The youth and parents affected by the Japan ‘Learn and Earn Program’ (LEP) met with the Prime Minister (Dr) Lotay Tshering yesterday. The meeting discussed on ways the youth and the government can come together to solve the Japan issue.
The Prime Minister also gave clarification on various issue related to LEP, and apologized on the recent statement made by the labour minister during the Annual Gups’ Meeting held in Bumthang.
PM said it would be a lie if someone says that those who went to work through ‘learn and earn program’ did not suffer or have had any problems.
“We have never said that there was no problems or issues with those who went to Japan,” said the PM. He said there is a lot of unemployment issues in the country and the government has been doing its best to address the issue.
PM said, “I will not agree or disagree on what the LEP youths has to say or think about labour minister. If the labour minister has done something wrong then he is liable for any punishment because no one is above the law.”
He said the youth who went on LEP think that the government is supporting the Bhutan Overseas Employment Agent (BOEA). “But if we think properly, the government has nothing to do or help the agent. There is nothing that the government will gain by helping them,” said the PM.
He also clarified on the issue with Director General (DG) of labour ministry. PM said since RCSC takes the decision, therefore, the ministry cannot make or take decision on the Labour DG.
In regard to the meeting with Gups in Bumthang, PM said he was also present during the meeting. He said the statement did not mean that all the LEP youth who went to Japan are not suffering or having problems.
He cited an example of Sonam Tamang. PM said the media reported about Sonam Tamang, as though the government is not helping or doing anything about her. PM said the government has been helping Sonam and her family. “We are doing what we can and media has not reported what government has done so this is what the statement meant,” the PM said.
He said a small statement would never affect the judgment. PM said the government is ready to know if there is anything it can do to help the affected youth. However, he said the government cannot help with the loan as it depends on the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).
PM said the government is aware about LEP youth who have to work two or three jobs at a time to cover their expenses. He also expressed about the youth who have to sleep in the train stations because they do not have money to take a cab, and some of them sleep for just two or three hours and then attend the language schools.
But the government cannot address this issue because the Japanese government has its own rules and regulations. The youth who are in Japan and with working visa need to work hard because they can earn better there, the PM said.
“And those who are back in Bhutan can always avail our help. We know that you all are back because of some reasons. We know that youths who went to Japan are from poor financial background and that is why you all went to Japan except for a few. But now, we can always work together to solve your problems. You can come to us with the ideas. There are lot of opportunities one can do like self-start business, clothes shops, agricultural work, availing loan and many more, the government can help you,” said the PM.
Parents’ Committee lawyer, Ngawang Tobgay, said they are hoping that government will solve the problems faced by LEP youth, and about raising issue about Japan case in the Gups’ Meeting in Bumthang was not necessary. In response to the lawyer, PM said if this issue is the main issue, and said,
“If there is a need for apologizing then I will apologize, and praying to work together to solve this Japan case and the present government and Labour Minister never meant to hurt the sentiments of LEP youths and parents.”
He added, “Today is the opportunity to end this and work together, if not this issue will never end.” PM also assured the LEP youth to contact him right away if they require help. One of the LEP youth, Tshering Yangki, said many people are under the impression that they are making the issue too difficult to solve, just because of the difficulties in loan repayment, but that is not the only reason.
“People also have different thinking about the LEP youths. However, it is time that we should work together with the government to put this to an end,” she said.
Another LEP youth said that he did four jobs at a time and he had worked really hard when he was in Japan.
“I feel that there is no unemployment issue in the country. There is opportunity. I would like to request everyone that start planning and don’t waste time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ngawang Tobgay said the LEP issue was put to the incumbent government for the necessary intervention. The primary intention of approaching the government for the support was to restore the injury or harm inflicted to the innocent youth, and to inform the government of the day to be aware of such employment programs so that the government can make timely intervention to prevent other probable victims of the programs alike.
“We expected a positive response from the government by curing the mishaps so that the government could restore the faith and confidence of the helpless youths who already lost such values after having been victimized by the program initiated by MoLHR. After having approached not only the concerned ministry, but also prayed to the Opposition, National Council and also Office of Prime Minister, but our prayers were unheard,” he said.
He also said they resorted to seek refuge in the justice system as the last option. “We have funded fact findings ourselves and filed a criminal complaint to the Royal Bhutan Police. Having thoroughly reviewed by the Prosecution Division of RBP, the merit of the case requires the Office of Attorney General to prosecute accordingly. The case is under study by the prosecution of the OAG,” he added.
“There are various instances where the minister of MoLHR has issued inappropriate comments regarding this very issue. Even when the aggrieved parties gathered to file the first criminal complaint, the minister of MoLHR has accused us of illegal gathering. Such interferences from the highest authority would have undesired implications to our journey towards reaping justice,” Ngawang Tobgay said.
“If the Government cannot afford us with affirmative responses, we expected the same not to implicate and weaken our stand at the least. We felt the decision must be left to the Hon’ble Court.”
He said Section 5 of Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan 2001 provides doctrine of non-interference wherein; the Court has to decide matters before it impartially on the basis of fact and in accordance with the rule of law. “Once the matter is pending for the adjudication, we feel it is inappropriate for any authority to make comments and judgments on the moral grounds,” he added.
“The unverified comments and critics from the minister of MoLHR may defeat this very provision, and may also have possible encroachment of power as provided in the Constitution,” he said.