S'pore-based royal reveals what weighed on cousin's mind before he shot family members
By Clement Mesenas
March 30, 2009
FORBIDDEN love is the oft-heard reason behind Nepal's palace massacre when Dipendra Bikram Shah, then crown prince, ran amok.
But there's more to this Shakespearean tragedy than meets the eye, said the last crown prince of the Himalayan kingdom, a cousin of the killer prince.
Opening up for the first time since the 2001 bloodbath that took place before his eyes, Prince Paras Bikram Shah, 37, said there was a web of deep-seated reasons that sparked the killing.
But the trigger was a thwarted multi-million-dollar arms deal that was to have been Prince Dipendra's golden parachute to freedom if palace politics turned nasty.
Now largely based in Singapore, Prince Paras painted a vivid picture of palace intrigues in an exclusive interview.
He has a reason for making these revelation now (see report at bottom left). He wants to tell the world how a gun deal helped destroy a long-running kingdom.
'The Nepali army was looking for a new weapon to replace the Belgian SLR. Dipendra liked the German Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle, as opposed to the battle-tested Colt M16,' said Prince Paras, who was close to the younger generation of royals.
'But his father, His Majesty, did not agree. I know that they argued over it. Dipendra was frustrated. He wasn't happy. He told me,' said Prince Paras.
According to Frontline, an Indian magazine, the crown prince was known to have a fetish for guns and would often test out the latest weaponry that the Royal Army was planning to buy.
The German assault rifle had been short-listed by the army, which was in the market for 50,000 new guns.
According to Prince Paras, his cousin's advisers had been working on the deal, which could have brought the crown prince a windfall.
'That, to me, was the real trigger. The deal would have probably been for about 50,000 rifles, which at US$300 ($454) apiece, would work out to about US$15 million.'
But why would the prince need the money? Wasn't the family's net worth estimated to be more than US$200 million?
'Yes, but I think he was already making plans for the possibility that he would have to leave the country suddenly if things didn't work out for him.
'I think this was his back-up plan.'
The plan ultimately cost Prince Dipendra his life, when he shot himself after the massacre.
But what could be so bad as to lead a crown prince to plot such a bloody scheme?
The palace was a hotbed of contending interests, said Prince Paras.
'Dipendra had his reasons (to kill the king),' said Prince Paras, who left Nepal for Singapore last July after his country's Maoist government abolished the monarchy.
Breaking his long silence on one of history's bloodiest royal moments, Prince Paras told The New Paper that Prince Dipendra had not one but three reasons for wanting to kill his own father.
The first reason, according to Prince Paras, was there for everyone to see.
On 9 Nov 1990, King Birendra promulgated the new constitution and ended almost 30 years of absolute monarchy in which the palace had dominated every aspect of political life.
Said Prince Paras: 'Dipendra was never the same after his father told him in 1990 about the plans to give up the monarchy.
'He never agreed with that as he wanted to rule the country. I think he started planning his moves then.'
Prince Paras grew up with the crown prince as the two were just six months apart in age.
The second reason was his love for Devyani Rana. The royal family did not want Prince Dipendra to marry her as she was from a rival family.
Prince Paras dismissed the notion that his cousin had shot the family on impulse after drinking heavily that night.
'He had talked to us (the younger generation of Nepali royalty) about it a year before it happened,' revealed Prince Paras.
'I remember it clearly. It was his birthday (in 2000) and he told all of us that he would bring down the 'ivory tower'. But we didn't take him seriously. How could we?
'This was the crown prince talking. He was going to be our king. And who would believe that he would kill his own father?'
But Prince Paras said he sensed something amiss on the night of the murders when he went to Prince Dipendra's house for one of the family's regular Friday night parties.
'Another cousin and I asked to be excused from the party because we wanted to go somewhere else. Usually he agreed, but this time Dipendra said no. He wanted us to be there.'
And once he got there, Prince Paras noticed that his cousin was behaving abnormally, acting as though he was drunk when he clearly was not.
'I know him and I know when he had had too much to drink. He said he had been drinking since the afternoon but there was no smell of alcohol on him.
'How can that be? If he had been drinking all the while, he should have been reeking. But there was no smell.'
When the crown prince's father came into view and was about to make his entrance, the prince 'collapsed' on the floor, forcing Prince Paras and Prince Dipendra's brother, Prince Niranjan, to help him up and take him back to his room.
But that was not the last they saw of Prince Dipendra.
In an act of extreme brutality, Prince Dipendra soon returned to slaughter his entire family.
S Murali is The New Paper's associate editor.
Why he's opening up now
'THE Nepali people need to know the truth,' said Prince Paras, eight years after seeing 10 members of his royal family gunned down ruthlessly.
The persistent, painful nightmares stopped after four years.
What haven't stopped, however, are the ugly rumours of his involvement in the incident on 1Jun2001.
But enough is enough, says Crown Prince Paras.
He now wants to clear his name.
Reacting to recent reports that the current Nepali government might reopen the investigation into the massacre, he decided to speak to senior Singapore media men. (The New Paper, Singapore)