Friday, June 28, 2013

A bunch of Political thoughts I - V

Political Thought I - 90 days of actual democracy?

With the introduction of Bhutanese brand of democracy, there is a time frame of 3 months for open talks. However, it is observed that for reasons of self-preservation or other motivation, social media abound with anonymous wonder thirsts- a great many with good intentions and greater more of evil destroyers. Then we have politicians and people who come forward in public to bring out issues that affect everyday life. Unfortunately for Election Commission of Bhutan census, security and language happen to be prevailing social anxieties along with land issues.

I personally view the 90 days election period, once in five years, as a blessing to the Kingdom and all its institutions. It provides a much needed space to utter aloud the aspirations of the common people. When few individuals stand up in public and air their problems, hopes and grievances, it is actually a political and administrative boon to the otherwise much revered and possibly also feared authorities and institutions. It opens up the demographic hearts of the common people in full view of the rulers and administrators.

The ways the affairs of election issues are directed, no one can doubt the authority and the clout of Election Commission of Bhutan. But still as humbly and as meekly as possible thoughts creep into one’s mind as to the wisdom of throttling the voice of those few who raise queries that affect the peace, stability and harmony of families, during election period.

People who frankly air their thoughts and problems in public are those who bear no malice or animosity. Rather it is a display of hope and trust that appropriate authorities are adequately understanding and sufficiently benevolent to address the issues raised. However when such open attitude is met with veiled threats, the grievances do not disappear. Instead the system rots faster to disintegration as has been demonstrated in other regions of the World. It is not easy to intelligently and patiently exercise tolerance but often palatable end solutions are derived from such efforts. On the other hand, one could say that more tolerance may be followed by more demands. So why give in the first time? Rather fix them up for good from the initial stage. Unfortunately fixing for good seems applicable to broken plumbing or vases but for a vibrant society there are no quick fixes for good. And according to our population census, we do have a very young and therefore vibrant society which could be easily frustrated as young minds are prone to be.

Political Thought II – the Birth of Regional Politics

On June 12th, 2013, a national newspaper of Bhutan called “The Bhutanese” put for public viewing an article, “ECB green lights entry of DNT candidates to PDP”. I noted the observations and reservations expressed by ECB and the “legal ground” for the green light. My own views on political alliance were expressed in my blog on 10th June, 2013. However, one is made to realize that during election period, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) holds the scepter. So it is not possible for anyone else to display any other light.

However this anointment of political parties’ alliance has given birth to future regional politics and “possibly inadvertently” sowed the seed of regional discord. The irony is that the young constitution of Bhutan was meant to unify the Bhutanese people and prevent regionalism, race and religious discords. But destiny like a large river has its way of finding its own course regardless of human intervention. Therefore five years down the line you can bet that there will be a proliferation of political parties based on regional forces and led by regional figures of national stature. The political parties will be fuelled by regional sentiments, peopled by more than 2000 fresh or out of work graduates and their immediate family members. There will never be dearth of political ideologies, manifestoes and funds. For all parties the publicly declared ideologies would be the king, country and people. The manifestoes would be better wages, salaries, roads, bridges and golden age for the aged and more opportunities for the young and greater promises for rural dwellers. Bribes to win support of GT and DT members will be gift wrapped in amenities and funds for gups and tshogpas under the guise of geogs and chiwogs. And party funds will come from national coffers through ECB, business firms and powerful elites who wish to exercise political influences. And the mandatory party members will come from family members of party candidates as well as that of paid party workers. After the primary election, the parties will form alliances to win the prized trophy of governance and dividends thereof. Only the masses will lose out because they would have voted for A and B parties but a new party C comes to power.

In retrospect this approval for political alliance has enabled the discovery of political and social tunnels for diverse aspirations of different regions, race, language and religion of our tiny Kingdom. The stamp of legality accorded to joining forces of Nyamrup founders, office bearer (the face, body and soul of DNT) with PDP has legally provided the means for the different voices and sentiments of regional political groups to subvert the constitutional limitations of participation to only 2 political parties in the general election. It seems that destiny found her course from amongst all the maze of political jungles. And this kind of political path has been kindled by the very authority “ECB” that was supposed to preserve a constitutionally pre-determined political unity and channel. Is it good, dangerous or necessary? Just take a tablet of positive medication and believe that true democracy lies in giving voice and recognition to all sorts of voters, ideas and interest groups.

Political Thought III – Political Destiny: as they come so they may reap

Kings of Bhutan are destined by hereditary fortune of birth and not long ago Ministers, Dashos, Government Secretaries and Directors came about through majestic grace. Now under democracy, many also come by chance and quite a few come about possibly by destiny.

Lyonpo Thakur, Pema Gyamtsho and N.L. Rai may have stayed in their previous line of occupations but for the bureau tic shoves which in hindsight may have been destiny push. Few other MPs could also have come about as their tryst with destiny but I have no background details. However, what I most find tale telling of destiny is that of Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay. He was the first member to lay the foundation of PDP under the blessings of Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup. But his own political fortune rose out of the ashes of PDP. To elevate him to the presidency of PDP, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup had to go, Lyonpo Jigme Singye had to go, Dasho Sonam Tobgay Dorji the South Thimphu candidate had to go, all eastern and central dzongkhag PDP candidates had to lose and only one lone Gasa candidate, the least populated Dzongkhag had to survive to keep political company. Haa the second least populated Dzongkhag could live with a Gasa candidate win.
It is rather frightfully haunting when one realizes that in 2008 PDP was almost totally so wiped out that there really was no one left to hold the leadership of party except for the South Haa MP elect Tshering Tobgay. Thankfully the first general election disaster was limited to one political party and several natural calamities. It was not like that when Kazi Lhendup Dorjee attained his goal of being the 1st Chief Minister of Sikkim. Disaster then had struck the people, Chhogyel dynasty and Sikkim.

For all Bhutanese politicians of destiny or otherwise, only the future can tell whether we have in them the makings of Napoleon, Hitler, Nelson Mandela or God forbid Kazi Lhendups. But one thing is quite certain; there is no Lincoln, Gandhi let alone Buddha among all politicians of the world.

Political Thought IV – Doctors and Politics

Sometimes back I read a Kuensel article about doctors and their political misfortune. The article correctly recorded a history of political mis-ventures by doctors during the short period of democracy in Bhutan.
After two prominent doctors’ dismissal primary round performance during this election, I did my own rustic analysis. The conclusion was that doctors even those with administrative skills were not able to shed off the doctor-patient attitude and assumptions which made matters worse.

Voters are unlike those ailing patients and anxious escorts who line up outside doctor’s chamber and who accept even harsh scolding with brave smiles. Voters are largely in good state of health and possess an ace up their sleeves that can make a visible difference to the life of a doctor politician just like the stethoscope around a doctor’s neck that can determine life and death in a hospital.

A doctor has a good chance of success in political venture if he or she is able to assume the role of a patient and pay the same kind of homage to the voters that a doctor usually is accorded in their hospital kingdom by the patients and their obliging relatives.

Political Thought V – International politicking a national lesson

It is never enough to just be so drowned in local or national politics. Sometimes it opens eyes to be aware of regional or international political happenings such as in Afghanistan which has become one of the several centre stages of American and Western European politics. The others are Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

America and her allies seem to have had enough of their follies in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Many decades back it was Vietnam. Now America wants to leave Afghanistan in 2014 and yet not appear to be deserting the anti-Taliban factions. So America is negotiating with Taliban regime for whose removal America had initially invaded Afghanistan. Taliban is already the de facto ruler of Afghanistan and America is willing to publicly concede this fact but needs a face saving concession from Taliban regime. What America probably wants is a declaration by Taliban that under its next official regime, it will no longer be mandatory for all Afgan men to wear beards and for all Afgan women to remain uneducated and jobless and that it will also arrange an election to vote itself to power after America quits Afghanistan.

President Karzai and his government took public offence of the direct USA-Taliban negotiation in a Taliban Embassy at Quetta. Probably Karzai felt personally humiliated so his government stopped the on-going USA-Afghanistan security talks.

Next the president’s palace (Karzai’s official residence) suffered a series of explosions and gunfire. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the fireworks whilst USA took a vow of silence. After the physical fright, president Karzai has now agreed to negotiate with Taliban on behalf of the Americans. That’s the color of national politics when national leader play fiddle to big brother and absconds true national goals.

Afghanistan has had big brothers. Earlier it was British India, then later Soviet Union followed by America. And it has political leaders whose allegiances were more concentrated to serve big brother interest rather than being pro-Afghan nation and people. However, it now seems that the till-now-manipulated Afghan masses have won the game through sheer patience, courage and number. Soon Afghanistan will have no shadow masters or big brothers. The so-called Middle-East spring is beginning to flower else-where too.

India and Bhutan – Friend or Master?

I came across an article in Times of India of 26th June, 2013 titled “Bhutan’s road to democracy leads to China?” I have made my comments subject to limitations imposed by the Times of India webpage. The following is my full comment.

I think it is an insult to Indo-Bhutan friendship and trust and a display of Indian media’s arrogance and ignorance. The worse thing is that the article expounds the same theme that few unscrupulous Bhutanese politicians have accused the 1st democratic Prime Minister of Bhutan, “complicating relation with India by meeting Chinese Premier”. We have in Bhutan our own brand of hungry politicians the likes of Kazi Lhendup Dorjees who are ever ready to trample genuine national long term interests to achieve personal short term political ambitions. Therefore the article is an unwelcome attempt to interfere into the internal affairs of Bhutan during the 2nd General Election.

What audacious assumptions the writer makes when he states to quote, “it now appears that the King wasn’t quite in the loop as Bhutan expanded its diplomatic ties with 53 countries, as against 22 in 2008, as well as its overture to Beijing.” Where does he think the King of Bhutan was in the last 5 years? And how come Indian leaders were not aware of Bhutan’s attempt to gain a non-permanent seat at the Security Council. I thought it was pursued at the behest of India. How does Bhutan achieve any UN ambition if she does not develop diplomatic relationships with other UN members and does not accord proper cognizance to China, her closest neighbour and a very influential permanent member of UN Security Council? The writer’s whole assertion seems to be a repeat of few very dangerous Bhutanese politicians who are ready to compromise the sovereignty of Bhutan in pursuit of personal political power. As a matter of record, it is not the task of any Bhutanese Prime Minister and government to loop the King. The democratically elected leaders are required to serve the people and national interests of Bhutan in the footsteps of the Kings of Wangchuck dynasty. His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan are the real masters of the Prime Minister and any government elected. So no one especially our friends from India or our own ambitious politicians should attempt to sow discord between the King and the people who elect the government.

National interests of Bhutan have to rise over and above the politics of always playing the Indian tune. We are not just good neighbours of India. We are a good and reliable friend of India. But Bhutan and Bhutanese are sovereignty unto our self. Therefore Bhutan’s paramount national interests and affairs just cannot be only pleasing India. We have to please ourselves too!

Why do Indian media and politicians want to castrate Bhutan for the most harmless relationship effort with China? Just the other day, I heard a rumour of a bureaucrat of India chastising Bhutanese leadership of being “dishonest”. What the hell is that suppose to mean? Which national leaders and governments bare its soul to another nation? We are not paid sex workers that benefactors need to know when our eyelashes and asses move and in which direction.

In a kingdom of 600,000 population, we have in Bhutan around 200,000 Indians in the forms of Indian Military teams, Indian Border Road Organizations (Para-military force), contractors, business firms, workers etc.. Almost all our imports are from India and all our water resources are harnessed for mutual benefit of the two countries. Bhutan is heavily dependent on Indian goodwill and financial assistance. All Bhutanese realize that our livelihoods have improved greatly beyond our wildest dreams because of the generosity of Indian Government and Indian people in the last 50 years.

Pray! Tell me what more testimony does Indian politicians and Indian media and for that matter even our own India hawkers need to underline the dependence and trust of Bhutan upon India?
So what if Bhutan endeavors to improve its relation with China? We do not wish China to take a morning walk over Bhutan. And in my humble view, maybe it would be a big relief if we can get some financial assistance to cover shortages in planned budget equivalent to 242B for the 11th five year plan. Bhutanese media is already expressing government’s fear that existing donors including most generous India is yet to commit fund for the 11th FYP. Leaving aside my personal thought on financial assistance, India, I think can rest reassured that there will be no Chinese presence in Bhutan replacing Indian Military Training Teams (Imtrat) and Indian-Para-military force (Dantak). The hydropower projects would still be cherished joint ventures of Indo-Bhutan. And there is not a China man residing in Bhutan verses more than 200,000 Indian friends living and rendering assistance to Bhutan.
There is constant talk of delay in release of project tied finance and other committed fund from India (including 4.2B for the 10th FYP which ends on 30th June, 2013) every time Bhutan or Bhutanese leadership acts to preserve national interest. It sounds more like a benefactor tightening the purse string whenever the mistress is unable to comply with every whims of his fancy.
The first line of the article “Bhutan’s road to democracy leads to China?” states to quote, “what’s arguably India’s only friendly neighbour, Bhutan”. It speaks volumes of Indian politicians and Indian media attitude. If you keep dictating and bullying, there will be no neighbours, only disgruntled and venomous nations surrounding India.

Bhutan is not just a friendly neighbour. We are India’s friend and I, for one wish Bhutan to remain so. So treat Bhutan as a friend, not as pawn to be manipulated for every whatever reason. Stop herding us like lambs in a Penn to be slaughtered whenever India desires a dish of lamb stew.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Political Storm that threatens the Democratic Dignity of Bhutan.

Today the Bhutanese Media confirmed that the highest echelon of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa Political Party ( DNT ) are now part of People’s Democratic Party ( PDP ). The highest echelon includes the President, the Vice President, a prominent original promoter of DNT and another DNT winner. And four other DNT candidates are piggybacked to the four sought after Candidates to strengthen DNT’s hand within the Party Alliance with PDP.

Impact of the Party Alliance.

1)  This reduces the original DNT to the same status as Druk Chirwang Tshogpa ( DCT ) Political Party or even worse because without its high command DNT is reduced into a nonexistent Entity. The face of the Party has been taken away and the major part of the 17.5% primary votes goes with the Candidates who have switched over.

2)   This merger of 8 DNT Candidates with the PDP cannot be termed as Party Hopping or Opportunistic leap of registered Party members from one Political Party to another as permitted under Election Laws. The Election Law refers specifically to members of a registered Political Party. It does not refer to Constituency Candidates of a Political Party who are nominated, accepted and registered with the Election Commission of Bhutan ( ECB ) as Party Candidates.

3)   The complete switching over of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s high command along with 5 other Candidates to the People’s Democratic Party definitely constitutes the formation of Political Parties Alliance. It is way beyond what the Election Law states i.e. resigning of registered members from one Political Party to join another Political Party and contest the General Elections.

4)    The formation of Political Party Alliance to contest the General Election poses a historic challenge to the Election Commission of Bhutan, the Institution of Judiciary in Bhutan and the Institution of Bhutanese Monarchy. As independent as the Election Commission of Bhutan is supposed to be, yet, it alone may not be able to give the approval or disapproval stamp to this emergence of Political Parties Alliance.

5)   When a Political Party receives around 18% of votes in the Primary Election, it represents nearly one-fifth of the Bhutanese population. How do we throttle the voice of 1/5th of the Nation? This is something more Bhutanese should have dwelt upon prior to the adoption of the Constitution.

6)   At the time of drafting the Constitution of Bhutan, I did point out in writing this dilemma if only 2 Political Parties are permitted to contest in the General Election. And now this dilemma is haunting Bhutan immediately after the 1st Primary Election held in the nation. In the year 2007 itself, I felt that the nation had a moral, social and political obligation to take into account any Political Party that receives over 15% of votes in the Primary Election and that was why I had appealed to the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee that more than two Political Parties need to be considered for General Election. However, national wisdom stuck to 2 Political Parties and the Draft Constitution has been signed into Mother of Law by the first Parliament. And I don’t think it leaves any room for Political Alliance under whatever Shade and Colour. And if Election Commission chooses to interpret Election Law to suit political convenience than I think it would be less painful for the nation to terminate the tenure of Election Commissioners then have the process of Democracy murdered.

7)   As of this date, it would be unconstitutional for 3 Political Parties to participate in the present General Election. The Political Alliance of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and People’s Democratic Party under the banner of People’s Democratic Party is unconstitutional. The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa has already publicly declared that their candidates even after joining another Political Party are expected to, “take DNT’s principles and concerns forward.”

8)     It is too late this time but this coming 2nd Parliament must amend the Constitution.

a)    Make provision for a 3rd Political Party to contest General Election. The result of the 1st Primary Election is sufficiently evident enough to substantiate the need for a 3rd Political Party in the General Election. It will also take care of domination of Bhutanese political scene by just one national Party.
b)   Otherwise do away with the nomination process of Political Party Candidates for the Primary Round of Election. Keep the Primary Election purely between POLITICAL PARTIES as it was meant to be and not between Political Party Constituency Candidates as has been encouraged by Election Commission.

9)  The Election Commission of Bhutan should never have over stepped its mandate. Why were the Political Parties required to identify and nominate 47 Candidates for 47 Constituencies when Primary Election was primarily for selection of two Political Parties to contest in the General Election from amongst numerous Political Parties? Even the BBS debate forum sponsored by ECB had pitched constituency candidates against each other. For Primary Election, one would have thought that 3 public debates would have been more than adequate: 1) Between Presidents of Political Parties, 2) Between Vice Presidents of Political Parties and 3) Between General Secretaries of Political Parties.

10) Things misfire and bring embarrassment to all because politics of convenience has been given a free rein. Is it now possible to clear this political mess and recoup democratic dignity? I think Bhutan and Bhutanese and our relevant authorities must think deeply.

11) Whatever we decide, please do not lay grounds for distrusts, shameful partiality and national discord. The people who make rules cannot keep bending the same continuously without harming the unity and stability of the Nation. It is time that we share the onus of responsible interpretation of Election Laws that ensures transparency into the process of Democracy. Democratic Reforms were introduced to avoid any future Public Discontent as so demonstrated in late 1980s in the Southern Region of the Nation. It is necessary now to look beyond the short-term political gain for any political faction. Bhutan and Bhutanese must avoid sowing seeds of public disillusionment that in the long run could adversely affect the social and political thought process of the populace. 

I personally do not think that the ongoing Political Alliance would actually make a big difference in the outcome of the General Election.  First PDP may suffer similar backlash as Druk Phuensum Tshogpa ( DPT ) suffered in Punakha and Haa for booting out old Candidates. And secondly the voters of DNT may have sincerely voted for New Times New Ideas and not Old Wine in Old Casket. If this presumption is true then voters especially those postal voters and other educated voters would have no further reasons to vote for the same Candidates. I also do not think PDP would have wanted as many as 8 DNT Candidates but maybe that was the only way to strike an Alliance deal with DNT. It would not have been possible especially for someone like Aum Dorji Choden the President of DNT to serve under a banner of another Political Party without substantial number of her own Party Candidates joining her. It would have been like a mother abandoning her infant baby to be in stride with her new Lover.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Who must Haaps thank for stopping the Dragong mining project?

In regards to the Facebook announcement made by Haa NC regarding the stoppage of proposed mining, let me put things in proper perspective. A few days back Dasho Dr. Gado contacted me. He said he had prevailed upon Mr. Pema Juney and RSA owner Mr. Rinchen Dorji to lift their equipments away from the proposed mining site. He told me that due to his busy campaign schedule, he was unable to take up the matter earlier. Dr. Gado himself had nothing to do with the project but since he was the DPT candidate, rumours had sprung up about him being a promoter of the mining project. He felt it was the rumour against him which cost him Katsho Geog votes. So in desperation he took up the matter with the mining company who agreed to remove their equipments. It is very possible that Mr. Pema Juney and Mr. Rinchen Dorji of RSA Company had realized that it would be futile to carry out exploratory mining works at huge financial cost since the public of Haa and the Local Government of Haa have already objected to it and was prepared to go to the highest authority of the land. Therefore it could not have been much of a pain for them to accede to Dr. Gado’s request.

Possibly Dasho Dr. Gado may have also informed about the development to Haa NC and therefore the announcement from Dasho Tshering Dorji’s side. The fact is that as of date, the Director General of Geology and Mines has not yet responded to the two letters sent by Haa Dzongkhag Administration and the Chairman of Haa Local Government.

Initially, the people of Lhayulkha Village approached the Dzongkhag Administration to stop the mining project. They also submitted an appeal letter to the Director General of DGM which was forwarded by the Dzongkhag Administration to DGM Office in Thimphu. However, a few days later, Dasho Dzongrab who was officiating as Dzongda issued an order to the Katsho Gup and Town Thuemi directing them to tell the Lhayulkha villagers that the project cannot be stopped since permission had already been granted. That stand by the Haa Dzongkhag Administration spooked the communities of Haa and they decided to join the people of Lhayulkha Village to stop the imminent destruction of local environment by the proposed mining project.

The people of Katsho Geog came together and approached the Geog Yargye Tshogdu (GYT) and led by the GYT members they approached the Chairman of Dzongkhag Yargye Tshogdu (DYT) and also the Dzongkhag Administration of Haa. They submitted a petition which in nutshell asked the respective leaders of the Local Government to stop the destructive mining project and if they are unable to carry out this task then let the people of Katsho Geog approach His Majesty the King. Both Dasho Dzongrab and the Chairman of Local Government addressed the gathering of over 250 household representatives and assured that the mining project would be stopped because it was against the decision of the Local Government to keep Haa as a Green Dzongkhag. Further the project did not have any clearance from the stakeholders and the Local Government.

The Dzongrab and the Chairman of Local Government have written to the Director General of DGM to stop the project even if it is purported to be exploratory in nature. The people were not buying this explanation. The letter from the DYT Thrizen was very explicit. It stated that the DYT had declared Haa Dzongkhag a green zone and a tourist destination for cultural and trekking tours. The stakeholders were never consulted and the Local Government was kept in the dark and the proposed mining project would destroy the most densely populated region of Haa Dzongkhag. Therefore DGM must stop this project immediately and instruct the project management to leave the site with their equipments. And if the Central Government insists on pushing the project then the Government must first complete the task of relocating all the villages, goenpas, two schools, hospital, army encampment and the Haa town.

To me it was unthinkable that the Government would go to such extreme length to destroy 50 years of development in Haa for the purpose of quenching the thirst of few money mongers. Therefore I was confident that the proposed mining project would be stopped sooner or later. And when it is stopped the people of Haa have to only thank themselves. It was the united efforts of the humble communities themselves that stood in defiance against the powerful forces behind the mining project. There is one person who must be really thanked and he is Samar Geog Gup Tshewang Tandin who is the Chairman of Local Government of Haa. I thank the Haa Deities Meri Phuensum and Ap Chundu for blessing the people of Haa with a surprising very honest capable and courageous Thrizen of DYT. I do not deserve any credit and I don’t think anyone else should also lay claim to what is rightfully the united achievement of the humble Haa communities consisting mainly of poor villagers who are rich in honesty and integrity.

During the recent visit of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen, the people of Haa were told by His Majesty that they were courageous, sensible and forthright and that Haa people have always been faithful to the Kings and the Country. I pray that the bond between the people of Haa and our Monarch remain as strong as ever and that may His Majesty protect the harmony of Haa community.

I am Apolitical but I do favour Policies strengthening National Sovereignty

This is in response to Kuensel Online comment referred to me by anonymous Goldenboy.

goldenboy dtd 5th June 2013
"Sir (Sangay Wangcha, Haa), from your statement it clearly indicates that you are a firm supporter of DPT without any doubt. And i respect your views for that but is Lyonchen immortal or will the country not sustain without him?It’s high time we embrace change, Lyonchen and the former ministers have done what was within their capacity and i thank them for that. But looking at the current situation of the country such as the rupee crisis, i feel that fresh brains could come up with new ideas of tackling the problem whereas the old lot cant think out of the box. And supporting a single party wouldn’t it be dangerous? As of date, from two oranges we have just tasted one orange and now we know how it tastes, and we would like to eat the other orange and see whether it tastes the same/better. Later on we can decide which one is better."

Dear goldenboy, as a general rule of thumb I do not react to responses from anonymous writers. However, you seem to be someone genuinely concerned and not any Tom, Dick and Harry (too many exist in Bhutanese social media). Kuensel Online is not the forum to share my life history but still a summary is necessary because in all innocence or ignorance or arrogance you alleged that I am a firm supporter of DPT.

I do not support any political party or personality. If you have had kept up over the years of my views you should know that I was the only private Bhutanese citizen (under my own name never anonymously) who publicly chided the last government for hiring McKinsey and for introducing the tobacco law. It was I who termed it, “draconian”. I also privately wrote to the Prime Minister to declare a national holiday to celebrate GNH and the Bhutanese family instead of public nuisance of weekly pedestrian days. A little more than a month later, the President of UN Assembly declared World Happiness Day. It seemed that UN heard me but my government did not. I still believe that this World Happiness Day now a public holiday in Bhutan can substitute for all pedestrian days if we bar all mechanical transports along with polluting factories from operating on the Happiness Day. It would be a far more effective and convenient way to promote clean environment for a happy Bhutanese family.

I also did write privately to the Prime Minister expressing my huge disappointment regarding government decision to withdraw Bhutan from the International Shanghai Trade Expo. In fact all the Countries in the world participated including India except for the two tiny countries, Bhutan and another the name of which I cannot recall right now.

The Sino-Bhutan relationship has been a very big concern to me since very early age when my father along with all men aged 15 years and above was called up by the 3rd King to defend the country in 1962 when Bhutan feared that Indo-China war that began at Tawang may spill over to Bhutan. I desire peace with both India and China. This was also what I submitted to His Majesty the 3rd King when he visited the Ugyen Wangchuck Academy at Paro. I was then 19 years old.  When His Majesty the 4th King made possible the signing of Sino-Bhutan Border Treaty, I thanked His Majesty from the bottom of my heart.  And again when His Majesty successfully renegotiated the 1949 Indo-Bhutan Treaty towards the end of his Reign, I was overjoyed. When the Prime Minister of Bhutan met with the Chinese Premier against the backdrop of Rio-Conference attended by so many world leaders, I felt that we have a Prime Minister who was following the vision of their Majesties the Kings. And yet it was shocking for me that we have Bhutanese who abused him for what actually is a giant step in Bhutan’s foreign relation and totally in keeping with the royal vision for Bhutan. I simply wish to give adequate time for Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley to take the next forward step after the historic meeting with the Chinese Premier. Maybe he would be forced to abandon the process because we have huge anonymous voices that exercise super clout to dampen any tangible Sino-Bhutan relationship. It’s all for the future to see what he does.

I am very much pro India and I have much to be grateful to the Government and the People of India. We as a Nation and as Bhutanese individuals have come thus far and taken giant strides only because His Excellency Prime Minister Nehru of India took the arduous journey (trekking) to Bhutan to extend to the King of Bhutan and his subjects the hand of friendship from the Government and People of India. But the People of Bhutan and that of India must now be realistic. Bhutan and Bhutanese cannot ignore the larger than life existence of China physically overlooking Bhutan and towering over world economy and influencing the dynamic of International Politics. It is for this lifelong personal reason and future of Bhutan that I wish to support the GNH and Sino-Bhutan efforts of Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley in his service to the King and the People of Bhutan.

I am dedicated only to Bhutan. I am the only Bhutanese who publicly prioritized Tsawasum in the order of Country, People and King because without Bhutan there cannot be Bhutanese and without Bhutan and Bhutanese people there cannot be a Bhutanese King. I am dedicated to the Wangchuck Dynasty because the past Kings have offered selfless and visionary services to the Kingdom and her people and the 5th King have committed to continue in the same path. I have always kept national interest at heart and my past deeds should substantiate that I stand only for Bhutan.

1)      I pioneered greater part of Bhutan Tourism development when it was really essential. Tourism started before I joined but all tourists came through travel agents in India. For several years they kept tour payments outstanding. And in 1977, when we insisted for payments, the travel agents in India backed by the Reserve Bank of India said, “Take the payment in rupees, Bhutan is not entitled to receive payments in dollars.”
Against all odds, but with Kenchhosum’s help, I managed to link up directly with foreign tour agencies and through sheer personal pleading and reasoning even got them to pay in dollars for all tourist groups that they had sent to Bhutan in the past years through travel agencies in India. (Go ahead and get your confirmation from those that worked under me or above me.)

2)      I met with the Joint Secretary North, External Affairs of India and successfully reduced Transit Permit issuance time from 3 months to 3 weeks for foreign tourists coming to Bhutan. In 1970s there was no Druk Air and foreign visitors had to travel through restricted areas of North India to reach Bhutan.

3)      I also worked as second-in-command in the Department of Trade, Industry and Mines during 1980s. Lyonpo Zimba was then the Director and Deputy Minister Lyonpo Om Pradhan was head of Trade and Industry Ministry. Late Dasho Dorji Tenzing was the Director General of Immigration and Census Department and Lyonpo Dago Tshering was the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and direct boss of Dasho Dorji Tenzing. Deputy Ministry Lyonpo Chenkyap Dorji was Secretary of Planning Commission. Ask the surviving prominent 4 officials,”Who stood up in lone isolation for His Majesty’s vision of staffing the Trade and Industry sectors with Bhutanese people and doing away with dependence on foreign employees?”
Late Dasho Rinpochhe of Tashi Group was very angry. He could not understand why I had issued a letter which 3 Deputy Ministers agreed with him that I should not have. Lyonpo Leki Dorji the then Secretary to His Majesty the King was also there in Dasho’s residence as guest, quietly drinking beer. After 3 hours of firing me from 6 to 9pm he said this Haap does not even utter a word and ordered me to leave. I politely submitted that I will leave after having the dinner he had called me to attend. I had my way. I deeply respected Dasho Rinpochhe and understood his frustrations especially because the high officials supported him. However, as officiating Director I only had the powers to implement the policies and not exercise discretion.
Dasho Dorji Tenzing stood by the letter I had issued as officiating Director of Trade and Industry until he too felt overwhelming pressure which forced him to report to His Majesty that based on my letter he had not extended the working permit for Tashi Group’s some 400 foreign employees. His Majesty’s command was that he found my stand was in line with the policy. That ended the matter but before that I was ordered by my Minister to withdraw my letter which I refused. But I did tell Lyonpo Om Pradhan that as my Minister he could cancel my letter but he wanted Lyonpo Zimba then the Director to do it. He agreed but before he got around in issuing the superseding order, Dasho Dorji Tenzing conveyed His Majesty’s command. That was the beginning of the end of foreign domination especially in the Trade sectors. (I have given the names of concerned people only for the reason to enable skeptics to counter check facts.)

4)      Ask Bhutanese dolomite owners as to who had stood behind them and told the giant Steel Plants of India that dolomite was our produce therefore they cannot fix the price as it was customarily being done in the previous years. I did a background study and fixed a reasonable rate for per ton of dolomite (much higher than previous rates) and told them that they could buy or leave it. I remember that the mine owners like Mr. Omtey Penjor of present Yarkay Group and Dasho Pasang Dorji of present Karma Group and others were very nervous incase the Steel Plant representatives did not give in to our demand. Somehow I held my jittery group together and finally the representatives of the Steel Plants gave in. Since then it has been Bhutanese dolomite mine owners who set the rate for their produce and the buyers from India who negotiated. Before I came to Industry Department it was the other way. The Bhutanese dolomite selling rate was fixed by the Indian Steel Plants who purchased the dolomites.

5)      As a private citizen, it was I who stood for Bhutan’s policy and demanded that Danida office leave Bhutan because it had undermined my country’s sovereign power. ( I never subscribed to this business of police clearance but it was and is a national policy and I just could not take it when Danida flouted it.) I wrote to all relevant Ministries and Agencies including that of Donors and UN Agencies in Bhutan expressing my views on the undermining of Bhutan’s policy by Danida so that everyone will understand how a Bhutanese feels. I still recall the near shock response of the Danida resident representative, “I never met a Bhutanese like you until now.” My response was, “Until now you had not undermined Bhutan’s sovereignty.”

6)      On behalf of Haa people I had also publicly stated that the people of Haa had a historical dependence on Bhutan-Tibet Trade for the livelihood of their families.  And if any foreign groups or agencies disapproved of such historical ties, maybe they could provide alternate means.

7)       Most recently the heart of Haa was threatened by money mongers hungry for new mineral mines. Nobody spoke up for the communities affected by the proposed OMYA- RSA Mining Project at Haa Dragong. All 3 representatives of Haa people were silent. Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay and the Haa Dzongdha who joined PDP later were aware of the community sentiment. NC Dasho Tshering Dorji was aware of it and Dasho Doctor Gado Tshering, DPT candidate was also aware of it and yet nobody spoke publicly against the project because quite a few big shots and well to do Haaps were supporting the project. It was only the general public who realized that their very community life was threatened. They had approached the Dzongkhag authority that washed their hands off the problem stating that the project was approved by Central Government. As a Haap I had to join them. Together we decided to once again approach the Local Government and the Dzongkhag Administration and if necessary approach the concerned Ministry and as a last resort if no Administration responded, we decided to approach His Majesty the King. It now seems that the Interim Ministry is responding to the cries of the communities of Haa. For record much later, politician seeking votes opposed the project because by then they realized the gravity of public sentiment.

So my dear anonymous goldenboy, don’t you or any Bhutanese ever assume that I am a firm supporter of DPT party. I am a thorough bred senior Bhutanese. I have but one life to live and I live it as a Bhutanese. No one owns me but my Country and what I do or say in public is inspired by pure belief that it serves national interest. And by the way, whilst Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay is firming up to demonstrate his full leadership qualities, it is never too late because he is just around 42 years of age whilst Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley is at his last shot at the Prime Minister’s post as per Constitutional dictates. And let me add that I deeply respect Dasho Nob Gyetse the father of Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay. Did you know that as a young RBG officer, it was he who arrested the assassin of the 1st Prime Minister of Bhutan His Excellency Jigme Palden Dorji? And now it is his son who is competing for the post of Prime Minister. Nobody can really say what awaits in the future!

And lastly in case you are too young to know I might as well tell you and those interested that I do posses some political insight and the necessary courage to state so because I do care for the well being of this nation. For example in 1998 when Cabinet was dissolved, I did publicly write and distribute a statement that I felt His Majesty the King was preparing for Democracy. And much later when the Constitution of Bhutan was being drafted, I wrote to the Chairman that having only two political parties in the General Election was not advisable for two reasons 1) It would not totally represent all the people of Bhutan and 2) That in such a small Country one political party could dominate and it might in the years to come, threaten the very core of national peace and stability i.e the Institution of Monarchy. Presently I do not see any such threat because our generation is still the part and parcel of the gift of Monarchy. I predicted the outcome of the Primary Election though I refrained from expressing in public. However, I did mention to those in close contact. My feeling was based on the domination of DPT and PDP in the public life of Bhutanese for the last 5 years and some very visible shortcomings of the other parties. But I must admit I am very impressed by the sheer gusto of the two women Presidents.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Welcome to Political Reality exposed by Primary Election

The national Primary Election of Bhutan was held on 31st May, 2013. The voters in their infinite wisdom have decided to entrust the same national leader to lead and the opposition to oppose. The ambitious but little known group has been left wayside and the attractive spinster undated.

I reached Haa on 31st May afternoon to cast my vote and returned today to Thimphu. The people of Haa are happy for Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay the present favourite son of Haa. I could not vote for our outstanding Haap because we differ on Sino-Bhutan Policy. I yearn for Haa to be once again the Trade Route to China’s Tibet and for Bhutan as a whole to strengthen its sovereignty and exercise more independence in its India dominated foreign policy. I have more faith in Lyonchen Jigmi Yoezer Thinley at the national helm of governance. Bhutanese leadership must be more than Pro-India. They must be supremely Pro-Bhutan.

To certain extent I have a fair idea of politics in Bhutan but it is not correct for me to monopolize political forecast publicly. However, as a Haap, I shall comment on Haa politics. I met a friend on the way to Haa (Voting Day) and he told me that the mining issue has changed Haa politics. In hindsight it seems so. It is difficult for many voters to distinguish between local issue and national issue. I feel confident that mining issue can be tackled even when DPT comes back to power. In fact when my good friend Dr. Gado telephoned me for support I told him that I have national reasons to support DPT but he had better clarify (categorically) his position in this mining attack upon the communities of Haa. I do not know how he allayed public mining fear. In the televised forum he was vague. In fact I found out the fear was enhanced because there was a rumour that Lyonchen’s son was involved in the mining project.

I hope the poor DPT performance in Haa does not adversely affect Dr. Gado’s chance at the ministerial berth in the DPT Cabinet because he was leading DPT campaign in the two constituencies of Haa. Will he get elected in the General Election? Yes, it is my take on the ongoing political current of Haa.

Like most Haaps, I do admire Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay’s headlong push. Sometime early last year, I did write to him to move away from specialization in opposing and display more national leadership qualities. Like all self achievers, he did not take kindly to my view. But in the last 2 weeks of Primary Campaign, I saw a transformation. It was no more the figure of opposition. He spoke of his own dream for the nation and dwelt less on criticizing DPT. He appeared to be offering an alternate leadership and pushed himself to the limit covering 19 Dzongkhags in the process. It is a very good start and he has age on his side. A young voter in Haa told me on 1st June “the dream of a Prime Minister from Haa was shattered last night”. The dream need not end here, I feel. But for the time being for the next 5 years I pray that Lyonchen Jigmi Yoezer Thinley’s next government (after General Election) receives necessary support from the National Council and the Opposition Party to take Bhutan to prosperity and progress.