Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan
Restricted for Private Circulation Only
February 15 - March 15, 2011
My Solidarity is with Your Cause: Prachanda
Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President of Druk National Congress, conferred with the Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, Prachanda (responsible for engineering the overthrow of the Monarchy and for the transition of Nepal into a Republic), at latter’s residence on 28th February, 2011.
Mr. Dorji apprised him of the strategic Alliance formed among the exiled Bhutanese organizations and urged for Nepal‘s assistance in facilitating a dialogue between the Alliance and the Government of Bhutan to work out the terms and conditions for the return of Bhutanese refugees, human rights organizations and political parties to Bhutan.
Mr. Prachanda said, “my solidarity is with your cause. We will seriously look into Bhutanese issues hereafter”.
had met Prachanda twice in 2006 and in 2007. This is however their
first meeting after the extradition case filed against Mr Dorji by
the Union of India, at the behest of the Royal Government of Bhutan,
went in Mr. Dorji’s favour in 2010.
Tongsa Penlop, Ugyen Wangchuck, was knowledgeable in religious and
state affairs. He didn’t differentiate people on the basis of
religion, creed or ethnicity, nor did he engage in partiality. He
promised to uphold this principle and thus, he and his decedents,
were chosen as the safe-keepers of the welfare of the Bhutanese people,
as well Bhutan’s sovereignty belonging to the people of Bhutan.
The Tongsa Penlop, Ugyen Wangchuck, became the first hereditary King
of Bhutan, subsequent to the historic agreement that was signed on
13th Day of the 11th Month of the Earth Monkey Year, corresponding
to the Seventeenth Day of December, Nineteen Hundred and Seven. This
“historic agreement” however, doesn’t say that they
cannot be deprived of this title or the responsibilities bestowed
on the Monarchy vide this document, particularly if his decedents
work against the interest of people and country.
Royal Annuities Bill Still Elusive
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”. More than three years have passed, and six sessions of the First Parliament, constituted in 2008, have been held. But, so far a legislation governing Royal Annuities continues to elude each session of the Parliament. Even the Government Budget failed to mention the expense of the Monarchy. How has the Institution of Monarchy been supported these past three years?
The Monarchy is undoubtedly averse to being regulated by State specified allowance guidelines. The Monarchy, assuming itself to be supreme and absolute, thinks that whatever taxes collected or funds acquired rightfully belongs to them. And budget allocations for public use is considered a gift from them.
In 1968, however, the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, after being exposed to the affairs of foreign monarchies, can be credited for having introduced a system of monthly allowance to the members of Royal Family from the State. At the same time, members of Royal Family who were engaged in business, were not provided this allowance. For example, Ashi Deki Yangzom Wangchuck and Ashi Choki Wangmo Wangchuck, who were both heading business enterprises, were not given an allowance. Queen Kesang Choden received Nu. 1,00,000/- per month. The other members of the Royal Family received Nu.50,000/- per month.
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
Government Must Restore the Status of Nyingmapa Monasteries
Bhutan was home to the centuries-old “Ka-Nying Zhungdrel” tradition. The State supported the Drukpa Kargyupa institution. The Nyingmapa sect was independent and had flourished in Bhutan over thousands of years. The Drukpa Kargyupa sect however, was in a better position than the Nyingmapa sect because of the State assistance provided to them. Left on its own, the Nyingmapa tradition was in the decline. People of Pema Gyatshel and Lama Sonam Zangpo envisaged that the blessings of highly revered Rinpoches of the Nyingmapa sect was needed to stop this decline and revive the Nyingmapa tradition in Bhutan. So they initially approached the Government of Bhutan and the King, and apprised them of H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche’s credentials as the perfect Lama for the purpose.
In 1981, the Fourth King and H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche met in Thimphu. The King assured Rinpoche of Government assistance to revive the Nyingmapa tradition, particularly in the eastern region of Bhutan. For the first time, the Nying-Thik initiation was started in Bhutan. Rinpoche repaired many old monasteries and established Nyingmapa learning centers in Pema Gyatshel, Tashigang, Mongar and Samdrup Jongkhar. In spite of the Government’s assistance, the major portion of the financial burden was borne by Rinpoche himself. The Nyingmapa tradition was once more on the way to being reinstated to its earlier glory.
the 1987, there was no Government interference in the functioning
of the Nyingmapa institutions. Thereafter, the Fourth King began overtly
patronizing the Drukpa Kargyupa sect and began not just neglecting,
but persecuting, the Nyingmapa Sect. The Queens and their families,
being devout Kargyupas, converted the King’s mindset into patronizing
the Drukpa Kargyupa over the Nyingmapa. In the 1990s, many Nyingmapa
learning centers and monasteries were forcefully converted into Drukpa
Kargyupa centers. This policy continued, with latest being Youngla
Gonpa in 2006. The Nyingmapa sect was never persecuted under the rule
of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal nor under the rule of his successive
reincarnations and the successive Desids, Je Khenpo and first three
Kings. If the Royal family of Bhutan indulges in religious partiality,
then what will become of the public? The Constitution says that King
is the “Chhoe-sid-nyi of Bhutan”, thus, King must restitute
all the Nyingmapa learning centers. The Christian, Hindu and Karma
Khamsang have made inroads into Bhutan post-adoption of the Constitution.
If these faiths are allowed in Bhutan, then the Government must also
restore all the fourteen Nyingmapas learning centers back to its original
position and promote the age-old Bhutanese Nyingmapa tradition.
Druk National Congress Felicitates Jhalanath Khanal on Being Elected Prime Minister of Nepal
Druk National Congress congratulated and extended its best wishes to the new Prime of Nepal, Shri Jhalanath Khanal on 4th Feb, 2011.
DNC said, “We remain forever indebted to the Government of Nepal, and to the people of Nepal, for continued support towards the establishment of inclusive democracy in Bhutan. We hope that under Your Excellency’s leadership, there will be a re-beginning of the bilateral process between Bhutan and Nepal, to resolve the protracted Bhutanese political and refugee problem”.
Answer Sought to the Question of Non-Registered Bhutanese Refugees
Sita and her two children make rounds to go to their relatives for their ration. She is fortunate to have relatives who share their ration with her family.Like her, there are hundreds of Bhutanese living in refugee camps who are surviving on the ration supplied to them by sympathizers in the refugee camps. They have not been registered and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees doesn’t provide them with rations. They have picketed and staged hunger strikes to demand for this right. UNHCR has assured them of temporary support.
The question arises as to how such a large number of unregistered refugees exists in the first place. Are they being left out of the registration process out of negligence? Are these people really Bhutanese citizens? Is it because of the availability of third country resettlement? The Bhutanese political and rights leaders, from Rongthong Kunley Dorji to Mr. Tek Nath Rizal, want an answer and a quick resolution to this issue. The UNHCR and the Government of Nepal must immediately start verification and provide necessary help and protection to genuine refugees. The issue getting protracted would add to the unnecessary suffering for those genuine refugees. Besides, identity cards must be issued to those Bhutanese refugees whose identity cards are still not issued.
Invalid Foreign Minister?
Khandu Wangchuck, the Minister for Economic Affairs, donned the garb of Acting Foreign Minister in April, 2010, when Bhutan hosted the SAARC submit. This was a year ago. However, in the last SAARC Foreign Minister’s submit at Thimphu from Feb 7 to 10 Feb, again, Khandu Wangchuck was the Acting Foreign Minister. This raises questions about the actual Foreign Minister, Ugyen Tshering. People say he is affected with Parkinson’s disease. Our sympathies are with him.
It is an open secret that the existing cabinet members of the Jigme Thinley-led government are in their position only with the King’s approval. Two and half years have passed and no reshuffle in the portfolio of the ministers or the appointment of new ministers has occurred. Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley is helpless. The Foreign Ministry is a very important portfolio in the cabinet, more so to a small country like Bhutan, wedged between two Asian giants who don’t see eye to eye with each other. But poor Prime Minister Jigme Thinley cannot appoint a new minister over his “unable” Foreign Minister.
For the first time, in the recently concluded sixth session of the National Assembly, Representatives from the East raised issues of parity in development in the eastern region as compared to the West. Their colleagues from the West protested that such ‘divisive’ topics shouldn’t be tabled in an august forum like the National Assembly. The members of National Assembly from the West shrewdly brought the King into the midst of the debate to silence the voice of their Eastern colleagues.
Actually, there is reason enough for the Representatives
from Eastern Bhutan to raise their voice. There has been complete
neglect in developmental activities in the East. Though one reason
was retribution for the 1997 uprising by the Sharchops, the official
pretext given was the presence of Indian ultras in the Eastern region.
For example, the Dungsam Cement Project initiated in early 1983, has
been in stagnation for over twenty-five years. A few years ago, there
were reports that this project was finally limping back to life, but
it would still take two more years before actual operations commence.
Centre of Trade
Eastern Bhutan could be the center of trade in Bhutan.
It takes almost 800 kms by road to reach Tibet(China), from Assam
via Tawang(Arunachal Pradesh). The distance between these two places
through eastern Bhutan is around 230 kms only. All the Government
has to do is construct some 10 kms of road to connect to Tawang. Opening
of this route will not only benefit the Eastern Bhutanese, but more
so the people of Tawang and Tibet. On January 19, 2011, a Bhutanese
Government delegation visited Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, and had
discussions with officials from Tawang. But no one has yet come up
with such an idea.
Tourism in the East
There is huge potential for tourism in eastern region
of Bhutan. Merak and Sakten of the East can rival Paro and Phopjekha
of the West. Trekking to Brangjula would attract large number of tourists.
From this mountain summit, one can see the six districts of Eastern
Bhutan in addition to the view of the Indian plains and also the snow-capped
Himalayan range of Tibet. Promotion of Buddhist pilgrim sites at Tashi
Yangtse will enhance the earnings of local people. So far the Government’s
major focus has been only in Western Bhutan.
East-West Road Construction
In 1994, the Druk National Congress’s manifesto mentioned that an east-west highway, linking Daipham in the east to Sibsoo in the west should be constructed in the south to ease the suffering of commuter. The Bhutanese people who travel east and west through Indian highways could benefit immensely. The Government is yet to construct an east-west highway in the south. Repeated “strikes” in the states of Assam and West Bengal, bring human movement from east to west to a complete halt. Commuters have to put up with untold suffering everyday. In 2001, some forty Bhutanese lives were lost while traveling though the Indian highway, as a result of indiscriminate firing by alleged Indian ultras.
Bhutan and India enjoy excellent friendly relations.
Indian Railways linking Bhutan and India is underway. Why can’t
the Government of Bhutan request India to build this vital east-west
highway that will bring immense benefit to the people of Bhutan? India
will no doubt oblige such a Bhutanese request. The people of Bhutan
would owe their gratitude to India and would always remember the gesture,
since the construction of this highway would bring an end to their
Alliance Leaders Urge US Under Secretary to Facilitate Dialogue
Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President of the Druk National Congress, on behalf of the Alliance, submitted a letter to Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, who paid a visit to Bhutan and Nepal from Feb 11 to Feb 14. He urged Maria Otero to facilitate a dialogue between the Alliance and the Government of Bhutan, so that they could work out the terms and conditions for the return of Bhutanese refugees, human rights organizations and political parties to Bhutan. He mentioned that the Druk National Congress, Bhutan People’s Party, Bhutan National Democratic Party and Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee had formed an Alliance on August 24, 2010, outlining the points adopted.
The Alliance also expressed their appreciation for
the generosity shown by the international community, led by the United
States of America, towards Bhutan and the Bhutanese people, by accepting
a large number of Bhutanese refugees for resettlement. However, he
reminded that this trend should not be mistaken for apathy of the
refugees to return to Bhutan. All Bhutanese refugees in the camps
wanted to return to their homeland, and the unavailability of this
avenue has compelled Bhutanese refugees to opt for third country resettlement.
There are many refugees in the camps whose only option is to return
to Bhutan, and the question of option does not arise for the Bhutanese
human rights organizations and political parties in exile other than
returning to Bhutan, and these organizations have a large following
in the camps, inside the country, among the non-registered Bhutanese
refugees in Nepal and India, and among those refugees being resettled
His Holiness Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal & His Reincarnation
The 1st Zhabdrung, Ngawang Namgyal arrived in Lhomon from Ralung in Tibet. He struggled against Lama Kha Nga and ultimately vanquished them. He founded Druk Yul - Bhutan as it is now, and initiated a centralized administration process. He instituted the “Choe-Sid system” or the dual system of governance, where the Je Khenpo was in-charge of religious matters as the head of the Drukpa Kargyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism in Bhutan, while the Desid (Deb Raja) was in-charge of the political affairs of State. Punakha was chosen as the capital.
After the passing away of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, no reincarnation was found for 70 years. His KuTrul (body reincarnate) however, was born at Sikkim. Since Bhutan and Sikkim were not in friendly terms, the Central Government of Bhutan stopped recognizing the KuTruls thereafter.
ThukTrul (heart reincarnate) Nawang Drakpa (1724-1761), was then born
at Danang, Tibet. The Central Government officially recognized him
and instated him as the rightful heir to the 1st Zhabdrung’s
throne. At the same time, the SungTrul (speech reincarnate) of the
Zhabdrung was also officially recognized. The Zhabdrung’s ThukTrul
(heart reincarnate) was revered as the secular spiritual head of the
Government, above the Desid and the Je Khenpo. Occasionally, Zhabdrung
also occupied the post of the Je Khenpo and the Desi when suitable
successors were not nominated/elected. The Sungtrul was also revered
and accorded the same respect as that the ThukTrul, and also provided
benefits, except the Zhabdrung’s throne. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal
founded our country 440 years ago. The public office posts were not
hereditary. The people enjoyed a setup that could be termed as democratic.
The 4th King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was born on 11th November 1955, at Dechencholing Palace. He received education at the Ugyen Academy in Bhutan. At that time, his parents’ relationship was estranged. His father had taken a mistress, Yangki, and had four children with her. Queen Ashi Kesang Choden was suspicious of the 3rd King’s intentions.
By the end of 1971, the 3rd King however reconciled with Queen Ashi Kesang Choden. The King also appointed his two daughters, Dechen Wangmo and Sonam Choden, to Ministries as his representatives. He appointed Crown Prince, Jigme Singye Wangchuck as Tongsa Penlop. After six months, he passed away.
King Jigme Singye Wangchcuk was barely 17 year old then. At the 32nd session of the National Assembly, the 3rd King had brought in the condition that, “until the coming age of the Crown Prince to 21 years, the responsibility of the Regent would be held jointly by chosen Government officials, members of the Royal Family and the Clergy”. Members of the Royal Family met the Acting Regent, Prince Namgyal Wangchuck, who assured the worried members of the Royal Family that the Crown Prince should be crowned as the 4th King and that he would remain there to guide him. The Crown Prince promised the National Assembly that he would continue to carry out the works initiated by his father. The Members of National Assembly, after receiving assurance thus, were satisfied and hence didn’t raise the issue of the clause stipulating conditions for the formation of the regent council. The National Assembly expressed their support to the Crown Prince for his Kingship and promised to provide him all assistance.
After assuming Kingship, he went about reversed his father’s decrees. A minister previously had to face a confidence motion in the National Assembly every five years, and the tenure of royal advisors was for 5 years. In reverse decision, ministers didn’t have to face a confidence vote. Thereafter, some went on to become ministers for 20 years. The tenure of royal advisors was changed from 5 years to 3 years. Provision of votes against the Monarchy was scraped. His mother’s brother and sister and their associates had fled country in 1965 for Nepal. The National Assembly had passed a resolution banning their return to Bhutan. This resolution was reversed and all of them returned back. Unfortunately for the Bhutanese people, the gradual transition towards democracy was reversed.
Yangki and her children were staying in Bhutan and were a continuing eye-sore for the Queen Mother, Kesang Choden, and reminded her of her humiliating years. The Queen Mother devised a scheme to banish Yangki from Bhutan and clear the coast for her son’s coronation.
Bhutan had accommodated the Dalai Lama’s representative in Thimphu. Kungno Lhading headed this office. In 1974, unconfirmed reports emerged about Kungno Lhading and Yangki’s espionage activities against China. Tenchongla, Kuenzang Tshering and company, numbering some 35 Tibetans was arrested. The Government tortured the detainees and Kungno Lhading was murdered in custody. Many honest Sharchop soldiers were also murdered.
Yangki was of Tibetan origin and thus many Tibetans were in goods terms with her. Many Tibetans were arrested on charges that they didn’t posses valid permits for their stay in Bhutan, even though valid permits bearing the signatures of the Foreign Minister of Bhutan, Dawa Tshering, was in their possession. Why was Dawa Tshering was never called in to verify the documents? The Government killed Drepung Kota, Talo Sangay Wangdi in custody alleging them to be Yangki’s spies. The Government under the Mother-Uncle duo(Ashi Kesang Choden and Dasho Rim Dorji) created such a situation, where Yangki and her family were lured into fleeing to India. In India they received the Indian support and protection.
more in the upcoming issue …
Monk Jailed for 3 Years
On 3rd March, a monk, Sonam Tsering, was sentenced to three years imprisonment by the High Court of Bhutan, in accordance with the Tobacco Control Act, 2010. The verdict has received mass coverage in the international media.
He had purchased tobacco worth Nu.120 from India. The Court found him guilty as he was unable to produce receipts for the purchase. The Tobacco Act doesn’t ban tobacco consumption altogether. There is no cap on the quantity one can purchase for personal consumption as long as one can produce receipts. Only the commercial aspects of tobacco have been targeted. This is because members of the Bhutanese Royal Family, including the 5th King, consumes tobacco products.
The 3-year sentence to the monk, is an example of how Bhutanese laws are framed and implemented.
In 1990s, the people demonstrated to demand for the institution of democracy and human rights, and criticized the authoritarianism of the King. They were tortured and incarcerated with sentences ranging from 9 years to life imprisonment. They are still held in prison even after the country adopting a democratic-looking Constitution in 2008.
Mr. Tshering Tobgay, the leader of opposition, has
called for the amendment of the Tobacco Control Act, 2010. He has
stated that he will assist the monk to appeal against the verdict.
While we appreciate his concerns, we want Mr. Tshering Tobgay to show
same concern and demand the unconditional release of political prisoners.
It is hypocritical that those who are imprisoned for demanding democracy
are still in jail even after the “establishment of democracy”.
The Government must release all political prisoners at the earliest.
Walks Down the Ladder on Trade
Bhutan’s huge national income from the sale of hydropower to India is almost consumed by the increasing trade deficit, which has grown by 3.5 times in the last fiscal year than that of a year before.
Increased trade deficit from Nu 4 billion to Nu 14 billion within a period of one year is clear indication of the country’s growing dependency on import for livelihood. The projection of developing a self reliant economy is unlikely to be attained as projected by the new economic policy looking at the way country’s gradual dependence on India for most products except hydropower.
Bhutan has in the last few years proposed to develop its economy based on hydropower ignoring the importance of developing other essential industries. The government has invested its time and energy to exploit the hydropower potential at best to tap the opportunity of increasing power demand in the sub-continent. The power market has not remained limited to India but the country has also signed agreement with Bangladesh for power trade very recently.
Investment in other sectors remains in dark. Bhutan’s immense potentials on mineral and timber besides agriculture remain ignored and untapped. However, prioritization of only one sector over others would in long tern turn Bhutanese economy dead. A country must not rely on one particular industry to make is economy vibrant – its collapse will invite disasters that are beyond repair.
Even with huge hydropower plants coming up, the government statistics released recently say this sector, along with agriculture, has not performed well to improve self sufficient economy. Import was triggered by 35 percent intermediate and capital goods compared to 7 percent last year. Intermediate and capital goods accounted for 69 percent of the total imports as a result of increased investment in construction industry.
On the other hand, mineral and mineral based-industries contributed to increase the export figures to 3 percent from 2 percent in the previous fiscal year. Mineral’s share in export is around 40 percent. Bhutan exported Nu 12 billion worth of mineral in the last fiscal year.
Mineral share in export is vivid evidence on potentiality of the country’s mineral resources. Very few mineral ores have been exploited under Indian supervision whose correct mineral extract potentials are little known to Bhutan. It is essential that Bhutan develop refinement plants within the country to reap benefits of the abundance of its mineral resources. Accepting the fact that mining companies are the major source of earning for the government in last fiscal year, additional attention is required here too.
Mineral industries not only boost exports to downsize the trade deficit but also increase national revenue that will help diminish the budget deficit. To note in short, Bhutan’s budget deficit has been increasing. In the last fiscal year, only 52 percent of the total budget outlay was covered by the internal revenue while foreign assistance covered around 34 percent. Mineral and agricultural industries will have double benefits for Bhutan, should they be taken seriously – pulling down trade and budget deficits.
When the government picked up hydropower as priority sector for investment, the essential sector like agriculture and agriculture-based industries has moved down the ladder by 6 percent. Its share in total exports has decreased from 8 percent in the previous fiscal year to 7 percent in the last fiscal year.
Around 93 percent of the Bhutanese trade is with India followed by 3 percent with Bangladesh and 3 percent with Hong Kong. Until recently when Bangladesh showed interest to buy power from Bhutan, India was the only market for hydropower produced from Bhutanese mega plants. India’s longer term plan to shift into nuclear power energy will eventually turn Bhutanese power plants useless. As per Bhutan-India agreement on hydropower, the mega plants, many of which are under construction, will be fully owned by Bhutan only after few decades, or when Bhutan pays back the loans. It is likely that India might, by then, be ready with nuclear plants for power generation and no more in need of power supply from Bhutan. Bhutanese strategist might not have realized the fact that hydropower market will collapse in India, if not in the sub-continent, when nuclear plants in India start operation.
It is at this point that Bhutan’s economy is certain to face accident. To avoid it, the only way out would be to diversify the trade, pay more attention to national industries which are beneficial for the country in longer run and which earn consistent incomes. To abide by what new economy policy underlines, to be self sufficient, it is essential that all sectors are given equal importance, made parallel investments and all daily needs are met with internal productions as far as possible.
*I P Adhikari is the president of the Bhutanese Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) and chief editor of Bhutan News Service (BNS). He is currently based in Adelaide.
Date: 3rd January, 2011
First of all, I hope that you are in good health.
We hold Your Excellency in high esteem for your knowledge in Bhutanese policies.
In August, an alliance of political parties and human rights organizations in exile was formed. The Druk National Congress was entrusted to lead the Alliance. We have decided on a five-point programme.
The need to work on the five-point programme arose because, despite the establishment of democracy in 2008, no democratic practice or process has been put into place.
You have granted immense power to the Monarchy through the Constitution, even more than the erstwhile absolute Monarchy. Forget initiatives towards democracy and political reforms, even development projects have not been implemented under your Government and your Party. The International Community and people of Bhutan are aware of your helplessness.
In spite of such knowledge, no one has dared to say anything on democracy and politics as the King is very powerful. It is regrettable. The Monarchial polices has tied down the three-year old “democratic” government. The demands we, the democrats and activists of democracy, have made on the Government, are basically aimed at getting the Government to implement democratic norms and processes. You are ignoring this.
Because of this, in the best interest of the public, we will be compelled to reveal your activities, be it in secret or open to the public. But prevention is better than cure - before we go to public, we are approaching you, because you shoulder responsibility of the Prime Minister of Bhutan. We expect that you will chart a new course to bring peace, prosperity and happiness to our people. If you do so, we will heed whatever you say. As a leader of the Alliance, I believe that both of us working together will resolve many outstanding issues.
I am anticipating an early response.
No response was received and english translation of the letter is
being made public)