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A Nation in Shock

June 10th, 2001

Nepal news


No words can describe my feelings at this moment and I expect that many of you are feeling the same. We have lost the father of our nation. We have lost his Queen and every member of his immediate family. And we have lost them in circumstances that have no parallel in modern history. Our royal family has been shot to death without any warning. The basic fabric of our nation has been blown apart by machine guns. It is like experiencing a nightmare that has become reality. We cannot even believe what has happened but we know that it is true. The whole world has been shocked by this event and many of us in Nepal are stunned by immense personal grief as well.

I share your grief for the late king along with my whole Nepali family. But I also grieve for the loss of a wonderful man that I once knew. For Birendra Shah was a very fine human being as well as a king. I immediately noticed his tremendous love and regard for the nation when I first met him nearly 4 years ago. We talked about the long struggle to win British residence for my adopted Nepali son and he thanked me for drawing international attention to the desperate problems facing Nepali children. But he also expressed deep concern for the welfare of rural communities and he listened carefully to my projects for agricultural improvements. Of course the restoration of democracy had restricted his power to bring about any changes but he offered me his personal assistance in solving any problems I might meet. It was a human gesture that I never forgot. I was given a special telephone number to keep in contact and his private secretary encouraged me to use it. It was more like meeting a friend than meeting a king. And I remember how troubled he was by the difficulties that we both saw on the horizon.

It takes a few days to translate and process my articles and so I must write before the official investigation into the shootings has been concluded. Perhaps you will know the outcome by the time you read this. But I wonder whether any of us will ever know the real truth behind events at the Royal Palace on that terrible night. The cloud of secrecy that lies over them is very dark and some of the details released so far are very disturbing. Many who personally knew the late Crown Prince assure me that he was not violent. His friends and colleagues say that he could not murder his family and commit suicide under any circumstances. And yet an accidental killing of so many important people sounds equally unlikely.

The inquiry must explain many details in order to be accepted by the nation. It must clarify exactly the number of bullets fired, who or what triggered them, the locations and directions of discharge, the number of people in each room, the number of people hit, the wounds inflicted and the identities of every survivor from the palace that evening. It must verify the circumstances that kept King Gyanendra and Prince Paras in safety and detail the security arrangements available to the late King Birendra. And it must collect proper evidence to support its findings. There should be statements and authenticated photographs besides forensic evidence from both the bodies and the scene of the crime. This was a possible mass assassination involving a Head of State. It is of international interest and importance. The government-organised investigation must be thorough, open and honest. Its findings and evidence must be made available for public scrutiny and anyone responsible through malice or ineptitude must be brought to justice.

But for the moment I cannot comment on the findings until my article next week. I can only urge that you consider them very carefully before taking any action. There can be no value in anger unless it is justified and directed at those responsible. A spontaneous eruption of violence against the new king or even the government cannot be sustained unless they are responsible for this tragedy. And although there are many rumours sweeping across the country, none of them have been proven. Some suggest a deliberate plot to assassinate King Birendra by other members of his family keen to see the return of absolute monarchy. Others believe that India or the Prime Minister was involved because the late king was reluctant to launch major offensive operations against the Maoists. Some think the Army was involved because they didn't wish to fight their own people at all. A few are even suspicious that a renegade Maoist group shot him in accordance with revolutionary principles. But at the moment we do not know exactly what happened and it is completely pointless for young Nepalis to die in street demonstrations under these circumstances.

I am certain that over the next few weeks many people will examine the official report and search for contradictions. An honest report will bear any degree of scrutiny whilst a fabrication will quickly crumble. But one thing is certain. This report will determine the future of Nepal. If the late King Diprendra really did loose his mind and shoot his entire family, or if it was a genuine accident, then all of us must accept the tragedy and return to our normal lives. But if there are serious contradictions, omissions or lies in the report, then we must all face a terrible trauma. Any distortion of the truth will suggest a plot to murder King Birendra and whoever endorses a false report will be implicated in the crime. The Nepali people are traditionally very patient and reluctant to turn to their anger into violence. But no nation can accept the murder of its figurehead without bringing those responsible to justice. Like the relentless passage of water into the sea, those who love and respect the heritage of Nepal will leave no stone unturned until the truth has been discovered. For this event will be remembered for centuries to come.

With my heartfelt support at this terrible time,,