Gyalpoizhing Land Case – Prime Minister offers an explanation to the people

August 21, 2012   Press Release

Using highly offensive terms such as scam and land grab, and abusing the tolerance of the government, one journalist, acting as prosecutor, judge and jury, has fabricated the “Gyalpoizhing case” to malign the government. Further, what transpired 10 years ago has nothing to do with the present government. If indeed, Tshogpon Jigme Tshultim had violated laws of the land, he would have suffered for it immediately. However, as I and a few ministers or their family members were implicated, and in the interest of promoting transparency, I requested the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in August 2011, for a thorough investigation. The ministers and I also made ourselves available for questioning during the investigation. A primary reason for my decision was to set a precedent under our “Zero tolerance policy against corruption” for government and leaders, including the PM, to face investigation on allegations of corruption.

As the ACC findings are yet to be made public, further doubts and suspicions are being raised by a particular newspaper. Therefore, eventhough it is inappropriate to comment publicly on a matter that is under investigation (“sub judice”) by an independent body, I am compelled to offer, without prejudice to the work of the ACC, a brief explanation on each of the main allegations in response to public demand.

1st allegation: It is alleged that the allotment of land in Gyalpoizhing was in violation of several Royal Kashos which decreed that no one, other than His Majesty the King, may grant land.

In actual fact, the Kashos pertained only to government land, tsamdros and sokshings and not to urban plots that were and are always allotted by empowered authorities or dzongkhag committees.

The only time a specific Royal Command was issued to stop urban land allotment was via a letter issued by His Majesty’s Secretary in March 1987. The circular mentions specifically that the moratorium will remain until proper rules have been established.

Subsequently, a Royal Command conveyed by the Eastern Zonal Administrator vide a circular in June 1991, states that once the structure plans for towns in the dzongkhags are finalized, “the power to allot building plots would rest with the respective dzongdas who will be aided by committees. Clear criteria and directives shall be issued in consultation with the Ministry of Social Services.”

Accordingly, in July 1991, late Dasho Dorji Tenzin, Secretary, Ministry of Social Services (Works and Housing) conveyed a Government (His Majesty the King’s) order laying down a set of nine criteria and procedures for allotment of plots in townships. It states that “following guidelines are to be followed throughout the kingdom for township development …. for strict compliance by all concerned”.

The Royal Command that caused the final lifting of the moratorium on urban plot allotment is conveyed to the Secretary, Works and Housing by Mongar Dzongda, Dasho Karma Dorji in August 1998. His letter states that “HM the King was pleased to command that the allotment of land in Mongar township should be made as early as possible by the committee”. It also conveys that a committee comprising of 12 public officials, with the dzongda as the chairman of the municipal committee, shall allot the land. This was then applied uniformly throughout the country. The letters written by Tshering Dorji, Director General, Department of Urban Development and Housing to the Dzongda, citing the first Royal Command are invalid and demonstrate his complete ignorance of subsequent Commands.

The above coherent series of Royal Commands establish, beyond any doubt, that the dzongdas have the power and duty to allot urban plots. All records establish that Mongar Dzongkhag Committee, under the chairmanship of Tshogpon Jigme Tshultim, allotted the land at Gyalpoizhing in keeping with Royal Commands.

If the Gyalpoizhing land allotment is to be declared illegal, then all the townships in the counry will become illegal, since all building plots were allotted by urban development and Dzongkhag authorities from the beginning.

2nd allegation: It is alleged that many farmers were deprived of their valuable land and not given compensation, and are still aggrieved.

Every farmer (37 households) who owned land in Gyalpoizhing project area was fully compensated, not only for land, but for structures, as well as crops. Those who didn’t want monetary compensation were given land substitute. No complaints have been registered in the Dzongkhag in this regard. Therefore, it is absolutely untrue that there are people who are still aggrieved. Complainants from outside the township but nearby areas have been deliberately misreported as belonging to Gyalpoizhing township area.

3rd allegation: It is alleged that a part of the Gyalpoizhing land allotted by the dzongkhag administration was government land and should not have been included in the town.

All the land included in the Gyalpoizhing township belonged to the Kurichhu Hydropower Project Authority. This includes the so called government land on the other side of the river which accommodated office buildings and labour camps of the project. Therefore, irrespective of whether these were originally private or government land, they belonged to the project and were transferred to the dzongkhag to build the new town. It may also be stated that government land used to be allotted by the Cabinet for institutions and towns.

4th allegation: It is alleged that I acquired my plot when I was the Home Minister and, therefore, exercised administrative influence over the dzongda.

Untrue. I was the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time.

The reports accused us of land grabbing, whereas, we paid for the plots at the prescribed rates. We were persuaded to apply for plots by the then Dzongda who hoped that investment by “influential” people could help influence others to return and invest in interior eastern Bhutan. This is the kind of thing that governments at the national and sub-national levels do (mainly with incentives) to promote investment and growth. My own plot of 22,000 sq. ft. lies on the other side of the river with no other possible access but over the security sensitive wall of the dam. If, at some stage, I and the other plot owners are denied access over the dam for security and structural reasons, the only option is to row across the river. These sandy plots are, therefore, of little use to the public and remain unused even now, after over 10 years.

All supporting documents:

Circular from secretary Dorji Tenzin

Letter from Dzongdag Karma Dorji

Letter from Zonal Administrator

Letter from Dasho Pema Wangchen

 

When the media’s intention is not to inform but to disinform, it goes against the very essence of its purpose and ethics. When the aim of a newspaper is to break the relationship of trust between the people and the elected, it harms democracy and its workings. And, when the purpose is to serve the vested interest of a few, it is dangerous. The government has far greater and more urgent responsibilities than to be occupied with baseless allegations.

 

Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley.

www.cabinet.gov.bt

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8 comments

  1. I have been a supporter of DPT who seriously believed that the party was here to stay. Despite the many hurdles the government has faced, least from the opposition party, they have done a remarkable job in earnestly taking the country forward on the path of democratization. However, of late, serious doubts have begun to niggle at my not so intelligent intelligence. No, its not all the charges of the corruption scams but for the defenses that the Prime Minster has offered.
    We all know that in the not so distant past many forms of unethical practices were indulged in by many people in power. Most got away with it, few did not. But that was how the system worked. The case of Gyelpozhing was one such case gone sour. However, I find the defense that the Prime Minster offered today very revolting and a severe blow to my intellect. The Prime Minister states that “ If Tshogpon Jigme Tshultim had violated laws of the land, he would have suffered for it immediately”. We all know that this is simply not true. The Tshogpons could not suffered immediately because he had the backing of very influential people like the PM and other Ministers to bail him. And may be that was the case. Further, we also know many other influential people who have gotten away then, live very respectable lives amidst us today. Moreover as Buddhist we believe in the law of the Karma- it’s not necessarily instant.
    The other very revolting statement the Prime Minster made is, “We were persuaded to apply for plots by the then Dzongda who hoped that investment by “influential” people could help influence others to return and invest in interior eastern Bhutan. This is the kind of thing that governments at the national and sub-national levels do (mainly with incentives) to promote investment and growth ‘. This is a pathetic justification for dispossessing the poor. I wonder what other forms of ‘persuation’ the Prime minster and other influential people have accumulated over their very long tenure on the top of the bureaucracy in the country. By the PM’s argument, one would think that the dzongdag invited him to invest in a dying town which needed to be revitalised, while on the contrary the future prospects of Gyalpozhing was well known one and all. Come to think of it, this is the first time that any one has conceded that the Dzongda did “persuade” to apply for the plots. I hope the Prime Minister will not drag the innocent committee members as being party to this persuasion.
    Despite everthing thing , I still have great respect for the PM, but does he need to be so defensive to the extent of sounding like a despot. We are all Buddhist and we know “to err is human” . We know mistake have been made, are made and will continue to be made and sometimes it easier to own up to your mistakes especially when it was made under very different circumstances some ten years ago. I for one would be willing to forgive and forget just to hear that “mistakes were made and actions will be taken to redress it”. On second thoughts its perhaps too late!

  2. The PM has no defense in the Gyelpozhing case, all people who were not entitled to get land should return the plots they were allotted. Now how can you defend someone like Jigme Tshultrim.

  3. I love PM, for he keeps blurting out more errors ! 😉 

  4. What a lame duck justification from Lyonchhen, I agree with ‘good’, all people who got land illegally should surrender it and apologize to the nation. Speaker should be sent behind bars. 

    • All official involved in Landcase aspiring for to join political party should be barred for contesting election.LJT was worked under pressure and should be spared.After all he is a very nice human being and was pressurized by big fish.Let by gone be by gone.Hence forth official/civil Servants holding the land in G/case should be restricted/Filtered and only clean guys to be inducted in Political party.Otherwise Bhutan will be full of learned /intellectual thieves&Criminal  looting the nation wealth like India and learn to live like Leaders in Singapore corruption free where Royal/Minister are not even spare to prosecute and punished as per the law of their Land.

      • Life is full of ‘lessons’, we don’t know which one to understand it. But one thing we should know very well is how to avoid ‘misunderstanding’.( Am worried that these kind of things would misinterpreted and as result it would ‘wound’, nation and the people).

  5. LJYT be littled his intelleigence and common sense on two accounts.
    Some of my observations are on the Press Release of Gyelposhing Land scandal. PM as a highly regarded leader of the country, I could not believe myself that PM has almost belittled his intelligence and almost compromising his ethics and values, especially on two accounts:

    (a). PM’s Press Release in the Cabinet Secretariat states that Ministers were allotted land in Gyelposhing, and to this effect there are four letters attached as documentary evidences. These four attachments have laid down clear criteria, sadly they have not followed these criteria while allotting the land to Ministers. These documents are still available on the Website of the Cabinet Secretariat for readers to verify, if they wish to.
    (b). The 2nd comments, LJYT’s Press Release states that if the land allotment done by Monggar Dzongda for Gyelposhing is illegal, then all land allotment in other Dzongkhags are illegal the reason being that in other Dzongkhags too, land allotment is done by Dzongdags. How could our PM belittle himself by this kind of statement? I believe, the issue pertains to not following the criteria laid down in the documents. It does not mean that Dzongdags can allot any land by violating some criteria and norms.

    To make the things more clearer, for instance the Thimphu Dzongdag advertised two positions for recruitment and he appointed his two sisters from a pool of say 35 applicants despite these two sisters were in the last rank during the selection process. Say, somehow this had come to the notice of the ACC and considered the action taken by the Thimphu Dzongda illegal as some prevailing criteria and norms have not been followed. Then following the logic of PM’s justification of Gyelposhing land case, if recruitment of Thimphu Dzongkhag is illegal, then all recruitment in other Dzongkhags done by Dzongdags to be considered illegal. The point is, how can the recruitment, land allotment and other activities carried out by all Dzongdags considered as illegal, unless they have violated the criteria, rules and other norms as in the case of land allotment of Gyelposhing. Therefore, our LJYT has belittled his intelligence and common sense.

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