Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan
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JANUARY- MARCH 2008
George Fernandes : My support is always with the Bhutanese people
On February 21, 2008, Shri George Fernandes expressed his unwavering support to the Bhutanese people and their struggle for justice and democracy. A Bhutanese delegation led by Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President, Druk National Congress, along with a delegation from the Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal and from Kathmandu, Nepal, met Shri George Fernandes, Member of Parliament and Convener of the National Democratic Alliance, at his residence in Delhi. On the behalf of the Bhutanese refugees, an appeal was submitted by Mr. Narad Muni Sanysi, Camp Secretary. Another appeal was addressed to Shri L.K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition.
The delegation apprised him of the latest developments concerning Bhutanese refugees and issues related to democracy in Bhutan, including the USA’s refugee resettlement offer. The delegation thanked him for his strong commitment to the Bhutanese movement for democracy. They requested him to initiate a dialogue with the Government of India to facilitate the repatriation of genuine Bhutanese refugees back to Bhutan. Mr. Fernandes said he would always support the Bhutanese people’s peaceful struggle for genuine democracy and justice. He promised the delegation that he would take up the Bhutanese issue with the Government of India.
Mr. Dorji informed him that the democratic process unfolding in Bhutan is not in tune with universally excepted democratic principles and practices. Instead, an exclusive format of ‘democracy’ is being introduced in Bhutan that excludes 80% of the population.
Debrata Biswas : I will internationalize the Bhutanese issue
On February 21, 2008, Shri Debrata Biswas, MP (and General Secretary, Forward Bloc) said that he would raise the Bhutanese issue at international forums to generate awareness. A 12-member Bhutanese delegation met him at his office accompanied by Mr. Anand Swaroop Verma, former President of Bhutan Solidarity.
The delegation offered its heartfelt gratitude and happiness for his support to the Bhutanese movement. In spite of his inability to visit the refugee camps in eastern Nepal on January 19, 2008 after being stopped at the border, he said that he understood the situation in the refugee camps fully and would leave no stone unturned to achieve a just, fair and honourable resolution to this protracted issue.
Mr. Biswas expressed his unflinching commitment to the Bhutanese democracy movement, despite receiving a request from the Royal Bhutanese Government to abandon his resolve.
Is it democracy?
The release of the draft Constitution of Bhutan in 2005 was hailed as a milestone and a step toward ushering democracy in Bhutan. At that time the fourth King declared that democracy will take root in Bhutan by 2008. Since that declaration, the Druk National Congress and other democrats, waited our tryst with destiny in 2008. The Druk National Congress also submitted its suggestions on draft Constitution. However, the real design of the Royal Government of Bhutan was unveiled in 2007, when it released the Election Act, which stipulated a formal western-style university degree as the minimum criteria for eligibility to stand for a seat of a Member of Parliament. In addition, only two political parties, both having close ties with the Palace, were allowed to register and given the go-ahead to take part in the upcoming 2008 elections. Bhutan’s People United Party headed by Mr. Sigay Dorji, was denied registration by the Election Commission of Bhutan. This party has drawn members from different walks of life and enjoys mass support and was indeed in a position to pose a potential challenge and threat to the royalist parties and the King’s ulterior design. I, as a Bhutanese citizen, have now lost all respect and faith for the fourth King, whatever little was left in me.
Exclusive provisions of the Election Act mean that 80% of the population are excluded from being members of Parliament, and thereby will never be able to contribute actively towards nation-building. Thus, patriotic, experienced and loyal citizens are specifically denied any role in determining the polity of the nation. This has happened because the King very well understands that his past policies have created dissatisfaction among the large section of the population. If these people get an opportunity in any democratic set up, he will be cornered from all quarters and there will be an imminent mutiny. Therefore, he allowed only his bureaucratic cronies to participate in political process, because they were hand-in-glove in the past policies and benefits. It also reveals that the same policies will be perpetuated, even in the new so-called democratic framework of Bhutan.
The election to the National Council was held before the elections to the National Assembly, in contravention of the practice prevalent in many democratic countries. Fundamental rights, as enshrined in the draft Constitution, were not granted to the people. The election to the National Council was held in such a stifling atmosphere, and now the regime is again planning to conduct elections to the National Assembly in March 24, 2008, in the same atmosphere. The results of recent election to the National Council vindicated our apprehension. Members of the National Council have a crucial role to play in the Parliamentary proceedings and the Constitution has vested enormous powers in their hands, including power of judiciary review. But the young boys and girls aged around 26 years old, who have come out of college recently, found themselves occupying this important seat. In most democratic countries, the minimum age eligibility for becoming a National Council member is fixed at 35 years. I am of the view that for our country, age stipulation must be kept at of 45 years and above, since the Constitution has reserved special powers of judicial review for them, which will eventually bring the Royal Family in its ambit and only experienced persons, deeply entrenched with the norms and practices of Bhutan will be competent to deal with this complexity.
Our party, the Druk National Congress, was in 1994, the first to demand for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan, and continues to work for the establishment of true democracy in our country. At present, the general public, including Sangay Nidup and Jigme Thinley (heading the only two political parties recognised in Bhutan), have both openly declared that ‘democracy’ is the gift granted by fouth King to the Bhutanese people. If it is so, then why is a genuine form of democracy being set aside? Why does extra-constitutional powers continue to be vested with the King? The Monarch’s stronghold over the Constitution is bound to create problems, sooner than later.
Way back in the early 1990s, the forth King declared that he would resolve the Bhutanese refugee issue within three years from then. So far, over last 17 torturous years, no major breakthrough has been achieved. Besides, the issue of democracy and the crisis that surfaced after the peaceful uprising in eastern Bhutan in 1997, too is in the backburner. Adding salt to injury, he appointed his son as the new fifth King, before resolving these issues during his reign. How could the new King understand the intricacy and nuances involved in these issues, when he was merely a child when these happened? Perhaps, de facto power still rests with the fourth King. We are disappointed to hear that the Fifth King wants to continue the legacy of his father. However, the King should be aware that there are relatives of refugees, still living inside country, numbering 80,000 to 90,000. Is the King prepared to continue testing their patience? May be the fifth King is not offered enough space to maneuver.
According to the Bhutanese media, the serial bomb blasts that rocked Bhutan and militants who have been apprehend in Bhutan, are members of the Bhutanese Communists or Maoists. The Druk National Congress doesn’t accept the notion that it is the solitary handiwork of Bhutanese in exile. Bhutan was safe haven for the ULFA and BODO militants. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility of the Royal Government’s role in these acts, to discredit the peaceful image of the refugee movement and to preempt any kind of help from sympathetic international organizations.
Lastly, the health of country is measured by the success achieved in the democracy enshrined in its Constitution. Therefore, if the Constitution is in shambles, then there is no doubt that democracy too would be in shambles. My candid expression is that if the present state of affairs continues a bit longer, then the biggest loser will be the institution of monarchy itself. If you wear slippery shoes, the bigger you are, the greater your fall. Period.
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society executive committee meeting
The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society informed the Bhutanese refugee delegation visiting Delhi that they would always support the just cause of the Bhutanese democracy struggle. The 12-member delegation from the Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal and Kathmandu, Nepal, took part in the Executive Committee meeting of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, held on 22nd Feb, 2008 at Delhi. Amongst those present at the meeting were - Shri R.K. Dorji, Shri Rajiv Agarwal, Shri Vijay Gupta, Shri S.S. Nehra, Shri Shyam Gambhir, Shri Rajendra Verma, Prof. Balraj Kumar, Smt. Renu Gambhir, Shri Narad Muni Sanyasi, Shri K.B. Khadka, Shri Santa Bir Ghalley, Shri Harka Jung Subba, Shri Hari Prasad Sanyasi, Shri Jeetan Subba, Shri C.B. Dahal, Shri Hari Bhattarai, Shri Pema Tendzin, Shri Kesang Lhendup and Shri Karma Dupthob. Shri Satya Prakash Malaviya, President, IBFS, chaired the meeting.
Shri Satya Prakash Malviya expressed his opinion on the present disturbed situation in Bhutan, the immediate attention needed to amend the existing Constitution and to find a resolution to Bhutanese refugee issue. He reiterated that the IBFS would stand by the people of Bhutan in their struggle for justice and democracy. He commented that the political development taking place in Bhutan would need the active involvement of the general public. He explicitly mentioned that the exclusion of the masses from the ongoing political process would erode the credibility and legitimacy of the new government. Thus, all sections of the population must be invited and involved in this historical political process, which will no doubt enhance the image of Bhutan and strengthen the relations between Bhutan and India and take it to a new height.
R.K. Dorji: He briefed the members on the recent political developments unfolding in Bhutan. He added that the elections to the National Council had been concluded, whereas the National Assembly election is slated for March 24, 2008. The Royal Government of Bhutan has not granted fundamental rights and had conducted the elections under pre-existing environs. He categorically asked - should the Bhutanese people accept the election results as a public mandate? He also informed the gathering that the Druk National Congress would organize a conference at Delhi after the completion of elections, most probably in mid-April, to discuss the so-called ‘democratic transition’ in Bhutan.
Narad Muni: He said that patriotic Bhutanese refugees would always return to Bhutan and that the priority of the delegation was repatriation of genuine Bhutanese refugees to Bhutan. India and Bhutan are not only neighbors, but India enjoys an excellent friendly relationship with Bhutan. This is corroborated from the fact that a majority of developments activities in Bhutan was assisted and aided by India and thus India has greater influence on the polity and the economy of Bhutan. therefore, India is the only country in the world that can effect the immediate repatriation of Bhutanese refugees to Bhutan.
K.B. Kharka: He said bona fide Bhutanese refugees want to return to Bhutan in an honourable and dignified manner. If the repatriation process were to proceed in camps at present moment, there will be only a handful of people opting for third country resettlement.
Prof.Balraj Kumar: India has political compulsion in making any intervention in the Bhutanese issue and hence India has always called it as a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan. He sees that the offer of third country resettlement will make the Bhutanese shed their identity which they hold dearly. However, he outlined the practical picture of lingering issues and drew the attention of the delegates. In his understanding of issues, he felt that the Royal Government of Bhutan never wanted to take back the refugees. He also mentioned that he repeatedly read in the news about donor fatigue and the possibility of UNHCR pulling out of the camps. Children born in exile have become adults and time is passing swiftly. In such grim circumstances, what is the best option available to the refugees?
Ramesh Sharma: He stated that he was a bit disturbed to learn about the violence in Bhutan. Whoever it may be, he said, the true democrats in a right frame of mind will never resort to mindless violence. Since he is a peace practitioner, he can’t understand anything beyond peaceful ways and Satyagraha. He urged the delegates to pursue their objectives by peaceful means.
C.B. Dahal: He was of the opinion that the key to resolving the refugee impasse lies with India. He wondered how long it would take to turn the key in the right direction? He continued to hope for best.
According to the Bhutanese media, six militants were caught by a Royal Bhutanese Army patrol in Singay Block, Sarpang Dzongkhag, during February 5-7, 2008. According to media reports, the militants namely, Birkha Bahadur Chettri, Kumar Gautam Chettri, Gobind Nirola, Sukman Magar, Nandalal Basnet and Khagendra Khanal were among 14 cadres of the Nepal-based Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) and had entered Bhutan on December 14, 2007, from the Indian State of Assam.
Report further said that the Royal Bhutan Police had also apprehended seven people of Singey Block, for their alleged role in assisting the militants to set up camps inside Bhutan, providing them food and shelter and arranging supplies.
On February 15, 2008, Sanman Gurung and Aitaraj Rai, members of the Communist Party of Bhutan, based in Nepal, were apprehended at Nunai under Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag, by the Royal Bhutan Army. According to the Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB) based in Nepal, four cadres were arrested and then brutally killed by the Royal Bhutan Police/Army. Later, the authorities laid these dead bodies openly for everyone to see and warned that those going against the authority will meet the same fate. Rights groups appealed to the international community to exert pressure on the Royal Government of Bhutan to stop extra-judicial killings and the suppression in southern Bhutan for alleged political activities.
National Council elections
The election to the National Council of Bhutan was held on December 31, 2007 and January 29, 2008. Fifteen Dzongkhags (districts) went to the polls on December 31, 2007, but the elections in remaining five districts of Haa, Gasa, Thimphu, Lhuentse and Trashiyangtse, were postponed to January 29, 2008, because of lack of contestants. The results of first election were declared on January 1, 2008. The elected members are Mr. Tshewang Jurmey (Bumthang), Miss Tshewang Lhamo (Chhukha), Mr. Sonam Dorji (Dagana), Mr. Naichu (Mongar), Mr. Ugyen Tshering (Paro), Mr.Jigme Rinzin (Pemagatshel), Mr. Namgay Penjore (Punakha), Mr. Jigme Wangchuk (Samdrup Jongkhar), Mr. M.K. Rai (Samtse), Mr. Karma Donnen Wangdi (Sarpang), Mr. Sonam Kinga (Tashigang), Mr. Jagar Dorji (Trongsa), Mr. Justin Gurung (Tsirang), Miss Sonam Yangchen (Wangduephodrang) and Mrs. Pema Lhamo (Zhemgang).
The results of the election held on January 29, 2008, were declared on 30th January, 2008. Gasa, Lhuentse and Haa held a “yes” and “no” vote with only a single candidate contesting the election. The elected members were Mrs. Sangay Zam (Thimphu), Mr. Kesang Namgyal (Tashi Yangtse), Mr. Sangay Khandu (Gasa), Mr. Tshering Dorji ( Haa) and Mr. Rinzin (Lhuentse).
The Bhutanese media reported that International observers, including observers from India and the United Nations, monitored the elections. The low voter turnout was recorded. The Chief Election Commissioner declared that the first ever General Election was a huge success, and he was confident that the transition to democracy will be smooth, according to their plans. India hailed the conducting of the first ever election to the Upper House and said that it was a great moment in Bhutan’s history and an important step in Bhutan ushering a new system of governance.
The National Council election is an apolitical exercise, according to Draft Constitution. However, the clout of the political parties was a major factor in deciding the winners. Losing candidates in Tashi Gang, Tashi Yangtse, Chukha, Zhemgang and Pema Gatshel complained that political parties robbed them of their winning prospects.
Nepal has started issuing ‘exit permits’ to those Bhutanese refugees voluntarily opting for third country resettlement. So far, ‘exit permits’ have been granted to 283 refugees and they will leave Nepal by mid-March 2008.
The United States of America has offered to consider resettlement of at least 60,000 refugees from Bhutan, and Canada too has declared that it will accept up to 5,000. Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway have also indicated their willingness to accept Bhutanese refugees for resettlement.
New Delhi: 22nd Feb. The meeting of the Executive Committee of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society and representatives from the Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal, Camp Secretaries and also members of the Druk National Congress expresses deep sorrow on the sad passing away of Shri Upendra Vajpayee, who was one of the patrons of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, on 17th February, 2008 at Delhi. The meeting observed a minute’s silence. Shri Vajpayee was a very pro-active campaigner of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society and a friend of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.
Shri Satya Prakash Malviya, President of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, remarked that the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society had lost its friend and guardian in his death.The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society prays for the peace of the departed soul and shared the grief
Blasts rock Bhutan
Bhutan witnessed a series of bomb blasts on January 20, 2008, including one in Thimphu, the capital city. The first blast rocked the vegetable market in Samste. The second explosion took place in Thimphu town. Fortunately no injuries or major damages were reported there. The third incident occurred near the gate of the Tala Guest House in Gedu in Chukha district whereas the fourth explosion took place in Dagapela (Dagana district). In the Gedu blast one civilian was injured. According to the Bhutanese newspaper, Kuensel, the Bhutanese Police suspected the hand of the Bhutan Tiger Force in the blasts. However, a day later, on January 21, 2008, in its press statement distributed to various organizations, a new outfit, the United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan took responsibility for these bomb blasts.
On February 4, 2008, a powerful bomb blast occurred in a village in Samste district (southern Bhutan) and two other bombs were defused. This time, one faction of the Bhutanese Maoists claimed responsibility. In the same press statement, they declared that a people's war against the feudalistic King had started. They also outlined their strategies to halt the upcoming general elections, evacuate the settlers in southern Bhutan and to destroy rural infrastructure.
On January 19, 2008, Indian security forces posted on India-Nepal border prevented a team of Indian parliamentarians and social activists, when they were entering Nepal. The team was scheduled to visit the Beldangi refugee camp in eastern Nepal's Jhapa District to express solidarity with the Bhutanese movement for democracy.
The team, led by Mr. Debabrata Biswas, legislator from the Forward Bloc, that supports India's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) from outside, was first stopped at eastern India's Bagdogra airport. On arrival at the airport, Indian security forces first tried to dissuade the team from entering Nepal, saying they would not be able to ensure the team's safety in Nepal.
Mr. Biswas held an impromptu press conference in Panitanki itself. He regretted the highhandedness of the Indian Government. He said that he would take up the issue in the Parliament. He also said that India, being the immediate neighbor, has an inevitable role to play in resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis peacefully, which, he said was the purpose of this mission.
Mr. Heten Burman, MP, Lok Shaba, Mr. Deep Sarkar, MLA, Mr. Dev Rajan, Mr. Ritish Bhattacharya, Mr. Anand Swaroop Verma were prominent members in this team.
DRUK NATIONAL CONGRESS DENOUNCES BOMB BLASTS IN BHUTAN
The Kuensel, the official newspaper of Bhutan, reported that four bomb blasts rocked Bhutan between 11.10 am and 2.10 pm in four different Dzongkhags(districts) on January 20, including one in the capital, Thimphu. A day later the United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan owned responsibility for the blasts.
The Druk National Congress(DNC) categorically denounces this act and also condemns the use of any violence to achieve democracy. It believes that a violent approach undermines the very foundation of democracy that is based on majority rule and minority rights. Democracy achieved by such means is never stable as it justifies the use of force to achieve ends whenever disputable issues arise.
The DNC has repeatedly appealed to the Bhutanese Regime to resolve the protracted refugee problem and also warned about subsequent residual consequences of its delay. It has also urged the Regime to make the democratization process inclusive so that all Bhutanese can participate in this effort. The Regime has refused to see reason and is using the democracy exercise to consolidate its hold on the governance process even more. Given the Regime’s adamant stand on these issues, precipitation of such incidents was inevitable.
However, having had to unwillingly announce democratic reforms in Bhutan(evidenced by the half-hearted, cosmetic and manipulative approach to the process that is purported to unfold democracy in Bhutan), such ‘incidents’ could easily become a pretext for the Regime to stall the democratization process. At the same time, by declaring that it will be going ahead with its ‘democratization process’ despite the blasts, this incident also provides the Regime an opportunity to send an image-building ‘message’ to the international community that it is serious and sincere about ‘democratizing’ Bhutan.
Either way, it is the Regime that stands to ‘apparently’ gain, and little does it benefit the establishment of democracy or ensuring justice in Bhutan.
The initiation of the democratization of Bhutan is the outcome of years of effort and struggle. The DNC is of the opinion that in the present context, the process, though deeply flawed, needs to begin without delay. Fine-tuning democratic governance is a process that can improve with time. Both electors and the elected alike discover the ropes as time goes by, learning and being compelled into shouldering their respective responsibilities with dedication and sincerity. And ultimately working to resolve all issues that concerns Bhutan and its people.
The DNC will not let up in its efforts to continue urging the Royal Government of Bhutan to rectify the shortcomings in its present democracy exercise, and will persist towards resolving all issues concerning Bhutan and its people within the quickest possible timeframe, but it also demands that the RGOB continues the process of democratization as per schedule and as previously declared by it.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
Unmasking King’s Democracy
The King of Bhutan has introduced a unique type of democratic process in Bhutan. The international community has already congratulated Bhutan (King) on “historic election" with the pre-conceived notion that genuine democracy has finally been introduced. Sadly, the basic tenets of democracy are totally absent in Bhutan. People are goaded to press the electronic voting Machine (EVM) and this process is no different to the voting system initiated by the Third King in 1953. Prior to voting, background details of each candidate are required to be submitted to the King. If there is slightest chance of any candidate, having potentials to challenge the authority of the monarch in future, his/her candidature is disqualified. A wooden box ballot contains the names of two contenders and people are required to vote ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. This practice was prevalent until 2006.
The first so-called 'historic election 2007' was conducted under a socio-political environment, where no fundamental human rights and democratic rights are recognized. It will be sacrilege to mention that the polling is conducted under 'free and fair' atmosphere. Consider these facts - the freedom of speech and expression is restricted; the freedom of press is banned; the assembly and association of people are banned; and so on and so forth. King introduced a ridiculous and outrageous stipulation, as prerequisite eligibility, i.e., candidates aiming to contest election for becoming a Member of Parliament (MP), must have a university degree of western education format. Large section of population, endowed with experience and patriotism, are thus denied their inalienable democratic right to participate in politics and to become MP. The power of Monarchy remains intact till date, as the National Constitution does not have any control over Monarchy. Can this practice be really called democratic?
In universally accepted democratic practice, a multi-party system must exist. However, in Bhutan, only two political parties have been allowed to operate, both having close proximity with palace. One of these parties is People's Democratic Party (PDP), headed by Mr. Sangay Nidup, maternal uncle of King, and the second is Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) headed by Mr. Jigme Thinley, matrimonial relative of King. The third party, Bhutan People's United Party (BPUP) formed by Mr. Singay Dorji, was disqualified/unregistered by Election Commission on November 27, 2007, on the ground that this party doesn't have will, competence, experience, qualification and appropriate support to contest elections. In addition, all political parties in exile are banned. Obviously, King will be amenable, if either of his 'confidantes' Jigme Thinley or Sangay Nidup becomes Prime Minister. Though, I have a feeling that King will prefer Sangay Nidup for the Prime Minister’s Job.
The candidates, successfully elected, in this recent election for National Council, offer a prelude to the scenario that will be unfolding in the forthcoming National Assembly election. Majority of them come from a bureaucratic background. Even two 26 years old young person are “elected." It is a matter of grave shame that inexperienced young persons are allowed to occupy seats in National Council. They would be overwhelmed, overpowered and dominated by the five nominees of King. King's most obedient, trusted, loyal and experienced personals, are still working under him. These people would be drafted in the Upper House. These nominees would undermine the true democratic ethos in the National Council. Being 'yes man' to King, I have an apprehension that they will place the interest of Monarchy on a higher pedestal, compared to the interest of public at large. I foresee no change in legislations; they will continue to preserve the structures and systems that prevailed in absolute monarchy and protected Monarchial interests. Even the losing candidates would be eventually drafted back to bureaucratic setup. The only discernible change in election is - the wooden ballot has graduated to Electronic Voting Machine. Can this practice be called dawn of democracy in Bhutan?
There were sporadic revolts against Fourth King since 1974 and most rebels were arrested in their early stages. However, 1990s witnessed the first full-fledged revolt against King by Lhotshampas and certain section of Sharchopa. It demonstrated that 70 percent of the population resented and disapproved King's policies. The aftermath of rebellion resulted in human rights abuses and atrocities, on a large scale. Relatives of rebels are barred to participate in current democratic election; in fact, they are always under the government surveillance. The political prisoners of 1997 eastern Bhutan uprising continue to be incarcerated and there is no ray of hope for their release so far. The democratic voting rights of monks, Gomchen, Anim are denied. Are they not Bhutanese citizen? Is this a democracy?
The familiarization tour by PDP and DPT throughout country has garnered enough action. The people, villages, districts and perhaps regions too, are sharply polarized on party lines. Discords, friction within family are created. Both political parties are engaged in wooing voters by offering bribes in the forms of cash and kind. Election Commission has failed to live up to its promise to root-out the corruption in electoral practice. In fact, King, Election Commission and political parties made a mockery of Constitution.
For last hundred years, the people of Bhutan have been ruled by King like animals. Therefore, I once again ask - Are Bhutanese willing to live yet another animal life by meekly submitting to King's anti-people and anti-democratic polices? When King agreed to become a Constitutional Monarch, it was expected that he would be remorseful for his past misdeeds and would therefore usher the true democratic reforms. But now, it appear, he is incorrigible, remorseless and cold-hearted. These democratic reforms are only aimed to ensure that Bhutan remains in the iron-grip of Royal family and Royal family continues to accrue all the benefits, as if Bhutan is personal estate of King. We, the people of Bhutan, should know that all of us are equal to King. Destiny of monarchial institution rests in the peoples’ will. Democracy in Bhutan, at present, exists only on paper. The true democracy must be enjoyed by the entire population, rather than few privileged ones.
The Druk National Congress reiterates its resolute stand that we will wedge a relentless non-violent struggle against the present form of 'democracy', till it is transformed into an inclusive genuine democracy. The Druk National Congress has re-drafted the Constitution encompassing all democratic aspirations. Though our expectation from King is minimal, yet the Druk National Congress continues to harbor a feeble hope that there is still some time for King to re-correct the current undemocratic process. If King wants to ensure the longevity of his monarchial institution, onus lies in his present course of action. Kings must know the universal truth - in order to enjoy benefits, other people must also be supplemented with same benefits. Druk National Congress warns, if Bhutan falls in the grip of disturbances, unrest, instability and anarchy in near future, only King will be responsible.
Druk National Congress is deeply anguished and saddened at this moment of greatest tragedy heaped on the unfortunate families by an outbreak of fire at Goldhap Refugee Camp (Jhapa, Nepal), leaving more than 10,000 refugee homeless. The Bhutanese refugees, already living nightmare of a life as refugee, since last seventeen years – whole family holed up in a one-room thatched roof house, without access to basic amenities like electricity etc. Their daily food, as well as nutritional intake, has drastically shrunk. Quality of their life has gradually deteriorated over the years. Whatever little household belongings these 10,000 people have managed to acquire, have now been gutted in this fire. It is indeed a very welcome gesture of UNHCR and Nepal government to extend their help promptly and the Druk National Congress expresses its sincere gratitude to both. In addition Druk National Congress appeals to international community to extend their help to the affected poor refugees. The donor agencies, relief agencies, non-government and humanitarian organizations, working in South Asia can play a critical role in alleviating the plight of hapless refugees.
Druk National Congress firmly believes that Royal Government of Bhutan should come forward to help the victims of fire, as the cause is humanitarian and politics must be relegated to periphery. Further, throughout the world Bhutan is recognized as a Buddhist Kingdom and practitioner of compassion and kindness. This unfortunate incident provides an opportunity to the Royal Government of Bhutan to demonstrate that indeed the country practices the teachings of Buddhism, in words and spirit. And above all, these victims are primarily bona fide Bhutanese citizens and by virtue of this, they have a right to receive help from their nation. Therefore, this is high time that Royal Government of Bhutan come out of its slumber.
Of late, the third-country resettlement has featured prominently in local and international news. We firmly believe that it is the personal choice of each refugee to decide his/her own fate. But at the same time, majority of refugees sheltering in camps, want to return Bhutan with dignity and honour. The present crisis has precipitated owing to non-Bhutanese issues and we cannot afford another crisis because of it.
Therefore, in this backdrop, the verification of Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese has become very important. The Joint verification process, jointly initiated by a team of Bhutan and Nepal Government in early 2002, was suspended over some trivial differences. Since both the nations are witnessing historic developments, Druk National Congress, urges both governments to resume the stalled verification process in order to evolve a just, fair and honourable permanent resolution of Bhutanese refugees crisis.
(Rongthong Kunley Dorji)
WE DEMAND RESPONSIBLE ACTION FROM EUROPEAN UNION OBSERVERS.
A team of 15 observers from 13 different European Union countries arrived in the Bhutan to observe the first ever general election that is scheduled on the 24th of March, 2008. The Druk National Congress welcomes this. But taking into account the recent remarks of the team, it puts into doubt the effectiveness of the team in observing the happenings in the backstage that will determine the ultimate outcome of the elections. It is obvious that the process is being observed only at face value. Further, we apprehend that EU observers will bless Bhutan’s general election in spite of all shortcomings. Mr. Javier Pomes, the Chief of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), said, “In our observations so far, most of the processes comply with international standards.”.
In fact, he and his team members understand and acknowledge the fact that only two political parties both headed by the relatives of the King are allowed to function and participate in the political process. Despite the elections being only two weeks away, fundamental human and democratic rights for the people still does not exist. People are still arrested for engaging in political activities that does not favour the present regime and its cronies. Large sections of the population are excluded from the process including the people in exile. Are these practices in compliance with International standards?
Rongthong Kunley Dorji