Druk National Congress of Bhutan
Restricted for Private Circulation Only
January - March, 2012
MR. KESANG LHENDUP NEW PRESIDENT OF DRUK NATIONAL CONGRESS
Mr. Kesang Lhendup, 48, from Mongar District ,Bhutan was elected as the new President of the Druk National Congress on 18th December , 2011 by the extraordinary party convention held in Nepal. He had joined the party in 1994 and held the post of Vice-President and General Secretary in the past.
The election of the president was necessitated after the founding
president, Rongthong Kunley Dorji passed away on 19th October, 2011
New Office bearer appointment
The newly elected president of Druk National Congress, Kesang Lhendup constituted his team with the appointment of new office bearers. Mr. Gedun Choephel and Mr. Pema Tendzin were appointed as Vice-Presidents. Mr. Karma Dupthob and Mr. Sangay Dorji were appointed as General Secretary and Treasurer respectively. In addition, Mr. Chewang Rixin was appointed as President of Druk National Youth Congress, a youth wing of the party.
The President informed that his team’s first priority will
be to work towards the deepening of democracy in Bhutan and assist
repatriation of Bhutanese refugees. As an initial, it will work towards
consolidating the democratic movements and organizations in exiles.
Inaugural speech by New DNC president
First of all, thank you, colleagues within Bhutan for imposing trust and faith in me to lead the Druk National Congress, a historical party. I will always put my nation, people and work above my self-interest. Today you have elected me to fill the vacant post left by our charismatic leader, Rongthong Kunley Dorji. His untimely demise was great loss and setback to the Bhutanese Democratic Movement. I know my predecessor was irreplaceable. I will, however, try my best to do justice to his political legacy and continue his policies.
Nowadays, our fellow citizens inside the country are proud of the fact that our nation is a democratic country and some sections are able to enjoy the fruits of democracy which were earlier prohibited to them. Democracy in Bhutan is sum total of our blood, sacrifices, alienation and sweats. Everyone knows the principal credit for ushering Bhutan from an absolute Monarchy, to a Constitutional Democracy under Constitutional Monarchy goes to Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, and DNC irrespective of what others might add spin on the narrative. The People of Bhutan owe him a deepest respect and gratitude for all his sacrifices.
Notwithstanding our miseries and alienation, we must be proud
to have contributed in ushering the democracy in our country. History
will judge our contribution.
I put Triple gem as a witness that I will continue to work for the welfare and benefits of our country and our people besides strengthening our party. This work is not confined to me alone. We all must work together and I expect your full co-operation and support in my new life journey.
Ka din Che
Bhutan annually received sum of Rs 50,000 as compensation for Assam and Bengal Duars in accordance to the treaty of Sinchula signed in 1865 with British India. The treaty underwent changes and the amount steadily increased to Rs 500,000 according to 1949 Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty. The former staff at Revenue and Custom department now in exiles however claims the actual amount to be around Rs 70 Million in early 1990s.
In 2007, Bhutan and India signed a new treaty by the fifth Druk Gyalpo’s on 8th February at New Delhi. The article concerning the compensation on Duars had disappeared in the new treaty. The Druk National Congress was particularly disturbed to find the absence of this symbolic and important article in friendship treaty. Has the Fourth King taken the onetime “huge’ payout from India for this?
Bhutan was poised to transits to democracy in 2008 and the compensation amount could have gone to the people. The people have right to seek answer for it.
Indo-Bhutan Border opens
The Assam-Bhutan border is set to open after 10 years after joint operations along the Indo-Bhutanese border in 2003 to flush out militant groups from the northeast taking shelter in Bhutan. For the fear of retaliation, the Assam-Bhutan border was closed. All vehicles with Bhutanese registration number plates used to be escorted by Indian security force vehicles on the Indian side of the border. The arrangement for escorting vehicles from Bhutan on the Assam border is still on.
During ‘Operation All clear’, some thousands militants
from Assam and Bengal were either killed or arrested. The Bhutanese
military lost fourteen armies of its own.
Religious personalities registration
The Government announced all Bhutanese religious personalities living within and outside the country will now have to register with ChhoedeyLhentshog or Commission for Religious Organizations.
Lams, truelkus, khenpos, gelongs, gomchens, anims, tshampas, tsips, latruels, lam manips, pandits, purohits and pujaris who do not belong to the Zhung Dratshang (Central Monastic Body) will have to submit their bio-data along with their citizenship identity card to the Chhoedey Lhentshog within six months from the publication of announcement.
The Religious Organization Act, 2007 has its preamble to protect
and preserve the spiritual heritage of Bhutan. Buddhism is constitutionally
recognized as a spiritual heritage of Bhutan. The Chhoedey Lhentshoug
comprises of eight members with Cabinet Minister as its chairperson.
The Tshugla Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang, is one of the member. The
Chhoedey Lhentshog has no authority over the religious personalities
under the Zhung Dratshang and subsidiaries registered under it.
The Government allying with Zhung Dratsang had until now, prevented the construction of Nyingmapa Monastery in Thimphu Valley. Unless, the Zhung Dratsang comes under the ambit of Chhoedey Lhentshoug, the problems within the Buddhism sects will continue and affects the well-being, stability and peace of nation, asserts critics.
Further there is an issue of ineligibility of a Religious Personality
to participate in the Electoral Process because of Article 3 of the
Constitution and Section 184 of Election Act. In General Election
of 2008, many lay monks were barred from voting. Lay monks practise
religion, but they’re allowed to marry and raise families and
do not received the government stipends. The Government is reluctant
to grant the voting rights to lay monks. In late 1990s, majority of
lay monks from eastern Bhutan staged the demonstration against the
regime demanding the institution of democracy and human rights in
Inclusion of exclusion- Letter to King
The Druk National Congress urged the King to grant party an opportunity to participate in 2013 General Election, so that its participation might bring inclusively and contribute in National building. President Kesang Lhendup wrote a letter to the King on 26th February, 2012.
The letter noted that the party under the leadership of late Rongthong
Kunley Dorji, called for, and worked towards, the establishment of
democracy in Bhutan and the Fourth King saw the wisdom in party’s
aspirations and graciously paved the way for the country to embark
on the democratic path with the adoption of the Constitution in 2008
and holding of General Elections in the same year. However, the procedure
adopted then was exclusive. The party thus demanded the inclusion
India’s support sought to precipitate durable political solution in Bhutan
The Government of India must support the Bhutanese in precipitating a durable political solution to the persisting political problems confronting Bhutan, particularly vis-à-vis the exiled Bhutanese, and also to urge all concerned to also do so. The letter submitted to Indian Prime Minister on March 27, 2013 noted.
The letter further stated, “Bhutan promulgated its first “democratic” Constitution, but fundamental democratic and human rights enshrined in the Constitution are still absent on the ground, and far from being brought to practice. “Democracy” has finally come to Bhutan, but political prisoners, the very ones who sacrificed everything they had in order to bring this democratic arrangement to pass, continue to languish in Bhutanese jail.”
India’s assistance is sought because India is not only Bhutan’s
most important neighbor as well as its benefactor, but also its closest
friend. Thus, India can enlighten Bhutan on the inclusion of other
Bhutanese political parties, including the Druk National Congress,
in Bhutan’s political process, so that it may participate in
Bhutan’s forthcoming general elections, and play an inclusive
role in Bhutan’s future.
New DNC President congratulated
The Bhutanese Community and friends of Bhutan congratulated new President of Druk National Congress, Kesang Lhendup on being elected to lead the historical party. Mr. Teknath Rizal, Chairman of People Forum for Human Rights, Bhutan, Dr. DN.S Dhaka, Executive Chief of Bhutan National Democratic Party, Mr. Balaram Poudyal, President of Bhutan Peoples’ Party extended their congratulation to Mr. Kesang Lhendup. The Bhutanese communities overseas also extended their congratulation to the new president.
Almost all expressed that DNC under the new leadership continue its mission of deepening democracy in Bhutan - enabling the Bhutanese people to enjoy genuine human rights, freedom, harmony and peace.
Mr. Shyam Gambhir, General Secretary of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society on behalf of society and its president, congratulated Mr. Kesang Lhendupas the new DNC president.
“..under your able leadership, may DNC realized its objectives
of genuine democracy in Bhutan and expect DNC to continue its contribution
towards strengthening the friendly ties between India and Bhutan at
people- to-people level ” the IBFS congratulatory message read.
The International Community
International community is not keeping its promise. We have agreed on the third country resettlement program with the belief that the international community will work with Bhutan government to open the door for repatriation as well. Contrary to our belief, the international community seems working with Bhutan government to promote local assimilation of those refugees who are unwilling to resettle in overseas countries.
This is not acceptable to Bhutan National Democratic Party. If we had not chosen for overseas resettlement means our option is to return Bhutan only. Any attempts to compel us to resettle in Nepal or India will complicate the resettlement of the political issue.
The international community and Bhutan must realize that the truth will always prevail in the long-run. We are not economic immigrants; we are true sons of the soil who had laid the foundation of prosperous south Bhutan. Bhutan refugee problem is the bi-product of the core political issues which the Bhutan government needs to address immediately if it wishes to have peace and stability in the country.
Riding on the ill advice of the international community or faking happiness on the sexy theme of gross national happiness will be unfortunate for the country. The seed of injustice is bound to surface its ugly face sooner or later unless the international community works with Bhutan to give a fair solution to this protracted political problem.
Under the given circumstances, the acceptable solution would be to (1) repatriation of willing refugees with honor and dignity to their own place in Bhutan, (2) recognition of the resettled refugees as non-resident Bhutanese, and (3) recognition of all political parties formed in exile and permission to establish their offices inside the country and facilitate participation in the election process.
Unless these core issues are addressed by Bhutan government there
will always remain a political problem in Bhutan. The international
community must understand that their generosity to help Bhutan by
offering third-country resettlement of the majority of Bhutanese refugees
will not be that beneficial if they fail work proactively to find
lasting solution of this political problem. It is better they realize
it sooner than later, and advise their pet regime in Thimphu accordingly!
Senior citizens demand repatriation
Senior citizens of refugee camps have demanded dignified repatriation. Mr.Harka Jung Subba and Mr.Santa Bir Ghale of the Senior Citizens’ Group had submitted a petition to the US Embassy in Kathmandu on March 28, 2012 stating that the ongoing third country resettlement would never be an amicable solution to bring the two-decade long refugee imbroglio to an end.
“We urge the United States of America and other resettling
countries to press the Government of Bhutan to open doors for repatriation,”
the duo said in the petition letter.
Pardon Royal Pardon
The police released 16 out of 35 prisoners who had been imprisoned for violating Tobacco Acts. All of them were released by Royal pardon. The media reported there is amnesty penal who judge each prisoners case by case to determine their merit for Royal pardon. This ghost amnesty panel is in fact directed and controlled by the Gyalpo Zimpoen. Everything is done on behalf of the King. The murderer and criminals like Lhakpa Dorji, former Mongar Dzonggda,Gup SonamDrukpa and Ex-Major Pem Tshering, are either freed from conviction or freed from imprisonment because of ‘Royal pardon’.
The innocent people who simply had demanded democracy are incarcerated
over decades. The regime without felling bit of shame continues to
keep these political prisoners.
The police conduct strip search of group of boys of three or more in urban areas. The police claimed they had to conduct stripe search to look for dagger in wake of increased in stabbing cases in urban areas. The critic however says Bhutan is slowly turning into police state based on one or other pretext. The slightest freedom the people had earned post 2008 is being squeezed.
During the emergency of 1990s, police conducted strip search on
group of people of three or more to quell the dissident’s movement.
58,834 Bhutanese resettled
Over 58,834 Bhutanese refugees have left for various western countries by January 19, 2012, according to the UNHCR. The camp population of 113, 486 has come down to 54,652.
In total, 49,396 exiled refugees have left for the US, 4,213 for Canada, 3,217 for Australia, 589 for New Zealand, 612 for Denmark, 372 for Norway, 324 for the Netherlands, and 111 for the United Kingdom.
Of the remaining residents, at least 42,873 individuals have declared an interest in resettlement. Once the ongoing resettlement program ceases by 2015, population will come down to 11,779.
Voter turnout low
The Government of Bhutan held the elections to the local governments on 27th June, 2011. A election for the offices of Gups, Mangmis and Tshogpas. Overall voter turn-out was recorded at 56%. The seats to each of post were not able to fill during this day because of non-availability of candidates. The non-availability of candidates had to do with many stipulations brought out by the Election Commission of Bhutan.The second round of election was held after a month to fill the vacant post. Yet the some posts of Tshogpa and Gups are still vacant. The voter turnout was noted at 26%.
The low turnout was attributed that the people had lost faith in existing practice of democracy in Bhutan. The people felt the real sense of democracy is absent. They considered the voting is a futile exercise and waste of their energy and time.
Will DPT and PDP fixed their bill
The June 30, 2012 is approaching. This is the dateline given by the ECB to two political parties to clear their debts in order to be eligible to contest the 2013 elections.Both parties had incurred huge debts before the elections. As it stands, both parties’ dues cannot be cleared within the given deadline. Interestingly, there are no laws in Election Acts that political parties must be solvent to be eligible to contest the election.
The state funding for the Political parties has appeared in the discussion in parliament from the very first session of the parliament. The issue was intractable from the start of the debate. The Ruling party was at loggerhead against the Opposition Party, National Council and Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB). The ruling party enjoyed the huge majority to go ahead with state funding legislation, but it didn’t have the teeth after all to implement their will. The string was being pulled from behind. So much so that ECB, an institution that was created in first place to implement the legislations issued statements that “state funding is unconstitutional”.
The state funding or debt writ off is available to the ruling party.
Attack and Blast
On 17 February, 2012, unknown assailants attacked the Forest Check post at Rinchending, Phuentsholing. Bomb also ripped the check post as well. The Bhutanese media reported that one police official was injured.
The underground outfit, United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan has
claimed responsibility for the attack. They claimed three police personals
Bureaucracy and Election
The Government is the biggest employer in Bhutan. The bureaucracy forms the heart of it. Sadly, they continue to attach with old régime. In the democratic era, this huge government employee continues to see King as their seers. They have their good reason. The King has way of keeping his grip over them. He had offered them good pay and duty free foreign vehicles in addition to numerous allowances to keep them happy. Every two years, their pay is increased to assay their slightest grumble in wake of ever increasing inflation. The higher officials who knew of the secret deals that government had undertaken are well taken care of even after their retirement. For example, former Army Chief, Lam Dorji, continues to receive the pay and services that of incumbent Chief of Army. All former ministers are accommodated in new power set up in the form of ministry or the constitutional institution in the capacity of commissioners. The likes of former Ministers, Dago Tshering, Kinzang Dorji are also provided proper and respectable settings. Even at their twilight of their lives, the former apparatchiks are made to feel their importance. Recently, Dago Tshering was heading the delegation to Qatar as Special envoy of Prime Minister and so was Kinzang Dorji as special envoy to Vietnam.
Bhutan has over 23,000 civil servants and around 14 000, police and army personnel in addition to two thousand or more Royal Body Guards. The aggregate strength of Civil servants, Police, Army and Royal Body Guards would come around forty thousand. All are eligible to vote. The aggregate votes of civil servants, police and army along with their family members and relatives spread throughout the country becomes a huge vote bank. Bhutan had the electorate of 318,465.Most voters are in rural area. The relatives of civil servants, police, and army are in rural area. Most of their relatives depend on the largess from them. Because of this, whatever their ‘learned ‘relatives say, the rural flocks meekly follow. Besides, the democratic education at grass roots and rural area is minimal or absent. The people are ignorant of democracy and the real value and power of their votes. The King is in control of this electorate. The leaders of political parties whatever their ideology has to dance to his tune.
2008 General Election
The People Democratic Party under Sangay Nidup was the first party to be awarded the registration by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB). They had made good head start in their election campaign. PDP spent huge amount of money in campaign and had penetrated almost all villages while their competitors were wavering in their decisions including Jigme Thinley whether to join politics. The ideology of PDP was based on Gross National Happiness. The Druk PhuentsumTshogpa under JigmeThinley walked the same footsteps that of PDP in terms of their ideology. There was hardly any difference between the two political parties. In addition, the PDP because of their financial clout had penetrated the rural and urban areas so much so that media wrote, “ DPT drop in PDP ocean” as their headlines when the current Education Minister, T.S. Poudyal announced his candidature from Samtse. The PDP holds more sway than the DPT in every village. But the grand master stationed at Samteling turned the tide. Few days before the elections, most of the civil servants, police, and army personals went to their constituencies in their respective villages. There was huge volume of telephone exchanges.
Rumors had it that many civil servants had suffered severity under Sangay Nidup when he was ‘one year rotational Prime Minister’ before 2008.On the other hand, Jigme Thinly was better off between the two. The truth was far from fiction. The former King was afraid of Sangay Nidup. In the past, Sangay Nidup had shown the wild trait of his personality. He even divorced his sister, Princess Dechen Wangmo Wangchuck. Sangay Nidu’s personality and wild nature was seen as unmanageable, dangerous and unqualified to be his puppet. Thus, his time, energy and resources were directed to Jigme Thinley’s victory. The DPT won the resounding election in 2008 General Election. Jigme Thinley paid back the faith and trust imposed upon him by being the perfect puppet.
The repeat of History in 2013?
The combination of Jigme Thinley and the King are about to be replayed
in the forthcoming General Election. King’s hold over the Civil
servants, Army and the Police are as strong as ever. The DPT will
come back again to form the government with Jigme Thinley at the helm.
The Kings are not worried of the leadership tussle within the DPT
after 2016 that is when Jigme Thinley turns 65 years old and constitutionally
becomes ineligible to occupy the post. The new political parties must
give serious thoughts on the role of civil servants, army and police
to have any chance. The higher officials in Civil servant and Army
are renowned for their status quo stand because of the privileges
they enjoy at the moment. The healthy democracy in Bhutan demands
non-active participation of civil servants and Army in politics. People
must freely exercise their votes to prevent the repeat of 2008 in
2013 General Election.
The priority on repatriation will be at bottom
in absence of simultaneous process of repatriation and third country
T.N: I knew from the beginning that the priority on repatriation will be at bottom in absence of simultaneous process of repatriation and third country resettlement. Because of this, I had expressed my strong reservation against the sole implementation of the third country resettlement process. I once again want to reiterate that the third country resettlement process is not a final solution to Bhutanese refugee issues. As far as I understand, the third country resettlement process has given an opportunity to Bhutan to disengage itself from its responsibility in finding durable and amicable solution to the refugee issues.
BT: Mr.JigmeThinley, the Prime Minister of Bhutan recently expressed to initiate the stalled repatriation process. Is he sincere? He continues to insist on four categories of refugee. Will you continue to accept the four categories of refugees?
T.N: We in exiles can never trust the words of Mr. Jigme Thinley, the Prime Minister. At the time of refugee crisis in early 1990s, he was the then Director at Ministry of Home Affairs and at the theatre of action coordinating the operation of evicting its citizens.
Bhutan claims to be ‘democratic’ nation and yet it continues to stick with categorization of its citizens, the remnants of former King’s policies and reveals us the true nature of Bhutan’s democracy.
We in the past had protested the categorization of any kind and we continue to reiterate our same stand.
BT: The Leader of the opposition in National Assembly, Mr. Tshering Tobgay had remarked that refugee repatriation is not possible at all?
T.N: Mr. Tshering Tobgay’s assertion is the reflection of
how typical Bhutanese politics are staged and played out. The two
parties are incidentally anointed by the King in first place to hoodwink
the international community on democratic and refugee questions. Both
are non-answerable to refugee community, so both say whatever that
comes to their mouth.
BT: What is your view on the issues of non-registered Bhutanese refugees in Jhapa?
T.N: I have been appealing to the Government of Nepal time and again
to address the issues of non-registered Bhutanese refugees at Jhapa
on humanitarian grounds at earliest possible time.
BT: There are reports that because of ongoing third country resettlement process, the Government of Nepal had stopped issuing the travel documents to Bhutanese refugee leaders. Is it true?
T.N: I haven’t received my travel documents. Late Rongthong
Kunley Dorji didn’t receive the travel documents either and
he met with an accident in 2011 traveling by the road. Some believe
the injuries sustained in the accident aggravated his frail body and
he expired in the month of October the same year. The lack of travel
documents has acutely affected the advocacy for repatriation. The
one reason why the issue of repatriation is eked out from media and
public debate has to do with lack of travel documents as the advocacy
team were unable to travel and campaign in power countries.I hope
the Government of Nepal will closely look into our concerns and redress