Forester given ‘compulsory retirement order’ says she spoke to the media to point out unfair treatment

After speaking to the media,  two female foresters were given a ‘compulsory retirement order’ with benefits.

The Human Resource Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) issued an excess staff deployment order to its seven forest rangers working under Thimphu Forest Division. As per the order, the seven foresters were identified as excess staff and were asked to be re-deployed in other agencies across the country after which the two female foresters appeared on television news to discuss the matter on 23 March 2022.

The ministry issued an order relieving the two foresters from service on compulsory retirement with benefits on 4 April. 

Jigme Choden, one of two forest rangers ordered to leave the service, expressed dissatisfaction with the redeployment order. She said the order did not adhere to the appropriate criteria and requirements.

“The order was unfair and handed to us without any prior notice during the lockdown. We expected the officials to investigate and manage the situation after we shared about our situations, but there was no action. I approached the media after being treated unfairly by head officials not only for me but also for other civil servants,” she said.

According to Jigme, there are many civil servants in the country, and head officials have been treating the subordinates unfairly.

She said she is not the only one who has been targeted and treated unfairly; there are many others but are unable to speak up.

“I’ve seen one or two people being targeted and treated unfairly, and they have left for Australia. I’ve also seen an individual leave and become a monk. When such things are happening in a small nation, I felt that if I could speak with the media, civil servants and people around the country would be aware of the issue, and all senior and head officials would follow the rules before making decision for any subordinates,” she said.

She said, “I did not do any work related to corruption; if it had been a corruption, I would have been guilty of what I did; but, speaking to the media and informing others about the problem is not a crime.”

She stated that her colleague, who was also forced to retire, did not want to speak to the media after what they received for talking to media.

“She refused to speak to the media, claiming that if she did it again, she would be forced to leave without benefits. I explained that it didn’t matter if we didn’t get anything since people from all around the country would come to our help and ensure that we didn’t go hungry. I have four children and will work to support them,” she said.

She added that if such issues are not brought to the attention of the media, corruption will continue unreported.

“The media informs the public, therefore, if we reach out to the media and raise our voices, everyone will be alerted,” she added.

Meanwhile, according to MoAF, the two forestry officials were compulsory retired with benefits for insubordination- for violating orders for deployment and for violating the civil service values and conduct as articulated under chapter 3 of Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2018.

RCSC media focal person, Sonam Dorji Tamang, said that it is a common practice that any agency, both public and private, expect their staff to abide by its code of conduct. This is particularly critical for the civil service as they represent the government.

“The code of conduct and values reflected in the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations, 2018 is to ensure integrity, discipline, accountability and effectiveness of the civil servant, which has been diminishing in recent years leading to systemic weakening of the Civil Service. Our citizens should get the services that they deserve, and agencies should ensure it by effectively managing their staff,” he said.

The MoAF ruling is expected to have a chilling effect in civil servants talking to the media.

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