Druk National Congress of Bhutan
Restricted for Private Circulation Only
JANUARY - SEPTEMBER 2016
DNC sends congratulations on the birth of the Crown Prince
The Druk National Congress offered felicitations in its letter to the King of Bhutan, on the birth of the Gyalsey, Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck on February 5.
DNC also offered the prayers for His Royal Highness the Gyalsey’s well-being and long life.
King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck wedded Queen Jetsun Pema in 2011, and the Gyalsey is their first child.
Royal Annuities Bill Still not enacted
The Constitution of Bhutan was adopted on the 18th of July, 2008. Article 2, Section 13 of the Constitution states that, “The Druk Gyalpo and the members of the Royal Family shall be entitled to: (a) Annuities from the State in accordance with a law made by Parliament”. The 6th Session of the 2nd Parliament will commence from 4th November and the agenda for the Royal Annuities bill is still absent.
The Government has scrapped many infrastructure development activities citing the lack of funds. However, the same government is spending over hundreds of billions of ngultrum to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of the former King.
How has the Institution of Monarchy been supported these past years? Isn’t it the public’s right to know how much of their hard-earned tax money will be spent on the upkeep of the Royal Family? Then why does this crucial Act evade every Parliament session?
Foundation Day celebrated
Members of Druk National Congress celebrated the Party’s 22nd Foundation Day at Kathmandu with an event to commemorate the occasion.
Bhutanese politicians in exile, Nepali democrats, media people and well-wishers attended the event.
On the occasion, DNC Vice-President Pema Tendzin urged its members and the Bhutanese to keep their struggle for the establishment of “genuine democracy” in Bhutan going, so as to establish a peaceful, prosperous, egalitarian society.
“At present, democracy in Bhutan is exclusive and the palace continues to intervene. People should show courage and resolve in fighting for their sovereign rights,” he added.
The Party was founded on the 16th June, 1994, by Late Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, with the support of the Bhutanese people both in Bhutan and in exile.
BRRRC demand repatriation
Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee chairperson Dr. Bhampa Rai appealed to the Government of Nepal to coordinate with Bhutan for the repatriation of remaining refugees.
He added “As per international laws, refugees should be allowed to return home, but the international community has resorted to third country resettlement instead of doing the needful to let us return home.”
After a large-scale third-country resettlement has been under way since 2008, as many as 10,700 refugees will remain in refugee camp by the end of 2016.
Dr. Rai called on Nepal’s Government to create pressure at the international level to resolve the Bhutanese refugee crisis and warned other than repatriation will prove adverse in the long run.
The National Council of Bhutan expressed concerns and warned of a threat to the safety and security of the country because of the presence of huge number of illegal migrants in country.
The National Council Legislative Committee’s report estimated that DANTAK employs around 3,000 illegal immigrants, while IMTRAT is estimated to hold around 2,000 workers without work permits. DANTAK and IMTRAT are the Indian military organs operating in Bhutan under defense cooperation between Bhutan and India.
The labour department has issued work permits for 48,675 foreign workers as of April 6 this year, exceeding the foreign workers ceiling of 45,000. The reports further states 20,000 day workers to be working in the border towns every day without work permits.
“If 70,000 of the 700,000 population are foreign workers, it is a huge concern for the safety and security of our country,” the Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu said.
Bhutan Arunachal Pradesh road links
India and Bhutan discussed the possibility of opening a road linking Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang with Assam via eastern Bhutan.
Indian Home Minister for State, Mr. Kiren Rijiju discussed the issue with Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay , during his two day visit to Bhutan in June.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul back in April during his meeting with Jaideep Sarkar, Indian ambassador to Bhutan in Itanagar, called for the same.
While the distance between Tawang and Guwahati via Tezpur is 503 kms. The development of route through Tashiyangtse in Bhutan and Darranga in Assam will cut down travel distance between Tawang and Guwahati by almost 200 kms. It only requires construction of only a 15-km stretch between Lumla in Tawang and Tashiyangtse in Bhutan.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister has cited various concerns of the people of Bhutan that the country is not yet ready for such links.
Bhutan bound to take back its citizens: Nepalese Foreign Minister
Nepalese Foreign Minister Dr.Prakash Sharan Mahat told visiting American Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central, Asia Nisha Biswal, that it is Bhutan’s obligation to ensure the repatriation of more than 10,000 Bhutanese refugees remaining in camps in eastern Nepal after the resettlement of over 100,000 of them in the West.
Nisha Biswal was in daylong visit to Nepal on September 4 to solicit Nepal’s view on the possibility of local assimilation of the remaining Bhutanese refugees after the end in resettlement program.
“Bona fide Bhutanese refugees should either be repatriated to Bhutan or the international community that has already settled over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees in several western countries including the US should take them,” he told the US official.
Nepalese Foreign Minister argued that since Nepal hosted the refugees on humanitarian ground, the international community should support their right to return to Bhutan.
UNHCR to exit Bhutanese refugee camps by 2019
The UNHCR will exit the Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal at the end of 2019. The UNHCR has put together a three year exit plan beginning early next year. The plan envisions a complete withdrawal from camps by the end of year 2019.
UNHCR will end its operation of continued humanitarian support to 119,000 Bhutanese refugees after three decades.
DPT MP resigns
National Assembly Member Mr. Kinga Tshering resigned from the National Assembly on August 11 to pursue further studies abroad. He belongs to Druk Phuensum Tshogpa.
The former MP Kinga Tshering had secured a scholarship at Harvard University in the USA. He defied party wishes and instead claimed public memory is short and he will get another opportunity to become Member of Parliament in future.
This is the second resignation of member from the National Assembly. The first resignation was tendered by the former DPT president Jigme Y Thinley in 2013.
The by-election is going to be held in the October month.
National Assembly endorses BBIN transport agreements
The National Assembly of Bhutan endorsed Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) transport agreement, the sub-regional agreement amid resistance from the opposition. The Opposition party opposed the agreements on ground of security, environment, tourism industry and livelihood of Bhutanese transporter.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the agreement would not allow free flow of foreign vehicles into the country but regulate the cross-border movement of vehicles in the sub-region. Some Indian experts believe, Bhutanese Prime Minister’s assurance to Bhutanese transporters will defeat the purpose of agreement.
According to the agreement, the contracting parties will allow cargo vehicles for inter-country cargo, including third country cargo and passenger vehicles for both hire and reward or personal vehicles, to ply in the territory of another contracting country “subject to the terms of the agreement”.
Four countries signed the agreement because of the failure of the eight SAARC member countries to sign a similar agreement in its Kathmandu Summit in 2015.
Bhutan and China hold 25 rounds of Border talks
The 25th round of the Bhutan-China boundary talks was held in Beijing on August 11.
The talks were led by foreign minister Damcho Dorji and Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin.
The talks reviewed the progress on the boundary issue following the 23rd round of boundary talks held in Thimphu in August 2015 and the two expert group meetings held in December 2015 in Beijing and March 2016 in Thimphu.
The talks endorsed the report of the Joint Technical Field Survey of the disputed areas in the western sector carried out by the expert group of the two sides.
China has settled border differences with 12 of the 14 land neighbours with boundary disputes pending with India and Bhutan.
“China and Bhutan have yet to establish diplomatic ties but have always respected each other and treated each other as equals,” state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Liu Zhenmin as saying.
Bhutan and China border boundary negotiations started back in 1984 and guided by the guiding principles agreed to in 1988 and the agreement on the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the Bhutan-China areas signed in 1998.
Refugee delegations meet Nepalese Home Minister
Bhutanese refugee delegation headed by the Teknath Rizal met Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi on September 7. The Druk National Congress was part of the delegation. The delegation apprised the Home minister on the issue of non-registered Bhutanese and possibility of stateless people in Nepal besides, the repatriation of refugees.
The Home Minister promised to look into the issues by holding a talk with Foreign Minister Dr. Prakash Saran Mahat. He expressed that Nepal will always stand for the honorable repatriation of Bhutanese refugees.
Corruption blind eye
Former Foreign Minister, Rinzin Dorji was acquitted of all the charges including misuse of public property by the Supreme Court in August this year.
In 2015, he was removed from the Cabinet. He was charged for corruption prior to becoming a Member of Parliament and Minister, by the Office of the Attorney General.
The reason for his clean chit verdict by Supreme Court is to stop the deluge of similar cases. Majority of parliamentarians have a bureaucratic background and a history of misuse of the public property. The integrity of the Election Commission of Bhutan would also come under scrutiny if Rinzin Dorji had been convicted. The ECB has accepted Rinzin Dorji prior to elections in 2013 as a person beyond reproach. The Supreme Court judges come from bureaucratic background and some are of questionable integrity. The verdict stops the opening of a Pandora’s box in addition to face saving measure for the Government.
In Bhutan, the elite bureaucratics who take a salary of Nu 60,000 per month had amass a wealth over Nu 70 million in mere three years. Many top bureaucratic officials have not declared their assets in spite of the Government’s mandatory guideline to do so. The People’s Democratic Party government is presently going easy with corruption within the public sectors and bureaucracy in their effort to create vote banks. Bhutanese bureaucracy has 30,000 strong voters in addition to their friends and relatives in rural areas under their sway.
Second Local Government elections held
The second local government elections were held on 27 September. Voter turnout of 55.8 percent was recorded. Over three thousand candidates participated in the LG election. Female voters are more than male voters in Bhutan yet only 11 percent of the total elected candidates are women.
In this election, 2 females were elected as Gups out of 205 Gups in country. In the last elections only single female was elected.
Immaturity by DPT exposes
Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa(DPT)’s handling of Mr. Chencho Nidup as its new North Thimphu candidate on 9 September to contest in by elections necessitated by the resignation of Mr. Kinga Tshering, shows the immaturity within the opposition party.
Mr. Chencho Nidup resigned from the candidacy after three days citing his mother is devout religious person and she is adverse to him joining in politics.
The opposition leader Dr. Pema Gyamtsho alleged that the candidate has been pressured by his uncle, Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji and others to quit his candidacy. However, Mr. Chencho clarified that there was no pressure whatsoever from any quarter.
The people of Bhutan are simply crestfallen by the immaturity shown by the Opposition Party under Dr. Pema Gyamtsho’s leadership. How a party with massive experience and seasoned former ministers within came to give a party ticket to novice person who isn’t interested in politics in first place.
Political prisoners still imprisoned
The Government of Bhutan continues to incarcerate fifty political prisoners. Last year, Tashi (15 years), Nidup Phuentsho (17 years), Leki Dorji (15 years 9 months), Tashi Chogay (13 years) were release after serving their full prison sentences. Mr. Tshewang Rizin, Rizin Wangdi, Dorji Nidup,Ugyen Dorji,Tashi Wangdi and Youngba in addition to 30 Lhotshampa political prisoners are still incarcerated without access to parole.
Mr. Rinchen Wangdi employee of Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd. (RICBL), who have siphon off Nu 91.605M was abducted from Nepal last years after paying a Nu 1 million reward to Nepalese official. He was release on bail after posting Nu1 million bail amount. His partner in crime, Yesel Dema too is release on bail after she posted Nu 500,000 bail amount.
The political prisoners who have raise their voice for democracy and human rights on the other hand are still denied the fundamental rights enshrined under the Constitution of Bhutan.