Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What I call a Glaring denial.

I would never belittle any Political Party whether old or new or in the process of formation and their Party heirachy. It is a herculean task to establish and maintain a Political Party in Bhutan.

Democracy cannot make headway without Political Parties and differing personalities. The Parties do shoulder heavy respinsibilities. There is no easy way to even form a Political Party given the restrictions and requirements in place. I value and respect all political parties.

Therefore, actually today,  I just wanted to listen rather than raise doubt at this juncture.  But I just cannot convince myself that the founder of BKP did not indicate that BKP would like Dasho Neten to head the Party whilst approaching her. Also such crucial matter would have had to be discussed among core party members even if for sake of formality.  All else and views are what a party would want to promote or percieve and one can await further concrete development. Today's interview had to be what one calls a soft approach. I did not expect the new BKP President to come up with concrete ideas at this introductory BBS appearance. But this denial of having a prior idea of her position in the Party hierachy creates an unnecessary black hole. Can a politician of whatever calibre truly respect and trust the public with even a simple plain truth?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Beware of what World Bank economist Martin Rama said.

I read today's Kuensel article titled " Hydro revenue ..." highlighting what Martin Rama said about Bhutanese economy.  I am thunder struck with the recommendation that states " park additional hydropower revenue instead of giving a pay hike". Park yes because we need to have reserves but why emphasis do not raise civil servants pay?

Normally,  I would not see the devilish intent behind this advice but for the ongoing fb post of grievances about pay by some civil servants. And The Bhutanese attacking such sentiments.

The fact is majority of civil servants received an increase of 4% of basic pay the last time when MPs and other elected officials got over 60% increase. Earlier Local elected officials had also received substantial increase. This time Local elected officials got on the average over 50% increase in salary. I am happy with the increase and other benefits given for multiple reasons.

I would not begrudge what elected political officials get but I also can understand why civil servants desire for better pay. Whether the nation can afford or not can be of economic or political basis. I also understand that within the nation there have to be opposing views and I do not begrudge even the attacks upon the civil servants by The Bhutanese which some view as an unofficial PDP Party mouth piece. I reserve my opinion on this particular assumption. But when an outsider like Martin Rama of World Bank makes unwarranted interference into a hot national issue, my antenna goes up. World Bank is not just a monetary institution. It is highly political in composition and strategy.

What our leaderships  think of this is possibly beyond the humble parameters of most of us the common citizens including myself.  But at personal  level, I see it as a divisive advice. Why did Martin Rama feel particularly obliged to throw a World Bank spanner into this local issue about civil servants pay raise or no raise. All over the world the intellectuals instigate and the masses respond. Is a foreign factor introducing a disruption between the engine that runs the national train and the driver that directs the train.

The Bhutanese has concluded that civil servants are too few in number to influence the outcome of an  Election. I do not even know whether every civil servants will vote or not and if they vote for whom they will vote let alone concluding that they can or cannot  change election result.  All I know is civil servants are of diverse make and inclination and I have no basis to draw a conclusion that civil servants act as a group in political or any other major issues except in their common responsibility to serve the Tsawa Sum.

For me salary has always been an economic matter never a political issue. And I hope it remains so for many employees dependent solely on one income: Their monthly salary.

Monday, May 22, 2017

President Trump of America, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Rouhani of Iran.

The King of Saudi Arabia and the President of United States declares that  Iran as a nation funds and provides safe haven for terrorists and spearheads terrorism. But both the leaders puts the blame upon the Iranian regime. The people of Iran are innocent they declared. Somehow, I feel the world super power and the richest Arab Kingdom are way off regarding the supposed disconnect between the populace and Government of Iran. Perhaps targeting only the regime could be part of possible ongoing clandestine activities of fomenting insurrections  inside Iran by the two nations 

In my view, the Iranian people have elected their leaders. Just few days back President Rouhani was re- elected for a second term. The world in general view President Rouhani as a moderate and intelligent leader. He negotiated the Nuclear Deal with America plus other 5 nations. His re-election proves that he is a popular leader among the populace. So there cannot be disconnect between him and his people who gave him a very convincing second term. 

Facts of history.

1. Iran is the only Islam nation who successfully stood up against American might. From throwing the Shah out to takeover of American Embassy in Teran to withstanding decades of American lead sanctions and freezing of its world assets including bank accounts until the Nuclear Deal.

2. Iranian President is directly elected  by the people of Iran. So majority votes is required.  Not by delegates as in America where Trump became President although Hillary got majority votes. So Iranian system is more democratic in the sense of choice of the majority.

3. Iran is not like Saudi Arabia which is ruled by an absolute Monarch and thousands of Royal family members who own the national wealth and have total say in national affairs.  

4. Iran opposes aggressions of weak nations in the Middle East by America, Israel and Saudi Arabia. That is why Iran helps Hezbollah in Lebanon bullied by Israel,  Islamic force in Yemen invaded by Saudi Arabia and Palestine people persecuted and walled in by Israel.

5. Iran did not create ISIS. America created ISIS out of Taliban forces  and the disbanded Army of Saddam Hussain of Iraq. Taliban was created by Osama Bin Laden who was a member of Saudi Royal Family.

6. Iran has not attacked any country in modern history. America has conquered Iraq, destroyed Libya and now attacking Syria. Refugee floods have been unleashed by American conducted wars.  Saudi Arabia is funding the Opposition Forces of Syria and invading Yemen with American supplied war planes and bombs. So if Allah ever delivers justice, probably Iran will triumph in the ultimate fight between what President Trump has termed the war between " Good and Bad ".

Monday, May 15, 2017

China's Belt and Road Initiative Conference at Beijing ( 14 and 15 May 2017) that India did not attend. Bhutan shied away as usual.

India is a member of AIIB ( Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and NDB ( New Development Bank). However, India  did not participate in this mammoth China conference on Belt and Road Initiative. It is said that over 120 nations and international organisations including Heads of UNO, WTO and IMF attended the Conference. India's reluctance to attend is to do with Chinese investment ( some 54 billion dollars ) in Pakistan side of Jammu Kashmir which India interprets as offence to Indian sovereignty over whole of Jammu Kashmir region.

All other SAARC nations except Bhutan attended the conference and they are also members of AIIB. The China promoted Belt and Road Initiative is welcomed by almost all nations including America, all East and West European nations, Japan, two Koreas and Russia. The ASEAN countries and African nations are enthusiastic participants. This initiative is to bring the countries of Africa, Asia and Europe closer through trade and economic linkages.

China is promoting in a modern way,  the old silk routes both overland and over the sea. It is considered an ambitious giant economic venture that will transform world approach to economic, trade and social progress. It could very well even change the political landscape.  The initiative would generate an investmrnt of over one trillion dollars. No nation would want to be left out as it could very well bring about a new World economic order. America which was initially reluctant, has had to  change her stance in the last minute because she had much to lose if isolated. 

Maybe India, too, will have to reconsider her present stance in view of the vast economic opportunities. India like America just cannot exclude herself from all the rest who are actively participating.  BBIN was in a way a small effort by India to hinder China's 3 Continents trade and economic plan. Until recently India had American support but the Super Power has undergone a change of heart and now favours the Chinese land and maritime silk route ventures.

Participants from Europe, America and some international organisations have asked for more clarity and transparency. The President of China may have done just that in his addresses to over 1200 delegates including 29 Heads of State and Government attending the Conference .

America and Western European nations could be seeking opportunities for their own Corporations without actually making financial investment from their respective national coffers. However, China and her national companies are undertaking huge projects in many countries under this umbrella and building sea ports, airports, railways, roads, bridges and developing industrial zones. A major portion of investments in these giant development projects are funded by China. Most Asian and African nations are grateful to China for  successfully taking up projects that other developed nations and international banks had refused to fund. Chinese Companies are reputed to execute huge projects within project time frame and with excellent quality. In that way both China and the host nations benefit.

So it is quite a different scenario from that of our  own Indo- Bhutan hydro projects and especially not like the Chukka-  Damchu 29 Km length bypass motor road under construction by the Indian national military wing DANTAK for almost a decade. Maybe that explains the absence of India and  Bhutan at the  Beijing conference. With the the kinds of delays and cost escalations that we are suffering in both motor roads  and hydro projects, it is just not possible to stomach the goals of One Belt and One Road Initiatives that span across 3 Continents. Om Mani Pedmi Hung to that phobia.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Traffic Management and School Buses.

The introduction of bus services by Thromde for two schools in Thimphu will positively ease traffic congestion and provide time relief to many parents. The drivers have great responsibilities. Even sudden braking could cause injuries.

Buses are packed to the maximum limit including standing spaces. Therefore,  students also must exercise utmost discipline in the constricted environment where both big and small girls and boys are jam packed. I do not think such jam packed travelling condition even for short duration is socially a desirable environment. The trip would be around 35 to 45 minutes considering  embarking and waiting for bus to be filled to the brim and in the process of struggling to reach the exit whilst disembarking from the bus.  Peer pressures, eve teasing, physical harrassment could become prevalent in congested enclosure of a moving bus with hardly room to breathe. 

I would like to thank most gratefully the Traffic Police men and women for the superb job they did till now. Every morning and evening so many cars came to drop and pick up students at YHS and Lungtenzampa School Parking and yet traffic flowed with certainty and free of accidents.  Thank you so much RBP particularly the Traffic Division.  I also appreciate the concerns and care of parents who in caring for the safety of their own children also contributed in  preserving the safety of children of other parents.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

JAB and Journalists.

Congratulations to the Winners of Awards. And keep at it all members for awards are not booked in advance. Only earned through process each year.

Hard News does not come on a platter unless the source has a motive to share it. News especially tell tales type have to be dug. If officials do not provide information at your convenience especially a telephone call at odd hours, maybe thats not how you get hard news. Be up and awake when others are working.

There is long standing tradition of building personal contact network and watching out for those who leak informations to serve their own purpose. Soliciting rather than demanding could be a way. And investigative journalism is more than gathering gossips, better than police or official narrative and consist of views from multi angles and tying of numerous threads and loose ends. 

Financial difficulties of a media agency  can limit choice of coverage but is in no way related to quality of Press Freedom. If you are fair and free then you can get away with almost all your lines. In other words create your own space of media freedom. Earn respect through your output.  Its hard work on continuous basis.Tenacity is the call. However, Government support to cover major events will help providing wider information to general public.

Limitted readership and advertisement sources plus lack of financial discipline among media agencies are hindrance to overall media development. Journalists too must practice quality standard to gain public confidence which is a different yardstick from social media/fb popularity. 

Personal attacks even unsubstantiated and anti establishment stands attract popularity in our society and social media. However, only substantive journalism can earn long term credit and also create positive impact. May good journalism contribute to building the nation. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rejoice not for BBIN delay. It could come back in this or another form. Beware.

BBIN is not as much a sub regional economic agreement as it is a sub regional political club for India leaving out other SAARC members especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Bhutan does not face any official difficulty in motor vehicle road access in the sub region. Bhutanese trucks already ferry apples and oranges into Bangladesh transiting through courtesy Indian territories. Indian trucks come to Bhutan and Bhutanese vehicles have access to  Indian roads. However, except for the must transit route through India from one point of South Bhutan to another, most Bhutanese trucks and cars do not foray much into Indian territories. Not forbidden but because it is quite unsafe.

And Bhutan- Nepal bulk trade is non existing. Further, BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement will not cover for Bhutan the desired transmission lines of electricity or other communication means to Bangladesh or Nepal.  Thus the supposed BBIN additional benefits of economic and other developments are conjured figments by a PDP Government put under duress from neighbourly pressures. Forgive but do not believe the Government about BBIN roses. No flowers just the thorns.

BBIN cannot achieve anything over and above SAARC forum. It is self defeating for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal to dilute SAARC with BBIN formation. The reason that BBIN could come alive is because India deems it necessary to consolidate political and economic grip over the immediate neighbours. And at the same time isolate out those more  independant SAARC members and their backers especially China and America with observer status in SAARC. China even wants to become a member. 

Whatever BBIN goals maybe, definitely it is not at all to enhance movement of Bhutanese goods or people. If transport of Bhutanese  goods and people were so crucial , the proposed South Bhutan Highway would not have been killed. The ADB fund was secured and the plan ready for immediate execution. The highway project was on take off mode when our Government had to abruptly cancel it. And to add insult to injury, the construction of Samtse to Phuentsholing road already begun by DPT Government has been moving at snail pace under PDP watch.  Why?

For the PDP Government or that of any other Bhutanese Political Party, the priority would be development and catering to the needs of the people. The votes and trust of people in the South are equally important to any Political Party. Therefore, a Party in governance just on its own wish, would not kill such vital national life-lines : Constructions of South Bhutan Highway and  Amochu Hydro- Project.

What the leaders of Bhutan would or can  do, hereafter, is hard to tell. There is relief in that Bhutan has asked the other three BBIN Signatories to go ahead. And trepidation in that lingering sign, " that Bhutan shall join later after Parliament's ratification of BBIN Agreement.

Any Government whether of PDP or that of other Parties,  would be hard pressed to tackle political pressures from close quarters. We as ordinary citizens, unaware of all the pros and cons of national and regional challenges and pressures , can only voice our honest thoughts in such open forum and pray that somehow, the Tsawa Sum acting in unison will triumph in the end. 

Against all odds, HM Third King had  secured UN membership for Bhutan. Against all odds, HM Fourth King had routed the cross border heavily armed Indian Militant Groups thus eradicating once and for all times the possibility of occupation of South Bhutan by the Indian Army in planned  pursuits of those very Indian militant forces. And against all skepticisms, HM reigning Fifth King has gallantly ushered in and skillfully shepherded the era of democracy. Thus odds did not stop the steadfast royal march along dignified destiny of the sovereign Kingdom. And therefore,  odds should not daunt our Prime Minister
especially when any PM of Bhutan could always have such reliable fall backs.

A plea to respected Cabinet and honourable MPs of Bhutanese Parliament. I believe that foreign Ambassadors even those of most friendly nations Bangladesh and India cannot lecture the people of Bhutan in public into joining BBIN. The Royal Government could not prevent them from doing so. Now this time, I pray that the Parliament provide an appropriate response by soundly rejecting the BBIN Agreement in the Joint Session.

On BBIN Vote Day, may every MP of the Parliament place one hand on the heart that already belongs to Pelden Drukpa by oaths taken and press the vote button by the other hand. The resultant tally of votes "  Yes or No "  will cast the destiny of the nation. Lets hope each MP does not forfeit national respect and self soul for short term personal or Party political gains. Pelden Drukpa! Gyelo!   

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Memorial Chorten of HM King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

A tribute by HM Queen Phuentsho Choden Wangchuck to her son who illuminated a Kingdom in ways never could have been foreseen.

Creations: A new national capital. A new system of governance incorporating the active participation of people from grass root level and from religious institutions. Established the National Assembly, Royal Advisory Council, Judiciary and Defence Forces, Cabinet and a young bureaucracy staffed by a fledging national civil service cadre. A seat in the United Nations. A path to the 21st Century. Empowerment of all class of subjects: men, women, serfs as equal citizens with equal rights. 

A simple and very confident King with immense intellectual capacity, compassion and courage. A King who even  in 1952 could fortell and accordingly shaped what Bhutan should be in the 21st century. A King who could comprehend the need and the impact of modern education for the young generations. A King who underdstood the unifying impact of a common national language and developed Dzongkhag. A pioneer of justice who shouldered the onerous task of drafting  the Laws of the Land " Thrim-Zhung- Chhenmo " mainly during the wee hours of the night,  " the only time he could truly claim as his own " he said. This Mother of all Laws was debated and  passed by the National Assembly.  

A King who laid the  foundations of Judiciary, education, health, roads and communications, industries, trade, foreign relations and even laid the ground rules of low volume high quality tourism policy. A King  who attuned religious institions to meet modern challenges, institutionalised the development and preservation of ancient arts and crafts, culture and tradition. A King who declared , " would rule as a sovereign King or not at all "  as he called upon his male subjects 15 years and above to defend the sovereignty of the Bhutanese Kingdom during those tumultuous years in the Himalayan region.

A King who knew the sunset time of his own reign and diligently in a very short span of time (18 months or so ) prepared the very young Crown Prince for succession. I remember that winter evening at Motithang Hotel when His Majesty expressed his anxiety about the  generation gap. The King said,  " We are aging fast and you all are too young and preoccupied with academic studies".  I was just a high school student and class-mate of the Crown Prince and could only  humbly submit that , " maybe the Crown Prince could be simultaneously engaged in national administration affairs. For a Leader, among all studies the most crucial was the art of managing people and that was not available in text books". 

A year and half later, on 22nd July, 1972, His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck passed away. The Speaker of the National Assembly mourned, " darkness has fallen at midday upon the Kingdom ". Thankfully that darkness possessed a young glow at its depth. For by then the young Crown Prince as Chairman of Planning Commission had in his mind the road map of his Kingdom and in his heart the knowledge of each of the Cabinet Ministers and many other officials including important Indian leaders. And the succession to the Dragon Throne had already been formalised with the Crown Prince installed as the Trongsa Penlop.

Every time I drive past the Memorial Chorten. I thank the stars for the brief personal glimpses into the universe that His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was.