During the Friday press meet the Prime Minister was asked three questions on the ‘Earn and Learn’ program controversy.
Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering told the press gathering that this would be ‘final question’ he would be taking on the issue and giving an answer to it.
In what appeared to be a sympathetic view of the controversial program and its officials Lyonchhen said that despite what has come out in the media six students want to go to Japan and that he would be meeting them.
Talking about the Labour Director General Sherab Tenzin who is implicated in this case by the ACC, the Prime Minister said that his case has been forwarded to the RCSC as he is a grade 2 officer.
The PM did not mention that the government’s initial stand was to write back to the ACC asking that if the administrative action can be taken after the court case.
The ACC in a second letter again insisted that the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources take action only after which the case was sent to RCSC.
The PM said that the government also has to think carefully before taking action as the DG not only has children but also grandchildren. He said that the DG has served for 34 to 35 years in the civil service.
The PM quoting the DG said that he may have broken a few rules but it was in the interest of the students. Lyonchhen also said that the scheme was had started with good intentions.
The Prime Minister said that he did not want to go into the past and dig up issues as there would be problems. He said that the government’s intention is to look for a way forward and to help the students
When the PM was asked about the parents’ committee findings in Japan of commissions being taken by the agent from salaries, non-payment of fees, overcharging, misleading students to take extra courses and other issues, the PM made it clear that the government will not undertake any investigation or actions.
Lyonchhen said that whatever the law firm or the parents do is up to them and as for any new findings by them through their investigation they have legal recourse. The PM said that after the committee came back from Japan he had a telephonic conversation with them and offered any information required by the government.
Lyonchhen said that the government would not get too involved as the case is between the parents and students and the agents. He said that the government will come to the court and clarify whenever they court wants any clarification from the government.
Lyonchhen also clarified that while there is controversy around the Japan case the entire overall overseas program had different packages. He said that the governments focus would be to target developed economies for such programs.
The PM said that while the loan interest can be deferred and it would cost the government around Nu 122 mn, the government cannot help pay the students loans. He said that this would set a precedent as the loan interest deferment has already set a precedent.
Lyonchhen said that the problems for the students essentially was that they were allowed to work only one job for 28 hours a week and the income from such work left only Nu 5000 to Nu 6000 per month as saving which was not enough to pay nu 15,000 to Nu 16,000 for the loan.
He said the other problem is visa related as students had to find jobs by April or come back.
Lyonchhen said that so far there is no problem in the relations between Bhutan and Japan.