The former monk says he has been forced to speak out due to misleading representation of his case by DPT leaders in the media
A name that has frequently propped up during the election debates and common forums is that of the former monk Sonam Tshering who was the first person to be imprisoned under the draconian Tobacco Control Act (TCA).
Sonam Tshering was arrested on January 24, 2011 and has spent one year and 19 days in prison, until his release in February 2012 after a Royal Kidu was granted to all those who had been arrested under the Act.
Critics have often pointed to the case as an example of a draconian law implemented under the incumbent government, and the strict jail sentencing was also compared to other cases like Gyelpozhing where former ministers got off lightly.
When questioned on the TCA, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has defended itself by saying that the TCA was a bill drafted by the Parliament and implemented as per the law which was later amended.
Fed up with constant references to his case and also with DPT’s talking points on the issue, Sonam Tshering has refuted several of the points that have been raised on his case.
Sonam Tshering said, “I did not want to come out in the public, but there are a lot of untrue things said about my case, particularly by DPT candidates and former ministers.”
He said, “In the RTC debate, the DPT president said that my case was dealt as per the law, but I will not agree. There was no equity and justice in my case at all under the DPT government. In fact, my case was a perfect example of one country and two laws.”
He said that even as his case was being discussed in the Parliament, he had been defamed by the former Health Minister Zangley Drukpa who had indicated that he was related to the former Opposition Leader and that he was a PDP supporter. He said similar accusations were also made by the former DPT MP Tshering Penjore.
“I would like to place on record that insinuations on me being related to the former Opposition Leader is not true. In fact, we are from different villages though in the same constituency,” said Sonam Tshering.
Sonam Tshering that there was no question of him supporting the former Opposition Leader because at the time, he was a young monk without the power to vote, and later he was behind bars.
He said that if his case was dealt as per the law then the two former DPT minister ranks found guilty in corruption case, which is a more serious offence, were let off with only a light fine.
“Like the Prime Minister offered his land back in the case of Gyelpozhing after being caught, then I should also have been allowed to hand back my tobacco and get off,” said Sonam Tshering.
“There was no equity and justice in my case, as for serious cases like drug smuggling the penalty was much lesser, where as in my case, I just bought Nu 120 worth of tobacco,” he said.
He also said he wants to participate as audience member in the upcoming common forum debate in his constituency in Sombaykha, and ask the question as to why was he punished so severely when other people got off more lightly for more serious offences.
He said, “Since DPT brought up my name so many times on defamatory grounds both in the Parliament and in debates, I would like to say that though I have no political affiliations and I am unhappy with how DPT has handled my case, and I will not be voting for them.”
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu