People Watch, Legislators Vow to Work As Nepal Welcomes New Era

Nepalese children light candles in memorial of those killed during the recent unrest in Kathmandu (AFP Photo)

The shouts of protesters who blocked a road close to the parliament building drifted up to the protected front gates as legislators came to work for the first time in four years ahead of the scheduled afternoon start.

Among the later arrivals was the leader of the Nepali Congress (Democratic) party, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was sacked as prime minister in February 2005 by King Gyanendra when he seized control of the country.

Deuba declined to comment to waiting reporters.

Many came in four-wheel drive vehicles, flanked by security guards, and greeted other politicians happily before they went inside.

"I feel I have a great responsibility," said Mohan Bahadur Basnat, 47, a legislator from the Nepali Congress (Democratic) party, as he arrived at the mustard-yellow and dark-brown fronted building.

Basnat, immaculately dressed in a white knee-length tunic, black suit jacket and traditional topi or cloth hat, said he had been doing social work in his district some 85 kilometres (50 miles) north of the capital Kathmandu during the enforced four-year break.

"We've come here because of the people's revolution so we have a great responsibility to fulfill the people's demands," he told reporters.

The new premier, Girija Prasad Koirala, 84, did not attend because of ill health and his morning swearing-in ceremony was also postponed.

Before the opening came the security men and the protesters. Several hundred people, including many women wearing garlands, marched towards the parliament and blocked the road.

"Call the ceasefire immediately," some chanted referring to the 10-year Maoist insurgency that has left more than 12,500 dead in Nepal. The political parties have promised to declare a ceasefire as one of the early acts after the re-opening of parliament.

Before the protesters it was the turn of the sniffer dogs and security, as sentries kept watch from guard boxes in the precincts of the parliamentary buildings.

With its carved wooden entrance and high vaulted ceilings, Nepal's House of Representatives looks like the 1930s theatre it was designed to be.

The building sits in overgrown gardens surrounded by one-storey wooden administrative buildings. They were hastily renovated following the king's televised announcement Monday that he was handing executive power back to the politicians.

The ornate building, topped with a fluttering Nepalese flag, was first used as a parliament in 1991, after the current king's brother legalised political parties and paved the way for multi-party democracy.

Large pillars dot the assembly room, full of desks with microphones for the members who sat around waiting and talking quietly among themselves before the first session started.

Outside political activists looked on, making sure their political leaders carried out their promises to curb the king's power, a call that had brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets for 19 days in April. At least 15 died in clashes with the security forces.

"The members of parliament will be responsible for our voices," said activist and folk singer Nanda Krishna Joshi. "We are checking them as they go in and acting as a watchdog."

Source: AFP

Other news