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Let the people decideJune 17, 2001
Nearly 40 years ago a very fine leader was murdered at a crucial moment in the affairs of his nation. In the summer of 1963 United States President John Kennedy decided to withdraw American forces from Vietnam. It was only a small army at the time but Kennedy reached the conclusion that any further involvement was both morally wrong and doomed to failure. But his decision was never enforced or even publicly announced. A few weeks later the Peaceful President was shot to death in Texas where Vice President Johnson had his home and many powerful friends.
Johnson automatically became President and he immediately ordered a close friend, Chief Justice Warren, to lead an official investigation into the assassination. Despite many rumors of a conspiracy involving Johnson and the American State, the Warren Commission concluded that a single communist sympathizer, Lee Harvey Oswald, had killed the President. Rather conveniently Oswald had also been shot down within hours of the assassination. So that was the end of it. A few weeks later Johnson announced a massive increase of American forces in Vietnam. The war lasted another ten years and the powerful oil and weapon industries of Texas became the richest in the world.
Like President Kennedy, King Birendra was also a man of peace. There have been many reports that he was reluctant to use the army in offensive operations against the Maoists and my personal dealings with him do not contradict that belief. His death has therefore benefited those who support the use of military force. And the death of his two sons has probably helped their cause as well. That does not prove a conspiracy to kill them but neither does the official inquiry prove against one taking place. More than 20 years after the Kennedy assassination the Warren Commission report was finally discredited by modern science. Almost all the witnesses had subsequently died in suspicious circumstances but one surviving piece of computer enhanced film was conclusive evidence that Kennedy had been shot by at least two other men. There had been a conspiracy after all but by then it was too late to bring anyone to justice.
Once again I must write a few days in advance and you may already know the result of His Majesty's Commission as you read this. From accounts already published it appears likely that the late King Diprendra will be named as the sole murderer. And like Lee Harvey Oswald, he also died only a few days later. But please consider that guilt may not necessarily lie in the hands of the gunman. Five years after President Kennedy was assassinated, his brother Robert Kennedy suffered the same fate just as he looked certain to become President himself. The young Arabic gunman had absolutely no memory of what he did and many believe that he was drugged and hypnotized to carry out the shooting. The use of mind controlling drugs has been a common technique in American espionage over many years. Robert Kennedy was certain to reverse the policy in Vietnam and he had many enemies inside the State. Hence the use of drugs cannot be ruled out in the Palace massacre either - especially as those who support American economic policy in Nepal had much to gain from the event. Sadly the dead cannot tell us what happened but basic logic and careful analysis of every piece of evidence can eventually lead us to the truth.
Until reading the findings I cannot comment on the King's Commission. I can only suggest that we all consider the material very carefully and then act in accordance with our consciences. But there is something that we can all do if the investigating Commission fails to convince the nation of its findings.
There is absolutely no value in senseless violence against those you might suspect are responsible for the tragedy. There will be no certain evidence against anyone and the State will have every right to use heavy force against violent demonstrators. But the State will have no right to oppose popular demand for a fair democratic election to endorse the new Head of State. Some public figures have directly accused His Majesty King Gyanendra and Prince Paras of involvement in the killings. Hence the King must be given a chance to prove he has the confidence of the people. And after the bizarre circumstances of his succession, an election for his position as Head of State would be the fairest and most sensible method of achieving this.
Of course there would need to be other candidates and this would provide an opportunity for the whole issue of monarchy to be decided directly by the nation. For each candidate could specify the particular system for a Head of State they would endorse. Some would become a European style figurehead President if elected. Others might propose themselves as more active Presidents in the Russian or American style. And there may be another candidate of royal blood who can claim the throne by popular demand. There are several royal dynasties in Nepal and if the people decide on another dynasty their wishes should not be ignored.
To avoid too many candidates each would need to pay the State a substantial bond of perhaps 25 Lakh Rupees to qualify for the election. And there should be no refund of that money. But otherwise the candidates need merely explain their chosen system and their qualifications for the job. The good people of Nepal will decide the issue properly and fairly. If the citizens truly wish a Maoist republic I am certain that an appropriate candidate will be elected. If they wish a conventional President I am certain there will be several eminent people to choose from. Some parts of the Constitution may need to be subsequently adjusted under these circumstances but nothing in a Democratic State can be more sacred than the will of the people.
But I firmly believe that the people will choose to elect a king within the current Constitution. And His Majesty should have nothing to fear from other royal candidates if he is the rightful heir to the throne of King Birendra. The monarchy is a sacred institution in our nation. It is time for the people to decide its future.
In loving memory of our murdered king,