Many of the 67 illegal plots are held by the influential and powerful
The Anti Corruption Commission in a press release in its website confirmed that laws and procedures were violated in the allocation of plots in Gyelpozhing town.
The ACC in its release said, “Investigation revealed that of the 99 plots allotted, 67 (14.12 acres) were illegal.”
According to reliable sources a significant number of the 67 illegal plots comprise those held by influential people or their relatives including the Prime Minister, ministers, judges, senior bureaucrats, members of the royal family and plot allotment committee members.
The ACC in its report said, “The Plots Allotment Committee undermined the rule of law and the principle of due diligence, fairness, equity, transparency and check and balance. Most of the members acquired plots in the names of their spouses/relatives, while people who lost their land for the township development were deprived of land even upon repeated request to the Dzongdas.”
The ACC yesterday also issued a ‘freeze notice’ prohibiting any kinds of transaction on 75 plots most of which include the 67 illegal plots. The plots have been frozen under section 107 of the Anti Corruption Act which says ACC can seize a property when it is satisfied with information that “any immovable property is the subject matter of an offence under this Act or evidence of the commission of such offence.”
The 75 frozen plots include Members of the Royal family, the Prime Minister, Lyonpo Zimba, relatives of Judges, ministers, senior bureaucrats, allotment committee members and others.
According to the ACC the investigation commenced on 20 September 2011. Kashos, laws, rules, criteria and procedures on land in general and plots allotment in particular were examined. The agency also made 3 field visits. Several physical verifications of the plots were conducted jointly with officials from the Municipal Corporation, Monggar. Past plots allotment in Khuruthang and Monggar towns were studied. Over 121 people were interviewed or interrogated.
The determining criteria for plots allotment in townships were (as deduced by ACC from the Kashos and the circular of the then Secretary of Ministry of Social Services): (i) General preference in plots allotment to be given to residents of townships; (ii) Those individuals residing in townships must own a legal business; (iii) Those individuals owning legal businesses themselves must be operating the businesses; and (iv) One family one plot irrespective of the number of licenses they possess. Lottery was only a procedure for plots allotment.
ACC said that the procedure of then allotting these plots were (i) Preparation of eligible list of recipients by Dzongkhag Committee, (ii) scrutiny of the list by the competent ministry, (ii) submission of the list to His Majesty by the competent authority and (iii) distribution of plots to eligible recipients only on receiving the Royal Consent.
The ACC said that the efficacy of the criteria developed was put to test in Khuruthang and Monggar towns in 1996 and 1998.
The ACC in the case of Gyelpozhing found that neither the proper criteria nor procedures were followed.
The release says that the Government had acquired 81.98 acres of land from 71 households of Drepong, Wangling, Ngatshang and Saling Gewogs for the Kurichu Hydropower Project (KHP) and the higher secondary school in 1990s.
His Majesty, the 4th King issued 9 Commands and Kashos on land from August 1980 to January 2003. His Majesty had commanded with a sense of urgency and deep concern that land being a scarce resource, must be safeguarded and managed well for the future generations. All the Commands reiterated that only His Majesty the King shall grant land to His subjects.
The case was forwarded to the Office of Attorney General on August 31, 2012.
The Gyelpozhing Land grab first came to public spotlight on 15th August 2011 in Media reports. Subsequently the ACC Chairperson in an interview with a weekly paper on 20th August said that ACC would review the case.
The Prime Minister on 26th August 2012 wrote to the ACC saying that there must be an investigation on Gyelpozhing. Prior to this he had given verbal directions for an investigation to the OAG which reached ACC on 25th August.
After the initial media reports the speaker alleging a conspiracy called for a Parliamentary probe to summon people and find out who had shared information on Gyelpozhing. However, in an internal DPT party meeting the Prime Minister and some MP’s advocated an ACC investigation.
The Prime Minister in recent rebuttals in the media and the National Graduates Orientation Program had defended the Gyelpozhing case saying that there was no wrong doing.
The Gyelpozhing case centers on the allocation of municipal plots in Gyelpozhing to influential but ineligible people denying those that actually lost land or fulfilled the criteria. The case involved the violation of Royal Kasho’s on land, Land Act 1979 and allotment procedures.
The time period that this took place was from 1999 to 2002 with issues dragging on in subsequent years.