Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Election Act amendments I wish :

1. The Primary Election should be entirely between Political Parties. Identification of Candidates helps Party campaigning but it should not be made mandatory for Political Parties to nominate their constituency candidates to qualify for participation in the Primary Election. The Election Commission had come up with this rule on the eve of Political Party registration for Primary Election in 2008. I suspect it was to prevent a third Party registration that would compel the holding of the Primary Election. A direct General Election must have  suited the interests of  DPT, PDP and the Election Commission convenience. Thus Democracy in Bhutan was compromised from the onset.

Primary Election is for propagating the Parties and their manifestoes which will be evaluated by voters all over the Country.  It is the opportunity for voters to choose their preference of Political Parties. During General Election, more emphasises are on Candidate preference. In 2008, there was no Primary Election but the way people voted, it was made a Primary Election between Political Parties. The scene in 2013 was different. The people voted for the Parties in the Primary Election and Candidates in the General Election.

2. Get rid of this requirement of mandatory nomination of 47 Candidates for Primary Election. It will resolve two thorny issues:

           a) The similar case like DNP and PDP successful Primary Candidates teaming up under one Political Party banner for General Election will not be repeated again.
           b) There will be no scarcity of Candidates for the General Election. Instead there will be a rush for Candidate seats of the two winning Political Parties qualifying for the General Election.         There will be no need to relax rule on resignation of civil servants for participation in the Election.

3. The Campaign Election Expenditure limit has to be legally enhanced. The present limit is ridiculously low and being violated by all and worse Election Commission turning a blind eye. Otherwise both General Elections would have been declared null and void.

4. Asset declaration is good and disassociation from business operation or  management a must. But why demand nullification of business licence when it is well known that the business licences are simply transferred to the next of kin? Its all so superficial and unnecessary paper works.

5. Make it possible for aspiring Candidates to participate in the NC Election. The National Council Candidate should not need the endorsement of the specific chiwog or geog  after all the Candidate is to represent the Dzongkhag not just a particular chiwog or geog. Allow any and all otherwise qualified  candidates to stand for National Council Election from their respective Dzongkhags.  This will make it possible for the voters of the Dzongkhags to exercise their real choice.  The franchise of all voters of a Dzongkhag should not be allowed to be  compromised and curtailed by narrow politics at Chiwog and Geog level. The Chiwog and Geog can exercise their full power in the election of Tsokpa and Gup.
If endorsement is necessary to limit the number of candidates then let the aspiring NC Candidates prove support from a minimum of say 150 voters from within the Dzongkhag

6. No Vote Button:  There is a need for registration of NO VOTE in the local and General Election if a voter does not like the Candidates presented.

7. Party Alliance. A re-look is necessary on the Party Alliance for the General Election. During the second General Election,the Election Commission with much reservation permitted successful Primary Election Candidates of DNP to join PDP Political Party to combat DPT Political Party. The merger of successful candidates of two Political  Parties had all the hall marks of Party Alliance.  It will create a level political field in amending the Election Act to permit Party Alliance or a third Party participation by amending the Constitution.  It is damaging to the process of genuine democracy to leave room for Election Commission discretion in such pivotal criteria in the midst of a National Election.

8. Voting from Place of Residence.  This should be feasible if EVM is  used. It will save time and money for voters and therefore logistically encourage more voter participation in elections. It will do away with postal ballot for residents in Bhutan. It will ease political pressure on voters. If voting from place of residence is not allowed then disallow the use of EVM to prevent possible electronic tampering. The paper ballot and boxes are more general voter friendly and satisfying.

There are few voices advocating doing away with Party Tsokpas to prevent local acrimony. That maybe wishful thinking because political election by its very nature will cause grievances and intense diverse views among the communities. Democracy leads to Party Politics. And rewards, acrimony and vendetta are part of Politics. There is no such thing as clean or neutral Party Politics.

What is wrong with Bhutanese Politics is not the fights and disagreements between the two Political Parties to protect Party turfs nor the the rewards to arch supporters by the victorious Party. The evil lies in the  concept of national sovereignty and democracy that is being unfortunately redefined. And in the long run the nation will face unpleasant consequences because the Political Parties have chosen to transgress into the otherwise the two sacred pillars of Bhutanese nationhood: The Sovereign status of Bhutan  and the Throne.

I would like to express my admiration for  the immense efforts made by the Election Commission and its team in conducting the various Elections. It was admirable. However, there are rooms for not just improvement in the procedures but also on general national directives for much needed  enhancement of more beneficial process of democratic principles. It would be self defeating for Election Commission to cold shoulder any suggestion of amendment to Election Act.

Amendments should not be brought about for narrow political interest nor it should be so looked upon as such. Rather amendments should be for betterment of ways of doing things in the general interest of the nation. In a young developing democracy,there will be changes in rules and principles because Bhutan is entering a new political world after centuries of one powerful leader after another rule even before Shabdrung time. The objective of amendment cannot be to dilute the power of an Agency but rather necessary progressive changes with lessons learnt from actual practices.

I should end with wishing the Parliament Good Luck but on a second thought the Parliament does not need luck. It is all powerful to do as it pleases whether more pay and perks or realign national goal to individual path. So I will wish Good luck to the Bhutanese Nation and hope that more forward looking MPs are able to have their voices not just heard but have the impact translated into national Policies.

This is my submission to the Legislative Committee of the Parliament, the Political Parties and to the honourable Members of NC and NA and to all politically conscious citizens. It is an honest exercise of humble responsibility of a citizen when granted the opportunity.

Pelden Drukpa Stay Vigilant !

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gungtongpas the imagined social thorns of Eastern dzongkhags.

Gungtongpas  the imagined social thorns  of Eastern dzongkhags.

Reality is that East has the largest population and if not from the East then where else people will be coming to inhabit the urban centres that government has built on the farm lands in the West and South. Should people of neighbouring countries fill our towns?

There is a lot of grumbling from the local authorities of the East against those who move to greener pastures. They give a lot of reasons such as community development and labour taxation but the actual reason is that they have less people to boss around.

The rural communities in the West and in the South of Bhutan also suffer the same problems of community development and labour shortages and these regions as yet do not have gungtong  problems as such. There will be migration to the urban centres because jobs for educated young generation are in the commercial and urban centres. And older parents move for family togetherness,to take care of home and children of employed family members and for overall sustenance of livelihood.

Bhutan has to come to social ,political and economic terms with the unavoidable trend of migration. Just as community schools are being closed due to dwindling number of students so must community needs be based on actual requirement. Maybe the rural settlements need to be merged to facilitate concentration of development of infrastructures. Why have so many small villages scattered all over the country? Create a model farming village in the same geog or Dzongkhag and offer the opportunity to settle within a larger community.

Those who want to farm,let them farm on the most fertile lands and those who seek other means of legally permissible vocations for livelihood let them do. Do not hinder them. The ancestral family homes and land are roots of anchor for the migrants regardless of their place of residence. Do not think of confiscating
the the ancestral holdings of the gungtong as thoughtlessly suggested by some. The ancestral home and hearth inspire the national sense of belonging and duty. Forgo pettiness for overall national peace and stability. Do not be too eager to uproot Bhutanese in the Kingdom of Bhutan

In which ever part of the Country we reside, we are still all citizens of the same nation and King.. If there is so much local animosity against gungtongpas then what about those that try to find livelihood outside the country. Local resentment may be are being aroused by local officials who may be engaged in accruing illicit gains on the pretext of absent gungtongpas.

Sangey of Haa Wangcha 23rd Oct,2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Government of Contradiction.

This Government is going all out for second hand electric cars supposedly to reduce fossil fuel import and promote clean environment.

That's great but why is the same Government promoting Motor Bike tourism? Recently I saw a group of foreign tourists of motor bikers and there are others coming in. Motor bikes are terribly noisy,consume fossil fuel and extremely dangerous to already congested narrow mountain roads. If Bhutan is serious about its environment and curtailing its fuel consumption then motor bike tours and car rallies must be banned.

Taxi service provide substantial employment to many Bhutanese. However the Government has now closed this opportunity to low income Bhutanese. You cannot register a taxi unless it is an electric car. The electric cars are second hand and very expensive . It really seems that the  policy is only to promote business of existing electric car agency as so claimed by many.

The Government is promoting motor bike tours and it permits so many fossil fuel consuming motor vehicles of Indian ownership to ferry tourists in Bhutan. And yet job starved Bhutanese cannot register motor cars for taxi service unless the car is electrically powered.

The Government knows that taxi service provides major private employment. Many poor urban families are solely dependent on income from the taxi. The taxi drivers even receive royal audience once a year because the King recognises the social and economic role the taxi drivers and their families play in supporting the policy of self reliance. In Bhutan taxis are individually owned and driven unlike in other countries where most taxi services are run by companies.

The Government is in blatant breach of national faith because it imposes second hand electric cars dumped by developed nations upon Bhutanese citizens especially targeting the large taxi community. And on the other hand the Government encourages foreigners to visit Bhutan on motor bike tours and private motor vehicles from India to ferry tourists in Bhutan.

Monday, October 13, 2014


On this spur of moment I share with all parents an advice. The greatest gift that parents can gift to their children is love and trust among the siblings.

Parents can not make the full journey with their children and even accumulated wealth wear away with time and trouble.  However brothers and sisters will be there together for the long haul. Love  and trust fostered at early age will sustain them in their trials and differences.

I am most indebted to my parents for the bonds of sibling love that they sowed and nurtured among us the children. And as parents, I and my life partners endeavoured to pass on this gift to our 8 children. It is my hope and prayers that we succeeded. And I wish every parent who read this achieve the same.

And for all our children and that of children of all parents,I want to say that the  deepest love and tribute that you can offer to us the parents lies in enduring that sibling bond nurtured under the loving wings of your Dads and Mums.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The 3rd Royal Nuptial Anniversary.

The 13th October 2014 marks the 3rd anniversary of the royal union. On this historic occasion I pray for the unity, peace and prosperity of all the 20 Dzongkhags of Bhutan under the reign of their Majesties the King and Queen of Bhutan. May our King and Queen also enjoy personal happiness and contentment. With deep respects.

The Rs.240 Million Hydro Commissions

Quite a number of people are highlighting this case. The news is based on  an  Indian journal called Enertia story on BHEL which was copied by The Bhutanese a weekly newspaper in Bhutan. Again according to The Bhutanese, the Bhutanese Government has now decided to look into these allegations.

The case is becoming quite an intrigue because it is already alleged that the firm that got the commission in Bhutan belongs to a Supporter of the present Opposition Party. I suppose the ruling Party would be keen  to nail few opposing politicians. Till  now I have followed the case in the Facebook but could not really fully bank on the source. I have no idea of this Enertia journal. However if the Government has told The Bhutanese that it would investigate the case then the Government must have had its own source of verification.

What I know of Indo- Bhutan dealing is that in almost all bilateral agreements including hydro projects, it is India that decides and Bhutan consents. If a Bhutanese party had been paid by BHEL then Parties in India have to be paid. Why nothing has been mentioned by Enertia or The Bhutanese about commissions paid in India?

If at all  a Bhutanese party had  been paid commission to secure supply contract on monopoly basis for BHEL then the Indian side would have to have been taken care of much before and logically the commission has to be more than 3 times because the entire funding of hydro project comes from India both in the form of loan and grant. India holds both the purse string and the ultimate authority.

Up till the RGOB decision, this accusation in the media against the Bhutanese firm may  have been just bad press or vindictive rumour.  Now it has moved away from speculations to hard reality with every  word and action accountable. According to The Bhutanese, the Government would be using or rather requesting ACC and RAA to implement its decision. It would be interesting to see how the Government of Bhutan paves the Indo-Bhutan bilateral berth necessary for the two Agencies to operate or manage their tasks.

Somehow I feel that it will be a case of lot of thunder and no rain. But one can never be sure where anything leads anywhere in this political environment. There will be kickbacks and commissions in most projects and the amounts will increase with the size of the projects. But proving what, who and how takes more than a single letter in possession of Enertia which  could also change sides. Truth if it can be dug up would provide relief to the innocents and catch the real culprits.