‘I did not really mean it’: Labour minister on quote questioning whatever media reports on LEP

A recent Kuensel story has the Labour and Human Resources Minister attending the Annual Gups’ Conference held in Bumthang and sounding off on the troubled Japan Learn and Earn Program (LEP) issue.

The Kuensel story quoted the minister saying, “Clarifying that whatever issues are reported in the media about the Japan case is not true.”

The Labour Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji when asked about this controversial statement said, “I did not really mean it.”

He however, qualified this by saying that did not recollect what he exactly said which The Bhutanese should check with the Kuensel reporter and that his full statement was part a larger comment on the LEP case.

The Bhutanese talked to the Kuensel reporter who reported this statement. The reporter confirmed that the Labour Minister did say, “All the issues reported in the media is not true.”

The reporter said the context of the statement was that Lyonpo claimed that he, along with MPs went to Japan and found out that most of the youths who went to Japan through LEP program were doing well and that the media did not cover on this part.

The reporter said that Lyonpo may have wanted to convey that the media covered only a part of the whole program. The reporter said Lyonpo also talked on LEP where there are youths who suffered and there are those who are doing well with this program.

On LEP, Labour Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said, “I have appeared on BBS and I have given interviews to the print media, and my stand has always been consistent. And that consistency will be seen in all the media reports. Maybe with the exception, with one or two papers, which might have deliberately twisted my statements but otherwise I have been pretty consistent and that is there for the whole nation to see.”

“So I don’t really have to give a new statement on this LEP program, per say,” said the minister.

He said with regard to the statement that Kuensel reported, they did not quote him directly but his statement was reported.

“I have nothing new or different to say than what I have already said throughout the past one year. I am not going to say whether I said or not. Ask the gups, ask whoever was present in the conference, and ask the Kuensel reporter who might have a recording and ask them whether I really said that. Go through the recording and try to study the context and the reason I am saying this,” said Lyonpo.

However, he said, “Even if I have said something intentionally or unintentionally, I would not remember each and every sentences. I do not record in my brain everything that I say,” said the labour minister.

He said he did not react to the Kuensel story or to posts on Facebook emerging in reaction to the story.

“My position is not different from earlier, like I said that LEP program is not free of problems. There are problems associated with that but it is not that everything about LEP program is a problem. There are cases where people have benefited and by this, we are not trying to protect the BEO agent,” said Lyonpo.

He said that if he had the intention to protect or use his authority to protect, the DG or the BEO, the police would not be investigating it and OAG would not be able to prosecute them.

He said MoLHR has no role or interference with DG or BEO case.

“I was trying to stay with the truth and the fact. But my statements did not always pander to the thoughts, tendencies and inclinations of few media activists and I was labelled as trying to protect,” said Lyonpo.

He said that when he and the MPs went to Japan and met 140 students, they did know about the problems but at large the youth seems quite fine there. They received overwhelmingly positive comments and they reported this to media. But again he said he was labelled as protecting or trying to twist the facts.

“I do not want to manipulate anything and if I am that kind of person then I do not deserve to be in this position. I am just trying to stand by the truth and people think that I am doing otherwise,” said Lyonpo.

The Labour Minister had worked as a reporter under one BEO partner Tenzin Rigden in the past before becoming minister.

“Is it because I worked under Tenzin Rigden (BEOA partner) that I was labelled with this? If at all I was in collision with Tenzin Rigden, anyone can confirm it in a 100 ways. The accusations of protecting Tenzin Rigden and DG is not fair,” said Lyonpo.

He said the case has gone through ACC, OAG and RBP and he has no issue at all and this is how it must be, said Lyonpo.

In what can be interpreted as a sarcastic message Lyonpo said he agreed that whatever reports come out about the LEP program in the media must be true because the ‘ultimate truth lies to the media’.

Apart from the ACC report and charges by OAG against the DG and Labour officials in the LEP program the RBP has also drawn up charges against the DG, labour officials, BEO agents and employees.

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