that Nepal Army was informed about these decisions.
Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, leaders of political parties and secretaries didn’t go to the palace. Ministers decided not to go there and they notified their subordinates. But the same decision has been ignored by the army leadership. This should be an eye opener for the Alliance government. This is army chief’s disrespect and mistrust to the government. This is a severe blow to the feeling that the army is under the government. Both the chiefs of the Police (Armed Police and Nepal Police) didn’t go as per the government decision and, following the government policy, they celebrated the birthday in their headquarters.
Formally celebrating the royal birthday in the army headquarters was not enough for the army chief. It is fine to wish the king for good health and long life but it is not right to ignore the government order on that excuse. The army headquarter hasn’t formally given any notification about the salute at Tundikhel. According to the army officials, guns were fired under the direction of the army secretariat at the palace. This is a solid proof that the royal palace army secretariat is still functional. It is very clear that the army secretariat not only exists but also is actively issuing orders outside the palace. This is all because the Parliamentary Proclamation 2063 hasn’t been implemented.
Immediately after the restoration of the parliament, the SPA had decided to dignify the army by reforming it and making it a national institution there by neutralizing any possible dangers to democracy. That decision hasn’t been supported fully [by what is happening afterwards]. First, the army chief was treated in a special manner while other security chiefs were punished for the mistakes after Feb 1, 2005 [royal coup]. Unwillingness to appoint defense minister is yet another clear example that there is no political commitment to bring about real changes in the army. Similarly, the government hasn’t done homework to implement the historical decision that says the cabinet will oversee the security of the palace. This shows the government is busy trying to kill time without doing work of significance.
The determination of bringing army under cabinet and putting it under parliamentary supervision has not been turned into action and this is obstructing the creation of favorable environment to bring Maoists into mainstream. The government’s inability to dismiss the army secretariat and unwillingness to provide assurance of reform in the army by appointing defense minister has given Maoists good reasons to express concerns about possible conspiracy [against the peace process and achievements of peoples’ movement].
This will continue making the issue of Maoist arms and army management complex. Whatever the form of monarchy [after the April revolution]- be it constitutional, symbolic or ceremonial- the main intention of the Parliamentary Proclamation is to cut off the army’s tie with the palace. Army chief going to a place where no other government officials went and army presenting salute on the orders from palace army secretariat are enough to signal [army’s] mistrust on the parliament’s determination.