A sad day


If there are those who still doubt the Prime Ministers oratory skills then his 22 minute response on the ‘land scam’ would have erased any doubts.

By the end of his reply he had managed to create a hero out of a former Gup (now DPT Vice President) who had grabbed 10 acres of community land in Thimphu, violating laws and forging records.

Politics and good governance in Bhutan has touched a new low with the Prime Minister, who many respect, defending the indefensible.

More than anything else, it was sad to see Bhutan’s first democratically elected leader frittering away his moral and political capital on an issue that has neither.

Instead the messenger was shot once again with political conspiracy theories that are sounding eerily familiar to that of thick skinned politicians in the South Asian neighborhood when faced with such scams.

The slogan of ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ rings more hollow than ever especially as it is coined by a party that now has a compromised Vice President.

More than the scam and what was right and wrong the loudest voices and assertions coming from the leaders of this government is that this story will not hamper their 2013 prospects. Nobody is saying it ever will.

In real politick terms, given this government’s developmental works especially among the rural majority, and its experienced leadership no amount of corruption stories will ever stop this government from coming back in 2013.

However, a vibrant democracy is not just about winning elections nor having a certain number of MPs in the Parliament. A real and vibrant democracy is about moral leadership, accountability, improving systems, being transparent and most importantly respecting the law both in letter and spirit.

The government which has achieved a world record majority of creating the world’s smallest opposition party in a democracy gives the impression that it is constantly under attack from all sides. This flawed perception has lead this government on a war path with almost all democratic institutions.

The media is constantly accused of cooking up stories to bring its downfall unless the stories are in praise of the government. The Constitution this government alleges is being interpreted too rigidly and holding down the government. The Chief Election Commissioner had the privilege of being viciously and personally attacked in the media by the Prime Minister’s office for doing his job.

The Anti Corruption Commission is seen as hampering the government’s decision making process as a senior minister told a visiting dignitary. The judiciary saw a vicious campaign against it in almost all Dzongkhags when it gave the tax verdict which on closer observation made the National Assembly the final authority on the budget. Inaccurate statements that the judiciary was stopping national development were released along with a resignation drama.

It seems that no democratic institution can do right by this government and even genuine attempts at strengthening Bhutan’s democracy are looked at through the worst prisms if it is even slightly critical of the ruling government.

With regard to the suspicions on the ‘intent’ of this paper over the Chang Ugyen story, this paper would like to make an open offer to this government. Please share a copy of the ‘high level committee’ report based on the ‘Right to Information’ written request filed by us with the National Land Commission and we will publish all other cases in it too.


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