Druk National Congress of Bhutan
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JANUARY - JUNE 2015
DNC celebrates the Party’s 21st Foundation Day
Members of Druk National Congress celebrated the Party’s 21st Foundation Day at Kathmandu today.
A minute’s silence was observed at the Foundation Day program to mourn the victims of devastating earthquakes that hit Nepal on the 25th April and 12th of June. Butter lamps were lit in the memory of the earthquake victims. The Party expressed its heartfelt condolence to the Government and the people of Nepal, at the terrible loss of life.
On the occasion, Mr. Kesang Lhendup, Party President, urged the political parties inside Bhutan and democrats, to show more courage and resolve in consolidating the democratic gains thus far, and further assert the sovereign rights of people by engaging in legal campaign and political activism.
The Party also demanded that the Royal Government release all political prisoners unconditionally.
An official Party Facebook page was also unveiled on the occasion.
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.
Elected Government follows the King’s decree
Mr. Mingbu Drukpa, Education Minister on June 1, 2015 during the question hour session at the 5th Session of the Second Parliament said that the government follows all the executive instruction from the King. He reiterated that the earlier DPT government too followed the King’s instruction and there is no significant difference in government policies in either of the governments. He was seconded by the Labour Minister, Nima Sangay Tshempo, who said the government policies are that of earlier absolute monarchy government.
The Constitution of Bhutan Article 20 section 2 states “The Executive Power shall be vested in the Lhengye Zhungtshog (Cabinet) which shall consist of the Ministers headed by the Prime Minister… ". However, the admission by the cabinet ministers about the executive power with King speaks volume about the state of democracy in Bhutan.
Unequal in the eyes of law
The Constitution of Bhutan under the fundamental rights Article 7 section 15 states “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal and effective protection of the law and shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion, politics or other status”. However, the dispensation of justice shows otherwise. The elite, the monarchy network are either beyond the reach of the law or are given preferential treatment. In Bhutan people having Palace connections can go scot free. Those people who lack connections are persecuted to the letter of the law.
The former Dzongdag of Monger, Lhakpa Dorji , murderer of unarmed lay monk Karma in 1997 is freely enjoying his retired life while, the democratic and human rights campaigner that he assisted in arresting are still imprisoned. Another notable example is that of Sonam Drukpa, proprietor of Eastern Bhutan Coal Corporation Ltd. and former Managing Director of Army welfare project, Ex-Major Pem Tshering. The former was convicted for the destruction of government property and was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment, while the latter was convicted for embezzlement of Nu 97 million and sentenced to 9 years imprisonment and ordered to refund the embezzled amount to the State. Mr. Sonam Drukpa was given Royal pardon after one and half years and Ex-Major Pem Tshering also received Royal pardon in 2011 after three year of imprisonment. Mr. Sonam Drukpa is a business partner of Queen mother Dorji Wangmo, and Ex-Major Pem Tsering is said to have shared his loot with certain members of the Royal family, and that this was the reason behind his Royal pardon.
PDP government reverses the earlier government policy
The then absolute monarchy initiated the policy of denying “No Objection Certificate” (NOCs) to the people who had participated in the pro-democracy movement in early 1990s and in 1997 in its attempt to suppress the movement. Their family members and relatives were also denied NOCs. The relatives of refugees taking shelter in Nepal were also denied NOCs. Over a hundred thousand of Bhutanese from the Lhotshamp and Sharchop community were affected due to this policy. No Objection Certificate (NOC) is mandatory for access to social benefits like health, education, jobs, travel documents etc. The denial of NOCs in Bhutan meant a person is equivalent to being stateless.
This policy was reviewed by the Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa Government when it became the first democratically elected government. The relatives of refugee and participants of pro-democracy movement were granted NOCs albeit with conditions. However, the present PDP government under Mr. Tshering Tobgay led People Democratic Party has reversed the DPT policy. Many political activists are currently denied NOC and once again had created several thousand stateless in Bhutan. The political activist after serving the stipulated sentences had to again endure the stateless treatment once they are outside. They are doubly punished.
On the contrary, the erstwhile wanted criminals and fugitives were granted NOCs and passports after lying low and returning back to country. The irony of Bhutanese democracy under the present regime is that the pioneering person who had worked for the establishment of democracy and human rights in Bhutan in first place are denied the basic fundamental human rights.
Bhutan provides relief to Nepal Earthquake victims
Bhutan contributed USD 1M to Nepal for earthquake relief following the major earthquake on April 25. In addition, a 74-member medical team for rescue and treatment were provided.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay personally handed over a cheque for USD 1M to Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in Kathmandu on 27 April.
Prime Minister Koirala said Nepal was grateful and touched by the visit and assistance. “The affection and commitment to Nepal by His Majesty the King, the Royal Government of Bhutan and the people of Bhutan is a great inspiration which will be remembered by the people of Nepal and carried in their hearts for a long time to come,” he said.
The Druk National Congress is pleased to see the kind gesture shown by Bhutan and wanted to see more such gestures in future. The Nepal and Bhutan needs to strengthen and deepen its relationship at every level not just in grief.
Bhutanese Citizens evacuated from Kathmandu
Over 300 Bhutanese were evacuated by the two Bhutanese airlines from Kathmandu airport following the major earthquake. They were repatriated from Nepal to Bhutan at the expense of Government of Bhutan.
About 80% of those people were staying in Nepal without proper documents. Majority of them are monks and nuns enrolled in several Buddhist monasteries in Nepal. The Government of Nepal reciprocated the Bhutanese kindness by allowing the evacuation of Bhutanese lacking proper documents.
King attends Singapore’s Mr Lee Kuan Yew funeral
The King and Queen attended the state funeral of late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore on 29 March 2015. At the state funeral ceremony, the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of Mr Kuan Yew’s achievement and that Singapore would not be based on race, language or religion, but on fundamental values - multi-racialism, equality, meritocracy, integrity, and rule of law.
Bhutan is trying to emulate Singapore’s model of development. The challenge for the present King is to take note of the messages of importance of diversity, equality and rule of law as articulated by Singapore’s Prime Minister. The refugee crisis in particular erupted in the early 1990s due to the mismanagement of racial aspirations, discrimination and absence of rule of law.
Bhutan Independent People’s Forum Formed
A new organization, Bhutan Independent Peoples’ Forum, was formed in Nepal on 18 March 2015. The Forum is a non-profit people friendly social organization. Mr. Tom Adhikari, a Bhutanese lawyer in exile, who is a registered solicitor in the United Kingdom, is tasked to lead the forum. He is entrusted to constitute a 10 member Secretariat and a 49 member Central Committee.
The Forum will explore various legal avenues available to the Bhutanese Community in exile, so that ‘justice’ is done to all the victims of Royal repression.
The Forum will also co-ordinate amongst resettled Bhutanese to organize different type of protest programs, bulk letter campaigns and congressional hearings, in their respective countries against the Royal Government of Bhutan, demanding repatriation and justice.
Resettled Bhutanese donates to support Nepal earthquake victims
The five resettled Bhutanese delegates from various states of the United States visited UNICEF’s office in New York to hand over NRs 1.9 million on June 6, as support to Nepal’s earthquake victims.
This fund was collected through six Bhutanese community organizations in the US.
Likewise, Bhutanese living in South Australia have contributed over NRs 666,000 towards the relief support for earthquake hit Nepal. The money was sent through UNHCR Australia.
No Human Rights Organization in Bhutan
There isn’t a single registered human rights organization in Bhutan even after 8 years of democracy. Human rights organizations exist only in exile. There are 47 registered Civil Society Organizations in Bhutan. However the people inside the country are fearful of the Royal government’s backlash, if they were to submit the registration of human rights organizations.
The National Assembly has constituted a Human Rights Committee consisting of five National assembly members. These members do nothing related to the human rights of people. The members of the Committee are well informed of the imprisonment of political prisoners before the pre-democracy era, and yet they do nothing. ***
Bhutanese Resettlement process to end by Mid-2017
Craig Sanders, the UNHCR Representative in Nepal, said that the resettlement process will end by mid-2017 and around 12-13,000 refugees will remain in the camps waiting for other durable solutions. He was speaking at the fifth national convention of the Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America (OBCA) held at Texas on June 14.
More than 96000 refugees have resettled in eight different countries, with 82000 refugees resettling in the US.
The Bhutanese refugee resettlement process was initiated in 2007 by the international community, in their bid to find a durable solution to the Bhutanese refugee imbroglio.
DNC and BNDP demand political negotiation with Bhutanese government
Druk National Congress and Bhutan National Democratic Party urged the government of Nepal and the international community, particularly the core countries led by the US, to re-engage with Bhutan to finding an amicable solution to refugee problem. The Parties pressed for a dignified repatriation of refugees and political integration of exile political parties in the political process of Bhutan. The five point joint press statement was released at a press interaction program held on 24 April, 2015 in Kathmandu.
Joint Press Statement
Date: 24 April, 2015
Bhutan and Nepal are two Himalayan neighbors sharing common roots to ancient culture, tradition and religion. The relationships between the two countries had been good for up till 1990. After the emergence of Bhutanese refugee problem in Nepal and the issue of human rights and democracy in Bhutan, the bilateral relationship has not been as expected.
Bhutan has ushered a guided Multi-party democracy in 2008, and two general elections have been conducted since then. The international community led by the United States of America (US) has offered a third country resettlement for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal since 2008, with a view to find an amicable resolution to the Bhutanese refugee problem.
As of March 31, 95,902 Bhutanese refugees have left the camps in Nepal for third country resettlement. Of the total, United States of America has taken 81,192; Canada, 6271; Australia, 5357; New Zealand, 963; Denmark, 874; Norway, 561; the Netherlands, 362; and UK, 358.
The refugee issue in Nepal surfaced in June 1991. The UNHCR has been officially involved in the management of refugee camps since March 1992. The refugees were primarily Lhotshampa villagers from South Bhutan. The Royal government has since confiscated their properties; in many cases, the properties are already distributed to other people inside the country. After 1997, people from other communities, particularly the Sharchop Community, also became refugee due to political persecution when the eastern Bhutanese staged demonstrations demanding the establishment of democracy in Bhutan.
In this back drop, Druk National Congress (DNC) and Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) would like to draw the attention of the international community and the Government of Nepal to the need to take immediate steps for:
DNC and BNDP appraised the leaders about the need to find a speedily resolution of the refugee problem and take forward the bilateral relationship between Bhutan and Nepal to the highest level just as the people-people relationship that has had existed since time immemorial.
DNC and BNDP also urged the political parties to in turn urge the Government of Nepal and the international community, particularly the core countries led by the US, to re-engage with Bhutan to finding an amicable solution to the two and half decade old refugee problem.
Dr. DNS Dhakal Mr. Pema Tendzin