Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan
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The Fifth King is crowned at last
Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, was crowned in a lavish ceremony on 6th November in Thimphu. He received the sacred dhar of empowerment from the machhen of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the inner sanctum of the Punakha Dzong on November 1. His father, the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, placed the Raven Crown on his head. The coronation ceremony brought the culmination of a remarkable and historical year for Bhutan. The Country formally adopted its first written Constitution and a democratic government for the first time, was established. With the end of the coronation ceremony, the Fifth King formally became the First Constitutional King and ended a long wait by the people.
The Fourth King on 9th December, 2006 abruptly announced his abdication and named his heir apparent, Crown Prince, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, as his successor. The cabinet formally announced the successor on December 14th, 2006. The coronation ceremony was delayed over two years because of lho na (bad-year).
The Bhutanese Monarch gave special importance to India. No head of Government or head of state was invited for the coronation ceremony, save India. The President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, UPA Chairperson, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her family, External Affairs Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, were the principal guests at the ceremony. Some 34 ambassadors were also included in the guest list.
”I am confident that our bilateral ties will become deeper and even more fruitful over the coming years,” Indian President said during her stay in Bhutan.
In an address to the Bhutanese public, the Fifth King said, “Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son”.
Mr. R.K Dorji, President DNC, said, “the statement is impressive. Now he needs to translate these words into action.”
Bhutanese Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley, remarked that new King will be a great King. However, the large number of exiled Bhutanese living in eastern Nepal for the last seventeen years voiced their resentment and demanded new King to initiate their immediate repatriation.
The coronation ceremony went on for three days with entertainment programmes like dances, songs and games.
Prime Minister Jigme Thinley still asleep
Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck was crowned on 6th November, ending the long wait for the Bhutanese public. My party, the Druk National Congress (DNC), has congratulated the new King and had pledged cooperation. We have sent our wishes to new King praying for his long life and glorious reign.
In the meantime, Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa (DPT) government complemented 10 months in office. Jigme Thinley was elected as the first democratic Prime Minister in March this year. Apart from few disgruntled PDP supporters, the entire Bhutanese public had placed great expectations on the Prime Minister and expected him to introduce sweeping democratic changes and development programmes and end despotic policies. Instead, his administration has been engaged in awarding a 130% raise in paycheck to himself and a 100% pay raise to his colleagues. He has failed to nullify draconian laws and initiate developmental programmes. Political prisoners are still incarcerated and he is unabashed. His present position is the fruit of the commitment, blood and sacrifice of those very prisoners. On the other hand, the Bhutanese security forces went amok in villages harassing ignorant and innocent relatives of people in exile and those who are already imprisoned. The harassed relatives in villages don’t have any avenue to redress their woes. It is unfortunate that a democratic government under the leadership of Jigme Thinley is using the beautiful words of democracy to cloak ulterior undemocratic motives.
DNC is very much concerned about the continued neglect of Bhutanese citizens victimized by such draconian laws that deny security clearance certificates (No-Objection Certificate) to relatives of people participating in democratic demonstrations and rallies. Without an NOC, the people are denied access to education, employment, health amenities and business licenses. Even private business houses demand Government NOCs to give employment. This amounts to nothing more than denying fundamental rights enshrined under the Constitution.
So far, irrespective of people belonging to the Sharchop, Lhotsham or Naglong community, all of them are denied access to democratic fruits, save few people belonging to the upper echelons of the social strata. DNC believes that economic conditions of the lower strata of the population should be ameliorated. The DPT Government must at once end all draconian laws. “You can change us if we fail you”, said Jigme Thinley at recent National Day celebration at Pema Gatshal. These are mere words. The Government must reshuffle the cabinet and introduce polices targeting common man to ameliorate their socio-economic conditions if the present one cannot meet the aspirations of the people. To ensure stability and peace is the duty of the Government. Positive and enlightened polices will prevent the rise of extremism both in thought and deed.
Druk National Congress congratulates the Fifth King
The Druk National Congress congratulated the Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namagyal Wangchuck, on his enthronement. DNC urged the new King to protect the sovereignty and independence of Bhutan and initiate impartial religio-politico and socio-economic development programmes to benefit the Bhutanese masses.
DNC offered to follow any orders issued by the Fifth King to facilitate the smooth assumption of Constitutional Monarchy in Bhutan.
DNC wished the Fifth King a long life and a prosperous and glorious reign.
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society welcomes new Bhutan Ambassador
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society welcomed the appointment of Major-General V. Namgyal as Ambassador of Bhutan to India.
The Society sent its good wishes for happy stay in India, and expressed their hope that the new Ambassador’s stay in India would strengthen good relations between the two countries and their people.
Major General V. Namgyal was the Principal ADC to the former King. He succeeds the longest serving Ambassador to India, former Minister Dago Tshering
Rs 900 crore additional Indian aid for Bhutan
India has granted Bhutan Rs 900 crore as additional aid, as was announced on 18th December.
"Bhutan will get an assistance package of Rs.600 crore (Rs 6 billion), and a standby facility of Rs.300 crore (Rs.3 billion). This is over and above the Rs.4,587 crore (Rs 45.87 billion) already committed to Bhutan," the minister said.
"The Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion) is exclusively for the Government of India's project tied assistance to Bhutan," Chidambaram added.
In July this year, India provided a Rs.400 crore credit facility for Bhutan. During the visit of the Prime Minister of Indian to Bhutan this year, the Indian media reported that a sum of Rs 287 crore had been set aside as a gift for Bhutan.
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society congratulates the Fifth King
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society congratulated the Fifth King on the occasion of his coronation. The Society also felicitated the Monarchy on the centennial celebration of the institution of Monarchy in Bhutan and also on the National Day celebrations.
“We shared and rejoiced the sorrow and happiness with Bhutanese people. Today, we are happy to share the happiness of the Bhutanese people on Your Majesty’s coronation”, the letter reads.
IBFS also welcomed and commended the King on the adoption of the historical Constitution and successfully achieving a peaceful transition to parliamentary democracy.
IBFS wished the King and the Bhutanese people a prosperous, peaceful, stable and happy future.
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society is 10 years old
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society celebrated its tenth founding day anniversary on 17th December. The society was formed in 17th December, 1999, as an independent organization for Indo-Bhutan co-operation, especially at the people's level, to promote and strengthen friendship and harmony between the people of India and Bhutan. It aims to promote the values of democracy, equality, justice and freedom, and strive for regional peace.
In 2000, it was registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860. For the last ten years, the Society has arranged and organized lectures, debates, discussions and seminars on Bhutan.
The Society has also visited Bhutanese refugees in eastern Nepal twice to observe their status. The Society has so far supported the dignified repatriation of Bhutanese refugee to their homeland.
Shri Satya Prakash Malviya, Shri R.K. Dorji, Prof. Balraj Kumar, Shri Rajiv Agarwal, Shri Vijay Gupta, Shri S.S. Nehra, Shri Shyam Gambhir, Shri Rajendra Verma, Shri Kuldip Singh Rana, Smt. Renu Gambhir and Smt. Tshering L. Dorji were presented to celebrate the occasion.
Winter session of Parliament in progress
The first winter session of the “democratically” elected Parliament of Bhutan opened on 22nd December, 2008. This session is going to adopt many bills like the Police bill, Prison bill, Waste Prevention and Management Bill, ratification of SAARC Fund Charter, etc..
The first summer session adopted the first Constitution of Bhutan. The summer session also provided the public a heated and thorough debate by the learned members on the Constitution, but in the end, no suggested amendments were considered, and the Constitution was adopted in the same form as was tabled. However, the public are expecting that this time in the winter session, the Members of Parliament will spare the public from a repeat performance on the adoption of the bills.
PDP president resign
Former Minister, Sangay Nidup resigned from the post of President of the People’s Democratic Party. The party’s General Secretary, Lam Kesang, accepted his resignation and is exploring a replacement candidate.
PDP, the first party to be officially registered by the Election Commission of Bhutan, contested the general elections this year under Sangay Nidup’s leadership. The party received a crushing defeat and managed to win only two seats in the Parliament. He also failed to win his own seat from Punakha. After the elections, he submitted his resignation to the party. But the party Central Committee then had rejected his resignation on the grounds that it would send a negative massage to party cadres throughout the country.
The party has Rs 20 Million as overdraft loan, for which the bank is trying to auction Sangay Nidup’s 64 decimal commercial land in Thimphu. The party also has other liabilities close to Nu 4 million. The party pays Nu 60,000 a month to run its head office in Thimphu. It is reported further that membership has drastically fallen after the poor results in the general elections.
John McCain visits Bhutan
A 15-member congressional delegation led by Republican Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, visited Bhutan on December 5, 2008. Bhutan’s democratization was a focus of the U.S. Congressional visit. Senator Graham of South Carolina and Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut were amongst the delegation.
Senator John McCain said. “In a democracy, the people matter. Take responsibility, be informed, and stay enthusiastic.”
The 15-member congressional delegation received audiences with Fifth King, and the fourth King. They also met the Prime Minister, Chief Justice, and the Leader of the Opposition.
During their press conference, though the US has offered to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees and more than 7000 refugees have already reached the US, the issue of Bhutanese refugee was not raised.
Local elections postponed
The local government elections were postponed after the intervention by the King and the National Council. The scheduled elections for the local government was not ready because of wrangling over provisions in the Local Governments’ Act 2007, between the National Assembly and the National Council. The Act is still under discussion. The wrangling between the Houses is over the issue of whether to allow state funds for local government candidates and the involvement of members of Parliament in the local government. (The members of Parliament represent the interest of respective districts/ constituency, so their involvement is necessary).
The Government instead planned to hold interim Gup (Village headman) elections this December under the old rules and regulation, since the 99% of incumbent local government representatives had completed their five-year tenure. The National Council jumped into action by labeling the Government proposed plan as unconstitutional, and sought immediate intervention by the King. The King, after taking the cognizance of the matter, issued a royal decree to the Government to extend the tenure of the incumbent local body until the Act is adopted.
Ulfa regains foothold in Bhutan
The Indian media reported on November 15, that police sources have information about an Ulfa camp in Bhutanese territory near Barpathar village in Assam’s Chirang district. Two top Ulfa leaders of its 709 battalion, self-styled second lieutenant Baba Rabha and sergeant major Kushal Das, are manning the camp that has around 150 cadres, most of them recruits, they added.
The Royal Bhutan Army launched a flushout drive, Operation All Clear, against the militants in 2003. The Government of Bhutan has since then refuted charges that the militants have any base inside Bhutan.
Collision course in Parliament
Institution of the two party system with a unique form of bicameral Parliament, coupled with inherent flaws in the Constitution, has provided enough ammunition for the members of the National Assembly and the members of National Council to be on a collision course. Both Houses are bossing each other over every tiny bit of issue. The National Council has so far played the perfect role of an opposition to National Assembly. The National Assembly proposes and the National Council disposes. This working of business in the Parliament has given a bad start to the country’s march towards democracy.
The National Assembly is the most popular form of peoples’ representation in democratic countries prevalent around the world. However, such is not the case in Bhutan. At the same time, the National Council has huge democratic responsibilities. But in the case of Bhutan, NC elections/nominations was held earlier than the election to the National Assembly. Besides, most of the members of Parliament came from bureaucratic backgrounds, and new democratic responsibility with bureaucratic mindset has only prodded them to work in suspicion.
In July, the Constitution was adopted with the King’s power intact. Both Houses don’t have adequate powers. It is still the king who has the real power. A single royal decree can still nullify Parliamentary or Government decisions.
Bureaucratic officials are still considered bosses in rural areas. People have to entertain the whims of officials. The elected representatives are not exercising people’s power placed on their hands. The ministers from populated districts are absent in the present Cabinet. The Prime Minister must reshuffle the Cabinet time to time to address this deficiency. The incumbent ministers are of the belief that they are occupying their ministerial berths for five years. Both Houses must co-operate with each other. The power of people is paramount. Members of Parliament must realize this truth and work towards the amelioration of the socio-economic condition of people.
Members of Parliament must also introspect and prevent the country coming under parallel administrations, with each holding enough power to overrule the other. At present, Mr. Om Pradhan, as Chairman of Druk Holding and Investment (DHI), is running a parallel administration. The Prime Minister must have the rein of administration throughout the country.
Driglam Namzha not evolving according to times
It seems Driglam Namzha still stands static. Nowadays, some are wearing orange, red, green and blue scarf with patangs. The distinction on the basis of the colour of the scarf (kabney) was the creation of the absolute monarchy.
All Members of Parliament are equal in the House. Some become prime ministers and some minister according to their capability, but all nonetheless belong to the National Assembly as people’s representatives. In the true tradition of democracy, all should wear the same scarf.
“A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” states the Constitution, as a citizen’s fundamental rights. However, the Government has accorded special status to the Central Monastic Body and other religions are restricted. The maintenance of the Central Monastic Body is financed by the Government. There is however no such facility for Nyingmapa practitioners. The Government has given a freehand to the Kargyurpa sect to dominate the Nyingmapa sect. The Central Monastic Body nowadays appoints the principal and teachers in Nyingmapa learning centres. The state patronage to one religion and neglecting other religion will eventually create problems for Bhutan.
The people inside Bhutan are unhappy with Government policies and are complaining. The policy doesn’t reflect the Buddhist way of thought and action. The Government must discard the policy for the shake of purity in religion and to prevent problems cropping up in future. Peaceful co-existence of the Kargyurpa and Nyingmapa sects is in the long-term interest of Bhutan.
Demand for repatriation
A Bhutanese delegation in exiled, led by the Chairman of the Human Rights Organization of Bhutan, Mr. S.B. Subba, met the Prime Minister of Nepal, Shri Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on 20th October at Kathmandu. He submitted a memorandum urging the Nepalese Government to take up efforts for repatriation of Bhutanese refugees.
The same delegation also met Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, on 25th October, and submitted the same appeal.
Mr. R.K. Dorji, President of Druk National Congress, also met the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal at Delhi, when they were on a tour of India. Mr. Dorji apprised the Nepalese leadership for the need for the immediate dignified repatriation of exiled Bhutanese.
Irrespective of classification, all Bhutanese prisoners are released when a new King starts his reign. This tradition was observed and in 1972, at the passing away of the Third King, and the assumption of the Fourth King’s reign, all prisoners were released. Contrary to this existing tradition, only 132 prisoners were released recently when the Fifth King assumed his reign on 6th November. Whether the break in tradition was because of the Fourth King still being alive or the Fifth King becoming the first Constitutional Monarch, no one is sure. However, one thing everyone was expecting was that all political prisoners would be released, particularly because they had been arrested and sentenced for demanding democracy and human rights by an absolute monarchy, and the country had now transitioned to a democracy under Constitutional Monarchy. At present there are more than a hundred political prisoners incarcerated in various jails inside Bhutan. Chemgang Central Jail in Thimphu alone accommodates 90 political prisoners.
According to National Security Act, 1992, the Tsa-Wa-Sum means King, Country and People. Crimes against these three are classified as treasonable offences and could invite a possible death sentence or life imprisonment. All political prisoners were found guilty of “crimes” against the Tsa-Wa-Sum. The regime however, interpreted Tsa-Wa-Sum as being synonymous with the King and his Family. But Tsa-Wa-Sum also includes the People, often forgotten, and it is the People who have asked for their democratic, religious, cultural and human rights. But this was construed as crimes against the monarchy and the country and they were charged and sentenced. For instance, Tshewang Rinzin, a sub-divisional officer(Drungpa) was arrested on 31th July 1998 at Tana Lung Check post (Thimphu) for possessing literatures published by the Druk National Congress. During interrogation, he defended that these literatures were freely available and found no harm in carrying and reading it. After undergoing severe brutal interrogation, he remonstrated that he has lost his faith and respect for King and his government. His remonstrated statement was adjudged as an offence against the Tsa-Wa-Sum and he was therefore convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Victims in exile feel that protests by the people merely to ask for their democratic, religious, cultural and human rights don’t constitute an offence under the Tsa-Wa-Sum. The brutal suppression and killing of people unleashed by the King in early 1990 and 1997-98 in the aftermath of these protests, and the subsequent arrests and conviction is because of this dubious interpretation. Even the International Community is mute on the subject.
In 2007, the Bhutan Regime permitted the registration of only two political parties. The Government declared to world that the democracy had arrived in Bhutan. In this new scenario, and with the politicking of the Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) parties in full swing, Sherub Phuntsho, Tashi Wangdi,Youngba, Lek-je, Tashi Chogay, Sonam Norbu and Phurba Gyaltshen, all residents from Samdrup Jongkhar, Eastern Bhutan, engaged themselves in the evolving politics. They had engaged themselves with same enthusiasm and spirit as that of the DPT and PDP party workers. They demanded rights to political association, freedom of speech, and peaceful assembly. They distributed posters, pamphlets and literatures on democracy and human rights prepared by exiles political parties in their village. They were arrested and imprisoned. They were sentenced to 3 years to 14 years imprisonment by the Bhutanese kangaroo court for possessing and distributing seditious materials. They are presently incarcerated at Chemgang Central jail in Thimphu. Most of their relatives had also participated in the peaceful demonstrations of 1997 that was organized by the Druk National Congress, and some who managed to escape the State’s brutality, had thereafter taken refuge in Nepal. Similarly, in the southern region, some 60 people were arrested from Samtse and Tsirang Districts for allegedly being members of the Bhutanese Communist Party(Maoist). All of them are presently incarcerated at Chemgang Central jail in Thimphu. Interestingly, not a single worker from DPT and PDP has been arrested.
Bhutan embarrassed with the protracted refugee crisis
The Government of Bhutan for first time admitted that the protracted refugee crisis has been an embarrassment for Bhutan. Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, Minister for Agriculture of the Royal Government of Bhutan, told the Nepal media that the protracted crisis has been an "embarrassment" for Bhutan "as much as any other party concerned", and hoped that the new-round of talks that is soon going to start between Bhutan and Nepal on the issue will bear fruit.
He disclosed that Bhutan is very serious regarding finding an amicable solution to the crisis and has formed a high-level ministerial team. Minister Gyamtsho was in Kathmandu to attend the 25th Anniversary celebration of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). He was formerly employed at ICIMOD.
Indian analyst, Dr. S. Chandrasekharan, pointed out that Bhutan should stop the charade of bilateral talks with Nepal on the refugee issue. He infers that the Minister’s statement is giving unnecessary hope once again to those refugees who have languished in the camps for seventeen years or more. They had lost all hopes of returning to Bhutan and have reluctantly resigned themselves to get settled in third countries. He is of the opinion that Bhutan should admit that it is not in a position to take any refugee back instead of feeding them with false hopes.
19th December, 2008
A meeting of the Executive Committee of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society was held on 17th December, 2008 coinciding the Society’s tenth Founding day and Bhutan’s National Day at Safdarjung Club, New Delhi.
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society is appalled that even after the institution of democratic government in Bhutan for last ten months; the reports emanating from Bhutan are disturbing. The fundamental human rights and democratic rights are not granted to people. The Political persecution is still rampant. Freedom of speech and expression are restricted. Freedom of assembly and association is banned. Exile political parties and human rights organization are still banned. Independent judiciary is absent. Political prisoners are still incarcerated. The sentences meted out to political prisoner are utterly unbelievable.
Society is also concerned that Bhutanese ‘democratic’ government has not initiated the repatriation of refugee. Society supports the timely repatriation of Bhutanese refugee in honor and dignity.
Society decided to write letter to Bhutanese Member of Parliament highlighting the issues and to visit Bhutan and meet political prisoners. Society will also seek to hold discussion with concerned Bhutanese authorities’ towards finding just and peaceful resolutions to various issues.
Satya Prakash Malaviya
Copy of letter sent to Bhutanese member of Parliament.
29th December, 2008
My Dear Mr….
We congratulate you for being the first elected representative in your country. We also commended and welcomed the adoption of historical Constitution this year. Recently, we rejoiced with fellow Bhutanese people and shared the happiness on the occasion of Coronation of Fifth King and centennial celebration of National Day and the institution of monarchy in Bhutan. Incidentally on 17th December, we also celebrated the 10th anniversary of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society’s Foundation Day.
Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society is independent organization formed in 17th December, 1999 for Indo-Bhutan co-operation, especially at the people's level to promote and strengthen friendship and harmony between the people of India and Bhutan. We also believe that Bhutan and India shared common interest. Friendship between the two can achieve mutual benefits. Because of our friendship with people of Bhutan, we are bringing following grave concerns that need your kind attention and necessary action.
Ten months has elapsed in completing transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy in Bhutan. The historical constitution was formally adopted on 16th July, 2008 in a grand ceremony. However, the reports emanating from inside Bhutan are disturbing. We are hearing the fundamental human rights and democratic rights are not granted to people. We are also informed that Political persecution is still rampant. Freedom of speech and expression are restricted. Freedom of assembly and association is banned. Exile political parties and human rights organizations are still banned. Independent judiciary is absent. Political prisoners that were arrested prior “transition’ and post ‘transition’ are still imprisoned. These political prisoners are reported to be kept in inhuman condition. The sentences meted out to political prisoners are very harsh.
The independent judiciary is the basic foundation for any form of democracy and its successful functioning. In the case of fellow brethrens inside Bhutan, democratic and human rights are not protected. It is no wonder, the political prisoners doesn’t have access to appeal their case in appropriate appellant court.
Society delegation has visited refugee camps in eastern Nepal twice. We found out that majority of those refugees living in despicable situation in camps wanted to return to Bhutan with honour and dignity. Even after receiving the lucrative offer to resettle them in US, Canada, Australia, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark and New Zealand, there are thousands of refugees who are desperate and committed to return to Bhutan. In short, our society feels they are citizens of Bhutan in first place and have every right to return to Bhutan. All of them are patriotic and loved their country.
We the people of India are concerned and appalled that such undemocratic practices are prevalent when international community including us assumed that democracy in the real sense has taken roots in Bhutan. Being the legislator and representative of people, you have huge responsibility to rectify the prevalent undemocratic practices and guarantee the democratic rights and fundamental human rights to the people of Bhutan.
We therefore urge timely action by you. Please keep us posted with latest developments.
Long live the Indo-Bhutan Friendship!
Jai Bharat! Jai Bhutan!
Happy New Year
(Satya Prakash Malaviya)
STATISTICAL DATA OF RESETTLED BHUTANESE REFUGEES