Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Frank and Free Political Discourse on Bhutan.

Bhutanese Political Parties are all fine. It is not at all easy to lay the foundation of any Party let alone a Political Party. There are so much resource constraints and limitations.  Thus my deep respects for the Parties and admiration for  founders and those who helped in the startup. 

Presently we have four Presidents. They are not the founders. All four Presidents were thrust into their positions under different circumstances. They possess the capability and the confidence of the majority of their members.

In cases of Presidents of PDP and DPT, both enjoy the trust of their constituencies as well as that of so many voters nation wide. The other two Presidents are untested political leaders though individually they do have their set of fan followings.

Let me go party serialwise in my views of the Presidents. There is no intention to hurt. Just my hopes for change for better in their outlooks and inlooks.

1. BKP President Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo look simple in appearance and is brusque in nature. Her years in civil service demonstrates that she is a strategist with unlimitted ambition. Not a quality of defect. A born politician in many ways.

She spend 3 years as CEO of an NGO that catered to the constituency from which she is now standing as the BKP candidate. She has got her religious links bonded firmly through the highly reverred incarnate Rimpoche Venerable Dzongsar Jamyang Khentse who is the founder of the NGO she served as chief executive. So all other Party candidates would be hard pressed to compete against her formidable social and religious links and already established ground organisation in every village. The floodlight of the spiritual cum social NGO " the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative " brightens the political path of Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo.

She is idolised as an anti-corruption figure. For around 8 years, she held the top constitutional post of Anti Corruption Commission. Many small fries like school teachers were cooked with vengeance for negligible issues.  No one in position of influence was convicted though misuse of official positions is the bane of social corruption in Bhutan. Two DPT Ministers were convicted of land mis- allocation ( Gyalposhing land case) that happened when they were Dzongdags. That too was interpreted by many as partly being a political agenda rather than a wholely corruption issue. Anyway the issue had nothing to do with their political ministerial posts. So along with a formidable resume, there are also dark shadows.    

Initially the Gyalposhing case caught my attention as it did  that of many others. However, towards end of her tenure, Dasho Neten Zangmo declared on BBS live interview that corruption case of " LhaKhang Karpo was much bigger than that of Gyalposhing case" .  But later that Lhakhang Karpo case turned out to be only an administrative lapse issue. Not at all criminal in nature or intent. The defendant was declared " not guilty" by the Supreme Court. So I guess, minus the political agenda ( rumoured personal  animosity between the President of DPT and ACC Chief ), Gyalposhing too may have turned out to be an issue between narrow and broader interpretation of the powers of  the Committe that allotted the land rather than blatant misdeed if fairly examined against the background of reign of absolute Monarchy days and procedures.

The BKP Party is harping on wiping out corruption if it comes to power. Corruption is like pollution. Possible to curtail but impossible to eliminate. Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo  armed with constitutional mandate and buttressed with national medal award and red scarf honour did not even scar the corruption mountain in her almost 8 years as Chief of Anti Corruption Commission. So it is a hopeless wishful thinking that BKP will focus and schieve elimination of corruption in 5 year political term. But yes 5 years is adeqate time to carry out  political vengeance and achieve  personal ambitions.

Speaking against corruption does generate public attention and goodwill.  And the perception is that if you are a commissioner of ACC especially its Chief then you must be free of corruption. And public perception does factor into an election. Her resume does stand out among equals. Bhutan does have an undaunted woman leader.  Still BKP as a Party would need to incorporate few other national goals that also reflect the potentials and professional expertise of other 46 candidates.   

2. DNT President Dr. Lotay Tshering is quite a familar name and face. Prior to 2013, he frequently used to appear in a BBS live health programme. Also in the last 5 years he has been associated with the Royal Medical Team that accompanies His Majesty on national tours and provides medical  services. So he is a known personality to His Majesty just like the other three Presidents. He also received the top national medal. By the way, there are many other medical professionals including specialists in the     
Royal Mobile Medical Team and they contribute no less. Its just that their services are un-acknowledged in public. .

In 2013, Dr. Lotay was the DNT candidate of South Thimphu constituency.  So he is a tested though unsuccessful candidate. But this time the story could be different. The political stalwart of South Thimphu Lyonpo Yeshi Zimba cannot represent his DPT Party as he is disqualified by age limit. So Dr. Lotay as a second time candidate does have a fair chance.

Dr. Lotay Tshering is an elite by definition of wealth. In 2013 he refunded almost 7 million ngultrums in penalty for resigning from his medical service profession to become a politician after availing many  govt. scholarships in medical fieds. Thats a lot of money even for a doctor in Bhutan.    
It exceeds accumulative salary amount of about 15 years service of a government doctor.

Some even claimed that he worked without salary the last 5 years. I disputed such claim in social media.. Not that I know about his salary but there is a cost even for voluntary service. The Royal Medical Team personnels cannot be paid in kinds. Difficult to estimate the cost to the nation when paid in kinds.  A fixed monetary remuneration is a respectable system. Anyway grading by from social association and wealth, Dr. Lotay falls in the elite group even though his birth may be from humble back ground like all others.

Against this background, I cannot think that DNT is serious about bridging gap between the poor and rich. Unless the Party aims to make the poor a bridge for the rich to walk over to more riches. So here, too , the DNT as a Party must adopt other national goals. There are capable candidates with proven capabilities worthy of public trust. So there is no need to put all the party stakes upon  just one personality as good and successful as Dr. Lotay comes about. Yes praise the President but do not underplay the roles of other candidates.

I think Dr. Lotay is a hell of a guy. He   connects well and is publicity savy.  My disappointnent is not in his personal abilities. It is in his reluctance to publicly  acknowledge the role of many people who are with him around the operating table. So many equally  sacrifice personal time and family time to assist him. And each of their professional skill contributes to a successful operation. For example if the doctor works 3 extra hours, few in his team need to work 5 extra hours to prepare before an operation and then clean up after it. Then there is another specislist the anesthesiolist whose nature of responsibility is as vital as the surgical doctor. All of them have been turned to ghosts workers. None exist in the merit of  what is a social collective service. . 

My other disappointment is his recent declaration as DNT Party President that everything that needs to be fixed in Bhutan can be done in his one term of 5 years. He has been around with His Majesty the King  who works overtime everyday to  serve the nation. And despite doing royal best in the last 10 years, there is still much to do. A nation is a living vibrant soul of diverse spirits, challenges and demands.  It has never been possible to set things to near perfect state in any nation even by the greatest of world leaders.

Gandhi fought for the low caste and India still boils in caste disparity. Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery but blacks are still the favourite target practice of white policemen on the streets of American cities. Chairman Mao Zedung  carried out the most sweepping revolution against the rich and the powerful. Today China has many millionaires and still there are hudreds of  millions of less fortunate population groups. And in India which is credited to be the largest democratic system of governance, what PM  Modi ji says is the command that the nation follows through blindly. Otherwise the disastrous monetary revolution would never have passed through the check and balance guarded by time tested professional guardians at Reserve Bank of India. Imagine de- legalising existing old rupee notes without having proper stock of new legalised rupee notes. And worse not having the system to introduce even the limitted stock of printed new legal rupee notes. Dictorship exist in many forms. And any promise of quick fix inevitably causes chaos for all with only  very few benefitting handsomely. 

Running a nation should not be just one man or woman monopoly.  Even the best of leaders must seek the participation and hands of many. The more one can inspire to work towards shared goals the better the chances of lasting success. One man with 5 year time can survive in good health for himself. But can never complete the task of achieving the goals and aspirations of a vibrant sovereign nation. Unless the intended path is that which Kazi Lhendup achieved and that the nation is called Sikkim now a state of Indian Union. Khazi Lhendup had his glorious 5 years reign. I fear the state coin that he intends to design because Dr.Lotay declares that he is  interested only in the next 5 year term. After that he will wash off his hand. 

I do not think that any of the Presidents of Bhutanese Political Parties are of Kazi Lhendup nature. More so because Bhutan has a King not a Chogyal with a foreign queen.  Therefore, I say all things cannot be set aright for sovereign Bhutan in 5 or 10 years. But yes, improvements can be introduced. More poor people can be uplifted to better income group and national GDP and resources shared more evenly. The gaps will remain but weight of social, political and economic oppression can be lightened by a well intended and consciously led Political Party team. I hope  thats part of every Political Party vision including DNT. Both DPT and PDP have endeavoured in such national strides as our Kings have and still reign with such grace and intent. The past democratic governments had their share of shortcomings also.     

3. The DPT President Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho was the Minister of Africulture and Forests in the DPT Cabinet. After the second best performance in 2013 General Election, the Party President the 1st democratic system Prime Minister Jigmi Yoeser Thinley resigned from Party Presidency and his choice of  Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho as the next President was accepted by the DPT Party. This year he has been re-elected. 

My own observation of him as the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly or in the Parliament was that of
a well prepared and sound OL The unpleasant surprises are surfacing only during the runup to the DPT preparations for the coming General Election.

So many former candidates have left the Party. Maybe time simply changed. But as the Party President, he has to bear part of 
the disunity issues within the Party. The first public indication of "not so well " in the rank of DPT was ofcourse the resignation of North Thimphu MP.  I did not give much weight to this incident.  Afterall Dasho Kinga was a new entrant to DPT and his past record had him hopping from one position to another. He seems to be a wanderer still  reaching out for a mirage though fortune placed him in many real Oasis. 

Three years back, I had a social chat with an old time friend who is one of the main founders of DPT. How close do you keep with your new President, I inquired. More out of curiousity  than any doubt. But the response was startling for me. No communication of any kind was the quick response. Even then I am quite unprepared by what has really  happened to old DPT unity  under the leadership of the new President. It is a sorrowful state  to say the least. Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu is not contesting. And Lyonpo Nanda Lal Rai has joined PDP. I do not buy the fabricated reasons in social media about " 1907 incident " being his reason for  joining PDP.  I have seen Lyonpo Nanda Lal Rai in the company of his DPT colleagues after the PDP government was well into its 2nd year. 

The DPT Pema Gatsel sitting MP is not contesting and that seat seemed to have been now lost looking at the lineups.
That lady would have had better chance than any replacement that DPT can find. She represented the sentiment of the supporters of former Prime Minister. And sentiment is pivotal in any election more so when it is related to a towering personality. DPT has also lost other candidates to rival political parties and with them goes their personal investments as well as that of the Party. So in more ways than comfortable, DPT is 
a new structure with old baggage of treason allegations that detractors fill the social forums with.

The brighter side is that  DPT President has been successful in bringing into the Party fold the President of now defunct Chirwang Party. Aum Lily Wangchuk may face an uphill task in North Thimphu but she is even otherwise a welcome asset and fresh side of DPT Party. Definitely the Party stands to gain. The Party may also be able to rope in former NC candidates especially those who performed well in their respective constituencies.The support numbers of such candidates will not fluctuate much in 4 months time. So quite bankable in whichever political party they join.  

Its hard to say from outside whether Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho is a lone wolf type of leadership without the all important personal charisma or that some of DPT former MP colleagues have opted simply  for greener pastures. But the picture of disunity is hard to counter. Still the two retiring leaders Lyopos Yeshi Zimba and Khandu Wangchuk and even Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu seem right behind their  replacement candidates. That augurs well for DPT if such gestures are not simply the last photo opportunity.    

The DPT President has a lot of ground to cover and recoup lost momentum. That calls for much self discipline and tenacity. Does he possess the stamina ? Only Party insiders can gauge it correctly. But what seems a done deal is his own seat from Bumthang though to secure a place in the General Election, a Party need to secure more than 15 seats in the Primary in a 4 way contest. 

By the way, under our two tier system, a President has every chance to recapture even  a lost primary seat if the Party makes it to the General Election. Voter minds can be swung right around and the stronger constituency contestant's Party may not even qualify. So Presidents can breathe a little easier than other failed primary candidates of a successful Party.   
Candidates are expendible and so is to some extent the Party itself.

4. The last and the most prominent Party President is Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay. The way PDP is going about replacing sitting MPs indicates that the Party has problem of plenty. It maybe also creating a problem of disunity but quite opposite of that of DPT. In DPT, the candidates are leaving the Party and in PDP the Party leadership is being selective.

PDP has fulfilled almost all Party commitments. So did DPT in 2013. Its advantages of widening East - West highway could be offset by cancellation of Southern Bhutan highway. BBIN is a sore throat but only in the social media. The bulk of rural voters and even majority voters in urban sites may not even know of BBIN Transport Deal. I personally would feel more comfortable if PDP publicly washes its hand off the Transport Deal struck among BBIN.

PM Tshering Tobgay has proved his mettle as an Opposition Leader and as a Ruling Party Leader. Like most strong Party Leaders, he too is not that receptive of differing views. I was quite amused by his interpretation of differing views as a criticism of his person. Many smaller stature leaders feel likewise.  But at the helm of national position, he has to differentiate personal dislike from political difference. I am,however, encouraged with his recent stand in the selection of Party candidates. Not that I have any understanding of the vote value of his choices or rejections but what is clear is in this regard, he is not in for his personal popularity contest. Still the unkindest cut must be made with the softest of touch. And for a Ruling Party such changes can be done without inflicting unnecessary pain or hurt of dignity. Few causality of consequences will still be suffered.

In the social media,  there are lots of hate as well as love for PM. But social media has unimaginative loud voices. They are detached from ground reality and much damaged by personal prejudice.  It is hard to gauge his popularity in the rural areas without being there. But for sure 10 years in public view has a lot of dividends. He is far more well known than any other Party Presidents of the day. Could be he is hated more than other Presidents but far more numbers would also favour him than the others. That is the cost and dividend of extensive exposures in public domain.

His advantage of 33 sitting MPs is reduced with changes and he suffers the absence of few Ministers in the coming  contest. Few of the replacements have good governance experience but they have to start green in the election. That is a disadvantage because you need to be elected to get the opportunity to utilise governing skills. One plus point with PDP President is that he is not taking victory for granted. So more preparation for a hard battle ahead. Thats a necessary winning spirit and strategy.  

If he comes back as second term President, I hope he will vigorously assist His Majesty the King to accomplish the Border Deal with China and get the Southern Highway up and on the track. He has to continue promoting the good friendship with India but on a more equality basis.

The Prime Minister of Bhutan must be prepared to be the bad guy at times if Bhutan is to get out and over Indian hegemony. Do not push the buck upstairs.  Declaring on the onset that we will not establish diplomatic ties with China is a stupid way of an immature Bhutanese political Party Leader. Not only did Bhutan narrow her choice but also surrendered so helplessly. Further it pre- empts any silent national policy aspirations of the King and the people.  Such appearance of meekness led to neighbourly aggressions that began with change in hydro-power project equations  and finally  culminated to Doklam aggression by Indian Army. Thankfully, Bhutan govt. stood  firm in silence there. And India had to back out as she could not  face the fury of red Chinese dragon without the support from little white Bhutanese dragon.

I now see some hope of Bhutanese national sovereign vision with PM Tshering Tobgay. The Bhutanese Paper recently carried an article confirming Bhutan's 12th Plan budget restricting to Rs 45 billion grant from India the same amount as that of the 11 th Plan. I do not know whether India wants to give more or less but not increasing our request is good. Overly financial dependence is unhealthy for executing independant national policies whether external or internal.

After his incredible rise from the ashes of 2008 PDP, I believed Dasho Tshering Tobgay would one day be the Prime Minister. But thought 2018 not 2013 would be more likely. That was what I also wrote then.  Now is 2013 a bonus year or was the opportunity advanced?  

Election prospect summary.

In 2013, I felt DPT will rule the Primary. Most thought so. But unlike many, I felt PDP not DNT would make it through. This time there is no ground to doubt about PDP making it through.  But which other Party can make pass the Primary?  It seems both DNT and BKP are trying to displace DPT. New Parties are effective in social media propaganda but lack behind in field performances. That was the outcome in 2013. Both BKP and DNT have many  experienced senior candidates. So this time the fight would be more competitive. BKP is entering the race for the first time and in a way so is reconstructed DNT. Both Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo and Dr. Lotay Tshering need to promote the virtues of other member candidates in addition to their own. Collective stature could strengthen overall party chances.

DPT is a wounded Party and grassroot support may have waned with shift in candidate changes. The sitting eligible MPs have a long haul to carry the Party banner successfully. Their star campaigner is no longer in public politics. It will be an uphill task. But having 10 or so old hands contesting, DPT has equal chance if not more than DNT and BKP.

PDP as the Ruling Party and with maximum sitting MPs competing, the outlook is reassurring. Individual effort is  so crucial because nationwide support for any one Party may be not be that encompassing. 

The individual Party candidates should really put all out efforts in the Primary. Only two Parties can make to the General  Election but there is every chance that those individual candidates of any Party who do well in the Primary can find place with the two winning Parties in General election. If you are serious about serving Tsawa Sum, being a candidate in General Election will fulfill your desire. Moreso with the Ruling Party. So do not close shut  all your doors of opportunity based on Party prejudice. Party interest can be graded secondary to national and self priority. 
The way forward.    

The reality in Bhutan is that by virtue of Dynasty and hard earned deep rooted  respects, the King is the super leader of  the Bhutanese people. Yes, I mean the People King. And any well informed decision of His Majesty can do wonders for the Kingdom. The bottle neck is the channel of communication between the King and the people at large. Leaving aside the the 4th King, there are only two open and credible channels to His Majesty. The King would naturally trust the Queen for Her Majesty's loyalty to the Royal Person and the Tsawa Sum. And the King will also seriously weigh in any submissions made by the elected Prime Minister. Therefore,  a Prime Minister is constitutionally bound to be faithful to the Tsawa Sum. Thus he or she has the duty to serve the King as well as correctly inform the King so that Royal decisions are arrived at based on correct assessment of  situation and aspiration of the majority of the people without unduly subjugating the well being of the minority. His Majesty  ofcourse is in touch with the populace. There are so many picture perfect scenes of His Majesty among the people. But the line of communication can be just one way.

Let me explain it this way. A Principal's presence in a school  is most prominent. The principal generally has access to any teacher or student at his convenience but a teacher or student will not have the same freedom of access to the Principal. A school is a close community housed in few acres of area. So at national level, the other way communication line is all the more impossible. Sheer logistics and inbuilt barriers of long held traditions inhibit open line of communication from the polulace side to the King. Thats why the old Bhutanese proverb " Ghom drima- nagi Lhachung ". It is a way of saying that the King reigns in godlike transparency and but so much more happens in the shadow away from the view of  the Throne and thus of which the King is unaware. Ofcourse Kings all over the world will rubbish such sage proverb. 

Whichever Party gets to form the Government and whoever becomes the Prime Minister, I hope more is done to support the King in the most substantive nation enhancing manner. I do not know how the other candidates for PM post will 
actually use the PM  position if opportunity comes by. The Presidents of BKP and DNT have never ever spoken up for Bhutan. Even now they are almost in retreat mode when it comes to major national issues. There is nothing to go by to trust or gauge them. The DPT Party had an active  national sovereign agenda but now it is in a different form. President Pema Gyamtso has a more pressing task of putting his own house in order.

The present political scenario indicates that PM Tshering Tobgay is the only candidate who possesses the essence of national leadership and responsibility to serve the Tsawa Sum and meet the challenges of the day. Intially in his early years of Prime Ministership, he was hopelessly pro- India even to the detriment of Bhutanese national interests. But he learned quickly. And India's dictate on hydro project policies on Bhutan followed up by blatant total hegemony design demonstrated live in military fashion at Doklam, taught Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay hard lessons of reality. That being anti-China and overly pro-India only endangered Bhutan more. The firm stand at Doklam ( refusing to stand with India against China ) last year  and now the set limit in Indian grant amount in the 12th Plan augurs well for sovereign Bhutan.     

Therefore, a second term for Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay would be befiting the political reality. He would be ready to, hereafter, help His Majesty to guide the Bhutanese nation to equal friendship with India; set the hegemony grip loose and wake up to the super powers of China at the bilateral, regional.and world level. Slumber is for bears and that too for 3 months a year. It is high time for Bhutan to wake up from Indian slumber and vision. Wake up to Bhutanese sovereign vision. My deduction  is that Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay is fully awake and set determined to be positively able in pursuing Bhutanese national goals. Since he has been most visible in the last 10 years, I am able to more confidently dissect him in more details both his weaknesses and strengths.  

My status.

I took a night and a day to put together this draft. And many years of close observations. Do not be impressed, repulsed or gleeful at the first few paragrapghs or just one quick reading. There are simple home truths at the nearest ground level of Bhutanese situation and ongoing politics approaching the mega 2O18 Elections.   

Take my lengthy views as a frank political discourse, my utterance may concur with your inner thoughts but unable to share publicly or simply a matter of facts as of the day. I meant no malice. My intent of describing the Party Presidents is to open them up beyond their personal self cult picture to the overall appreciation of the roles of their other fellow constituency candidates. And perhaps to force them to think national beyond fighting for the opportunity to be a Prime Minister once in their lives. It is not correct to have my say and then offer apology for my views. But I do request for understandings and your patience in comprehending. And I am not saying it is just a personal view because I do take pains to convey larger view than just my own. And as for my preference please I am just one individual with one vote. Sometimes other selfish personal priorities even prevent casting that one vote in 5 years. So my vote hardly matters.

To all Party Leaders and candidates.Do all you can to secure a win whilst the opportunity exist. And be prepared to accept the results with grace and patience. My respects to all honourable contestants.              

May Dhue- Chhen Ngapas bless the nation and guide the political process. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

28th May the Menstrual Hygiene Day

Near midnight and I get a photoshoot request message to support a social cause. Woh! Who thinks of me at this hour!  Next day I am talking to  Deki from Ministry of Education who is going all out to promote " Menstrual Hygiene Day. This lady is  " burning midnight oil "  in pursuit of creating acceptable space for fellow female especially of adolescent age.

Menstruation is natural process that takes place in a female body to keep afresh the cycle of life and birth. When it happens to a young girl the very first time,  it can be strange, confusing, frightening and embarrassing. Go ahead and talk to your mother, sister or female friend. They all experience the same physical phenomena.

Menstruation known as " monthly period " is mostly uncomfortable and at times accompanied by painful cramps and even headaches. Embarrassing at awkward times. It flushes out especially at stressul moment like being asked a question by the teacher in the class to which you do not have the right answer. But definitely menstruation is not shameful. Just make sure that you are well padded up.

And for that, there must be an easy and convenient access to low-in-cost and high -in-quality sanitary napkins/ pads. An important goal of " Menstrual Higiene Day.

Please lend your support. Accepting  Menstrual Day is important and more so is Menstrual Hygiene Day which is even more relevant to easing menstrual blues and ridding society of  stupid stigma.

Early in life, I thought how unfortunate ladies are to undergo 4- 5 days menstrual period every month. That is very challenging. As years passed by and more women outlive men and fellow female friends tend to lead more energetic and fulfilling lives, I realise that menstrual phenomna is a  rare " gift " not a curse of  nuisance. This cycle rejuvinates the shine and health of women. It is a natural spa process that relaxes the body and brings back  colour of youth even at mid-age.

We men and boys can contribute to our own comfort  and that of our female family members, fellow students and work colleagues by developing an appreciative and positive attitude to this mostly referred to as " ladies troubles ".  Just be acceptably understanding. No need to be helpful. Thank you.

P.S  Now my midnight lady Deki, could you excuse me from photoshoot?  I just cannot bear public gaze. I fully support your noble social vision. Nice talking to you.  regards.     

Widening the Gap.

" Political Ploy "  DNT cries against  insurance fraud case recently  filed by OAG ( Kuensel issue  of 15th May ).

DNT Party Vice President and RICB officials are charged by OAG for insurance scam.  If not successfully refuted, the ricb officers face termination from service.  It is a huge lesson for all employees in civil or corporate services. Pleasing your bosses overly can land your families in high and dry spots because you can be docked in high end game.

This court case puts former RICB executive director Sonam Dorji and co- principal defendant Dasho Sherab in very unpleasant public light. And puts those serving insurance officials in terrible livelihood situation. If convicted these victims of whirlpool of corporate corruptions stands to lose their jobs and service benefits. Their families will lose entire livelihood means because their bread earners had followed the unethical orders of their Boss. The gap between rich and poor widens.

I understand the damage to the Party and the hurt personally to Dasho Sherab who otherwise had devoted so much part of his life to Tsawa Sum. However, I feel that at least in this particular case, DNT Party must stop crying " Political Ploy " and shedding crocodile tears. Instead spare some crumbs of sympathy for those real victims who never benefitted personally and yet will suffer the most.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Druk Nyamrup Tshokpa ( DNT ) General Assembly at RIM Hall Simtokha.

I thought that the least one can do to appreciate the endeavours of those who actively participate in national politics and democratic governance was to attend the General Assembly of a Political Party as an observer ( if such is permitted by a Political Party ).

DNT was  holding its General Assembly today the 13th May, 2018 at RIM Hall, Simtokha, Thimphu. And there was open invitation for all in fb. Thus I took the opportunity to have a look. 

Turned out to be well organised and well attended too. The Secretary General and the President spoke eloquently. Between the two, one can imagine the rough and tough trail of a  Bhutanese Political Party inspirations and formative years. An idea that spun inbetween friends at an eatery serving momos and that peaked with participation in the Primary Election in 2013. The crash that followed and again getting back on feet under a new President and same General Secretary.

Today Dr. Tandin Dorji the President and Mr.Tenzin Lekphel the General Secretary of Druk Nymrup have every reasons to beam and take pride as they gazed from the stage towards the packed hall of over 1500 gatherings and near about 47 candidates seated in the front rows.

Inbetween there were several speakers explaining their reasons for joining the Party and their individual faith in Dr. Lotey Tshering the Presidential nominee. DNT did a good job in displaying clips of royal speeches that it believes provides  inspirations and guidance to the Party's objectives and goals.

The Party's goal is to close the gap between the rich and the poor. The statistics given is that 90% of Bhutan's wealth belongs to 10% of population. And among that about 110 people ( or was it families?  ) is supposed to own most of the 90% of wealth according to DNT.   I have no idea about statistics but I do agree that  there is much to do to raise the living standard of many Bhutanese families. And national resources are concentrated among  handful of groups.

No, DNT is not talking about repeating  Chairman Mao's cultural and social revolution in Bhutan. The stated aim is to raise up the condition of havenots. I guess  
the way forward will be spelt out in the actual campaign but the wealth of the top 10% will not be confisticated according to Dr. Tandin Dorji. But now the new President is Dr. Lotey Tshering. And I did not stay to listen to him.  I thought it would not be proper for an individual private  observer to witness the  Party President and Vice President election process and gauge the mood of the congregation as the newly elected President gave his acceptance speech and the way forward. That is completely an internal Party affair which will be shared publicly in good time by the Party.

I used the tea break interval to examine the seating capacity of the RIM Hall for future information and later left as DNT members were getting ready to cast " Yes " and  " No" votes for Dr. Lotey Tshering the only  Presidential nominee and for Dasho Sherab Gyeltshen the only Vice Presidential nominee. I just hope no one would be so crazy to  cast a " no "  vote. The excited mood of the gathering plus so much efforts devoted to accomplish what was achieved in hosting this Meet,  deserved 100% yes votes for the candidates.

PS. Some readers who follow me maybe wondering how I came about attending the DNT Meet after having opposed DNT Court case against the Government. Well, I have no special love or distaste  for any Political Party. Just my respects.  I still feel that DNT or any other Party is wrong in taking the Government to Court during the time the Kingdom was facing national sovereignty Doklam Crisis.  Party supporters of any Party can never see but their own reflections. So for those non-party supporters of DNT and PDP, let me reproduce the following Constitutional Clause.

Article 18
The Opposition Party

Clause 6

" The Opposition Party shall aid and support the Government in times of external threat, natural calamities and such other national crisis when the security and national interest of the country is at stake."

Let alone any other Party or individual, even the Opposition Party is mandated to stand with the ruling Party in times of national crisis. Thus Court cases must await national crisis to passover.

Like Mr. Sonam Tobgay of BKP, I feel Dr. Tandin Dorji and Mr.Tenzin Lekphel have devoted so much time and effort to keep the DNT Party afloat. Such endeavours deserve respect whether one is a member of a Party or not. Hereafter, the show is led by new Presidents in whom the Party members and leaders have reposed their faith. And that has been how history have evolved over the centuries and Bhutanese politics is no different. And as an observer today, I wish Dr. Lotey Tshering and Dasho Sherab Gyeltshen successful leadership of DNT Party.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Horrible conclusion of BBIN- MVA Dialogue. Truth so ugly and shameful.

A Regional Policy Dialogue was held at New Delhi beginning 2nd May for 3 days. And Kuensel shared a piece on it in its Monday issue ( 7th May, 2018 ).

The highlights of BBIN- MVA.

1. The Truck routes covered under BBIN - Motor Vehicle Agreement are known as the "  economic corridor ".

2. This " economic corridor " has more women engaged in activities. Mostly widows and elderly not young women afraid of security concerns.

3. The risk of diseases like HIV and other communicable disease are high.

4. Women would remain more vulnerable especially in sex industries.

So it seems Bhutanese women can look forward for close and flourishing economic activities of sex with truck drivers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal once the BBIN- MVA is ratified by Bhutanese Parliament.

The PDP government was unable to get the BBIN- MVA Treaty ratified in the 1st attempt. Would the next Government go for the sex industry under the guise of women run economic corridor of multi- racial and multi- national truck drivers ?

DISGUSTING is this BBIN- MVA ( BANGALADESH , BHUTAN, INDIA and NEPAL  - MOTOR VEHICLE AGREEMENT ).  The mini- SAARC's first joint venture is directed against women.

Safer for  women to abolish BBIN.

The risk and wisdom of replacing sitting MPs in the coming General Election of Bhutan.

Setting aside the personal individual feelings of replaced sitting MPs and their immediate family and supportors, I think it is enevitable that changes in Party candidates will take place when preparing for next fresh general  election. The reasons will be varied.  Whether sound or undound or justifiable or common good of a Party may depend on which side of the fence you are sitting.

Recently Kuensel carried news about replacements of  PDP candidates among sitting MPs for the coming General Election. The sheer number of changes may be a surprise to many readers though few changes would have been expected.  Unlike 2013 wherein PDP was the undedog competitor, in 2018,  PDP has wider pool of candidates. So the temptation to be selective can be irresistible for 2018. There is a saying " a bird in hand is worth two in the bushes ". But in politics the more wider the pool of available candidates the more arbitary way the selection committee may function. Sure the President of a Party would haven the final say but it is not correct to blindly assume that  such a "say " is just based on personal like and dislike or worse personal whim and fancy. Concensus building is crucial when a Party is preparing for General Election. And a President among all members would conciously adhere to this criteria.     

It is said that PDP changes are based on feedbacks from fields and performance percept  among other  parameters ( not mentioned are two crucial factors: Party loyalty and financial contribution to campaign fund but these are the two most fundamentals in any political party ).

It is never an easy decision to replace the candidature of a sitting MP in an election. There are huge risk including backlash of supporters. So proper weigh-ins would be there in such a process.  PDP better hope that those feedbacks from local points are genuine.  In my personal perception, feedbacks from few outspoken  local people and heresay comments in social media are rather unreliable. Much of such feedbacks and comments  are manifestation of personal prejudices and not ground reality. So there has to be other vital reasons for replacement introduced. In cases of replacements of sitting MPs, I  feel that more important than the decision to replace is the manner of severance. Such must be done gently with due respects for the sentiment and dignity of the severed candidates.

In 2013, DPT replaced few sitting MPs with what seemed far stronger candidates. And PDP replaced quite a number of Primary candidates during the final General Election in 2013. It is hard to convince oneself that DPT lost because of the those few changes even though the deemed strongly positioned replacements lost the seats as did many sitting MPs . But for sure PDP did fared better because of the changes. Maybe that instinct prevails in the PDP political guideline this time also.

One thing is for sure here. PDP seems to be doing away with as many sitting MPs as it feels prudent but the Party still has far more sitting MPs competing in the Primary Election than the Opposition DPT.  So the bold decision would not negatively affect the Party success  even if few turn out to be wrong. In the final General Election, no matter which of the two among the four or five Political Parties make the round, there will be changes in Party candidates.

A trend once set is there to stay though I doubt the re-occurence of mass exodus as with 2013 DNT that informally merged DNT with PDP.

Losing ticket through Party candidate reshuffle contest or losing seat from  defeat in election contest are part and parcel of political venture. One has no choice but to cross the bridge when it comes. Do it with the least public acrimony and make the best out of a seemingly unfortunate or unfair deal. Life is never totally in the hands of others. One has a lot of say provided one garners the will to move on with optimism.  


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the Third King of Bhutan. Celebrating the 89th Birth Anniversary!

Born:  2nd May, 1929, Trongsa, Bhutan.
Married:  1951 in Paro whilst as Paro Penlop.
Coronation: 27th October,1952
Died 21st July,1972, Nairobi, Kenya ( Africa ).
Reign; March 1952- July 1972.
Father: His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck the Second King of Bhutan.
Mother: Her Majesty Queen Phuentsho Choden Wangchuck. 

Royal Siblings from Her Majesty Queen Pema Dechen Wangchuck the second Queen of King Jigme Wangchuck and  sister of Queen Phuentsho Choden Wangchuck:   

1. HRH Princess Choki Ongmo Wangchuck
2. HRH Prince Namgyal Wangchuck the Paro Penlop
3. HRH Princess Deki Yangzom Wangchuck
4. HRH Princess Pema Choden Wangchuck

Queen: Her Majesty Queen Kesang Choden Wangchuck daughter of Deb Zimpon Sonam Tobgay and Rani Chuni Dorji sister of Sikkim Chogyel.

Royal Offsprings:

1. HRH Princess Sonam Choden Wangchuck
2. HRH Princess Dechen Wangmo Wangchuck
3. HRH Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck ( His Majesty 4th King of Bhutan ).  
4. HRH Princess Pema Lhadon Pem Pem Wangchuck.
5. HRH Princess Kesang Choden Wangchuck.

King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck achieved in 20 years reign what Bhutan is still struggling to maintain since then.

Incredible Royal Visions and Deeds.

1. Made Thimphu the Capital of Bhutan and led Bhutan into the modern world. The King is reverred as Father of modern Bhutan.

2. Laid the foundation of Democracy through establishment of National Assembly and Royal Advisory Council with members elected by the People and which functioned in unity. Abolishing serfdom and carrying out the 1st national land distribution task  and reducing rural taxes to nominal level.  

Today we have the same democratic structure under different nomenclature of National Assembly and National Council. Unfortunately more disunited than united. I guess that is the nature of democracy practised elsewhere in the super modern world.

3. Strengthened the promotion and preservation of culture and tradition and accorded recognition and role to Dratsang the source of Bhutan's culture, tradition and political wisdom in the administration of the nation. Dratsang ( Monk Body ) was part of both National.Assembly and Royal Advisory Council as well as Royal Audit Authority.  Today it stands banned from all political posts as well  as national administrative posts.

Dratsang is now a subordinate  national institution though reverred but whose activity to even  practise Dharma teaching in public is banned during political election years as in 1918. The irony of once a Buddhist Kingdom now in secular mode to our spiritual detriment. 

4. His Majesty the Third King had an early retirement  plan  and crowning his son the Crown Prince as the  successor. It was announced to the National Assembly but could not be fulfilled because of his own sudden death at the age of 43.

His son the Fourth King fulfilled that royal plan of early retirement and crowning the successor.

5. The Third King surrendered the Royal.  Prerogative Power over National Assembly.  No Royal Assent was required for National Assembly Resolutions to take effect. 

Today Royal Assent is required for Resolutions of the Parliament to take effect. The philosphy of Wangchuck Dynasty Rule may not have changed but political scenario seems to have drastically evolved. Bhutan has had to be extra sensitive since the Kingdom of Sikkim became a part of Indian Union as per supposed decision of elected representatives  without the consent of the Chogyel and without a nation wide referendum.

6. His Majesty the Third King had to quell an uprising in Southern Bhutan in the 1950s. A similar uprising but on a larger scale had to be put down in 1989-1990s during the Fourth King reign. The His Majesty the reigning  King is very attentive to all regions and emotions including the not so transparent sentiment in the Southern Belt. I wish a Southern Highway right along the Bhutan side of Indo- Bhutan international Boundary has been built. It can prevent cross border infiltration the historical root cause of political abd social disturbsnce in the South. And ofcourse it would be a great boon to Bhutanese economy and freedom.of travel within Bhutan un- subjected to political disruptions in the Indian States of WestvBengal and Assam through which Bhutanese are still compelled to travel from one part of Bhutan to reach the other part. A disgrace after completion of planned development of 55 years ( 11 numbers of 5 years socio- economic development Plans ).

7. His Majesty the Third King established the bilateral relationships with India the giant neighbour in the South. The 1st Prime Minister of Bhutan Honourable Jigme Palden Dorji played the trusted  key role in developing the Indo- Bhutan interactions under the guidance of the King.

The 2nd Prime Minister of Bhutan, His Excellency Jigmi Yoeser Thinlay attempted to initiate a working relationship in 2012  with China the larger neighbour of Bhutan in the North. But that was scuttled by political forces of some kinds. There is much confusion about the whole episode.

So today even after more than 50 years of  establishing bilateral relation with the neighbour in the South by the Third King, the successive governments of Bhutan have failed to establish diplomatic relationship with China in the north. A kind of malignant wart in the heart of Bhutan's foreign affairs history. 

8. His Majesty the Third King achieved the herculean task of getting  Bhutan admitted to United Nations in 1971. That further diluted the implied essence of 1949 Indo- Bhutan Treaty Clause II that required Indian guidance for Bhutan's external affairs. Bhutan had never willingly agreed to such a term that encroached upon sovereign dignity.

That Clause II  which was a copy cat of term imposed by British-India upon Bhutan in the Sinchula Treaty was altogether done away with in the renegotiated Indo- Bhutan Treaty of 2007. The re- negotiation of the 1949 Indo- Bhutan Treaty took place in New Delhi over several days between the Bhutanese Delegation led by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and Indian delegation led by Prime Minister ManMohan Singh of India.

The finished product was ditto old 1949 terms except two vital clauses were removed. The one about seeking Indian guidance by Bhutan in matters of her foreign affairs and the other that required India to pay Bhutan an annuity for the 18 Duars territories of Bhutan that were annexed by British-India. The renegotiated Agreement was signed by HRH Crownn Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan and His Excellency Pranab Mukerjee the External Affairs Minister of India.

Since Bhutan's entry in UN  ( 1971 ),  in the last 48 years, Bhutan has been unable to establish diplomatic relationship with any of the  5 Permanent Members of the United Nations.

During the 1st democratic government tenure ( 2008 to 2013) , diplomatic relationships were established with a number of Countries but not with any major power or donar nations. During the 2nd democratic Government (2013 to 2018 ), total concentration was devoted to relationship with India. And that blew up into the face of the Kingdom when the Indian Army' transgressed  upon Doklam in June, 2017. Indian Army only  retreated in the face of strong opposition from the Chinese forces.

9. After the Third King passed away, Bhutan faced both external and internal threats. His Majesty the 4th King averted similar fate that befell upon Sikkim in 1974. Quelled the Southern uprising of 1989- 1990. Vanquished the Indian Militant Forces from Southern Bhutan in 2003 and constituted an administrative system akin to democratic system elsewhere. The health, education, communication and transport systems were improved and expanded. Druk Air was established. Major hydro-power projects undertaken with vision to harness what was termed " white gold ". Major international and regional organizations like Non- Aligned and SAARC came with much promise but now whimpering to defuct status due to major upheavals in in regional and world  geo-political situation.  

10. Today the old East- West highway in Bhutan is being expanded to double lane. Tashi Airways joined Druk Air. Mobile and Internet system and Cable TV provides convenience and exposure to outside world. Electrification and rural road system connects most parts of the nation.
Development progress under successive Governments with guidance from the Throne are laudable. 

11. In my personal.view, what Bhutan now needs in addition to development works and nuturing of the democratic political institutions, is that  the nation must exercise true sovereign responsibility in matters of  Foreign Affairs. The Third King exercised sovereign Powers as in demanding India sponsor Bhutan's entry into UN. Bhutan's entry to UN was also backed by China. And Bhutan was the first nation to  recognise Bangladesh as a sovereign Country even before India did. 

When Prime Minister Pandit Nehru of India wrote to Late Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji expressing India's anxiety about some rumoured talk of Bhutan establishing relationship with a third Country, the Third King put the letter from Nehru before the National Assembly of Bhutan. The response to Nehru was that Bhutan was not yet ready to establish relationship with a third Country but when Bhutan finds herself ready and makes such a decision, India a good friend of Bhutan  will be informed. The third country though not named by India or Bhutan was China.  His Majesty was very clear about the sovereign right of Bhutan to decide upon foreign relation with any Country including China. The Clause II of 1949 Indo- Bhutan Treaty even at that time in early 1960s was considered by Bhutan a dead residue of Sinchula Treaty imposed by British-India and never accepted by Bhutan. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck hadcrefused to leave New Delhi until India agreed to delete the offensive clause during the re- negotiiation of 1949 Treaty in 2007 between India and Bhutan. Therefore,  Bhutan should  not be  failing in exercising the sovereign right to determine her own foreign affairs and external relationships.  

However, Today Bhutanese democratic Government has our sovereign status fluttered by Indian wind and whim.  There is unhealthy hesitation in concluding the Sino- Bhutan Boundary Talks. And Bhutan is the only Country that is shy of necessary political will and confidence in establishing formal ties with China despite sharing long international borders with China. But with the blessings of our Deities and the spirit of past Kings and guidance of present Kings, courageous wisdom and political will should be taking charge of Bhutan's future path  without further delay.

May the Blessings and the  endeavours of the Third King, the 4th King and His Majesty the reigning King make  possible for Bhutan to secure friendly and lasting equal relationships with the giant two neigbours India our friend and benefactor and China the friendly economic super power of the world.

Palden Drukpa Gyal Lo.