I am writing these lines on the second hour of the day (that is 28 May 2008) that is expected to be a historic. Nepal, a 240-year-old monarchy, will formally be declared a republic today by the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly. The CA will meet in New Baneshwor’s International Convention Center that has been turned into a fortress by the heavy presence of the police. (A small bomb had gone off just outside the building the day before yesterday while another blasted in another part of Kathmandu. The third was defused by the security personnel.) I am just back from the downtown Kathmandu observing the city. The road surrounding the royal Narayahitti palace where the last king of Nepal is living as of now (01:38 AM) is calm and empty. A few Nepali Army soldiers were seen patrolling on the northern side of the palace. That appeared to be the regular patrol. A few soldiers and Armed Police personnel were seen guarding the western gate of the palace.
The traffic in the city is unusually thin. Restaurants were closed in the tourist district of Thamel by 10 PM (yesterday). The street-food stalls were removed to the interior road of Thamel from the main junction. Thamel was exceptionally calm at around 11 PM. No Bollywood and Nepali folk music blaring from the buildings. No transvestites giggling around. The heavy presence of police could be felt though that apparently wasn’t stopping pimps from inviting passers by to their ‘guest house’.
“I have heard that something is going to happen tomorrow,” said a person who was drinking tea in one of the street food stalls. “Between the palace and the Maoists.”
“Police told us to close down dance bars after ten,” said a man who operated one such bar in Thamel.
There were traffic cops in New Road, Singha Durbar and Nwe Baneshwor who were stopping the cars and bikes and were demand license from the drivers.
Meanwhile on the political side, following developments happened yesterday (Tuesday 27 May):
Big three finally reach understanding on “ceremonial” president and executive prime minister: After three days of intense behind the scene negotiations, the top leaders of the three largest parties in the Constituent Assembly – CPN (Maoists), Nepali Congress and Unified Marxist Leninist – have on Tuesday finally agreed to provision for ceremonial president and executive prime minister following the declaration of the country as a republic through the first meeting of Constituent Assembly slated for Wednesday. In a meeting that resumed Tuesday morning at Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar, there was breakthrough in the protracted talks after CPN (Maoist) party, which is poised to lead the next government, finally relented and agreed to provision for a ceremonial president to serve as the country’s Head-of-state. (more)
Constituent Assembly members sworn in: Members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) were sworn in amid a ceremony at the Birendra International Convention Centre (BICC), which will house the 601-member Assembly, Tuesday afternoon. Kul Bahadur Gurung, 73, of Nepali Congress, who chaired the swearing in ceremony as the eldest member of the CA, administered oath to 567 members at the Sagarmatha Hall of the BICC.
The CA members were allowed to take oath in their mother languages. While most of them were in informal attire some CA members from Madhesi and indigenous communities appeared in their traditional costumes. 26 CA members are yet to be appointed by the cabinet, five persons had won
double seats while the CA Court has barred two winners, UML’s Bisam Lal Adhikari and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum’s Sarat Singh Bhandari, from taking oath as the writ petitions accusing of them of irregularities in the election are yet to be decided. (more)
Public holiday from May 28-30 to celebrate republic: KATHMANDU, May 27 – The government has declared a public holiday for three days starting Wednesday to celebrate Nepal becoming a republic. A meeting of the top leaders of three major parties— Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist— held yesterday decided to propose the government to announce public holiday from May 28-30.
CPN-Maoists nominates Prachanda as parliamentary leader: KATHMANDU, May 27 – The CPN-Maoist Tuesday nominated the party Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ as leader and Dr Barum Bhattari as deputy leader of its parliamentary committee. The Maoists nominated Prachanda as the chief of the newly elected Constituent Assembly members of the party.