National Council, Political Parties and Local leaders all against Land Bill 2012

Most of the above including ordinary citizens are against clauses in the Land Bill 2012 that give politicians vast powers over land and the National Land Commission

The Draft Land Bill 2012 is heading into some major constitutional, political and public opinion crisis with many MPs, Local government representatives, political parties, civil servants, legal experts and ordinary citizens criticizing two controversial changes in the Bill.

One change is that the cabinet under the new Land Bill 2012 will have the power to grant resettlement land. Another change is that membership of the National Land Commission (NLC) has been changed with the earlier composition of mainly government secretaries and the Gyalpoi Zimpon being removed and instead replaced with ministers.

Most people that The Bhutanese talked-to said that cabinet getting land resettlement powers is unconstitutional as it intrudes on His Majesty the King’s  Constitutional prerogative to give Land Kidu. Article 2, Section 16 of the Constitution allows only His Majesty the King to grant land Kidu.

They also said that having ministers in the NLC would lead to a politicized NLC vulnerable to political pressures.

Explaining the governments stand the Acting Prime Minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said, “I think the matter is not understood very well. The Bill is subject to discussion. We need to look into such issues. The word resettlement is for the rehabilitation of people who are displaced when a certain project falls in their area. This is what we are doing even now under the Land Act. We have to discuss this thoroughly and it is not necessary to pass the Bill this session owing to its importance.”

On the proposal of switching the National Land Commission members, the acting Prime Minister said that these were just suggestions which need to be discussed.

However, the government’s interpretation of the Bill and the defense of the controversial clauses have not convinced many who want the provisions removed.

 

National Council says it will not support controversial provisions in Land Bill

The National Council (NC) will play an important part in passing or amending the Land Bill. Most NC members, however, were unhappy with the two controversial provisions.

None of the 17 NC members that The Bhutanese talked-to supported the controversial clauses and most said that they would oppose them.

Lhuentse NC MP Rinzin Rinzin said, “This directly contradicts the provision of the Constitution which states that the prerogative to give away land lies only with His Majesty the King. Cabinet can propose to the Druk Gyalpo but cannot give it away. It appears like the Government is trying to get more power by bypassing the prerogative of the Druk Gyalpo. This is unconstitutional.

He said Land is closest to people’s heart as it is the main resource. “From what I have heard, the Gyalpoi Zimpon is not included as one of the Commission members. He has to be one of the members as he has to know what is going on in the Commission,” said Rinzin Rinzin.

Zhemgang NC MP Pema Lhamo said “As far as the land is concerned, we should maintain the sanctity that lies with His Majesty the King. That would be the best and it has to be like that.”  She said that it is too early to propose any amendment on the Land Act 2007 as the problem is with inadequate implementation of Land Act 2007 and not with any faulty clauses.

Tsirang NC MP Justin Gurung said that the Bill would not garner any support.

Samtse NC MP Dr. Mani Kumar Rai said as far as he was concerned he did not know why such a clause had been proposed. “I don’t even know whether this will get through or not,” he said.

Trongsa NC MP Dr. Jagar Dorji said till now it was only His Majesty who issued Kidu lands and that is how it has always been done.“I think it is in the best interest of the people, rich or poor alike that giving away land through one hand will always be better,” said Dr. Jagar.

Samdrup Jongkhar NC MP Jigmi Wangchuk said like the others he too will not be in favor of the proposed clause.

The NC chairperson, Namgay Penjore, however, said, “It is just a bill and it can be subject to change. And NC is going to discuss this bill in the tenth session”.

Gasa NC MP Sangay Khandu said the constitution clearly states Kidu as a sole prerogative of His Majesty and it should not be undermined  or changed at any cost. “We should make Land Commission more efficient and should not create a room for politicizing,” he said.

HM’s eminent nominee Karma Damcho Nidup asked “what is the problem in keeping the old Land Bill? By allowing it to change does it address the problem?” She said there will be problem in the implementation of the bill.

Chukha NC MP Tshewang Lhamo said land is the sanction of HM the King and it should be with the throne since land and census are two important issues.

Bumthang NC MP Tshewang Jurmi said  “Granting of Kidu land shall be the Royal Prerogative of the Druk Gyalpo which is further emphasized by the constitution which states that the Kidu land shall be submitted to His Majesty the King.

 

Political parties not in support of political interference in Land issues

Dr. Tandin Dorji the spokesperson for the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa(DNT) said “granting of land is the sole prerogative of HM the King and this shouldn’t be changed at any cost”.  He said giving powers to the cabinet will create an environment for corruption.

 

“The inclusion of Gyalpo Zimpon is of  utmost importance as he is the representative of His Majesty,” the DNT spokesperson said.

“Involving politicians in the membership will politicize the whole system and there will be misuse of power.”

He suggested it would be wise if there could be the representatives from the secretary level as well some people who are highly qualified to be members in the committee.

“MPs  should voice out what the people really feel about this as there is not a single forum in which people have supported this act,” he said.

“That is why we say DPT does not seem to listen to people’s need; they decide everything on their own.”

A core member of the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) said “No one other than HM the King can grant Kidu for only good reasons. It is in the interest of His people and so power should be retained only with the King”.

He said granting land fairly cannot be expected from the cabinet as they will not have a great insight like HM. The inclusion of Gyalpoi Zimpon is also important as he is the king’s envoy and he should actually be the chairperson for the committee.

The Opposition leader  (OL)Tshering Tobgay said “I see absolutely no reason why the cabinet should get involved in resettlement land”.

He said on 21st December 2006, during the 86th session of the National Assembly, HM the King commanded that no other persons would be permitted to come in between His Majesty and His people when it comes to resolving land issues.

“Since then, HM the King has travelled throughout the country and worked tirelessly to personally oversee each and every resettlement land case.  That is why the resettlement land program has enjoyed total success, and that is why the cabinet should not be allowed to interfere,” he said.

The Opposition leader said he was deeply concerned that the amendment to allow the cabinet to approve land resettlement may be motivated by political interests.

“We cannot allow any politicians to be members of the Land Commission. Land is a precious resource, and, as such, politicians, including the PM and ministers, would come under a lot of political pressures to distribute land unfairly, and they would eventually succumb to such political influence. I cannot see why the prime minister and other ministers would want to be members of the Land Commission if not to satisfy narrow political interests,” said the OL.

The Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party spokesperson said, “The land act or any land bill should always stand testimony to the continued commitment and diligence of the King in his pursuit of overall well being of Bhutanese people.”

There was a mixed response from the DPT MPs.  Lhuentse MP Tshering Tenzin said   “There is no harm in PM becoming the chairman of the NLC. It is as good as anybody coming in and taking the position”.

Conversely MP Karma Rangdol said he was not supportive of the resettlement. “I need to understand this clause because it would be very difficult to support a clause which gives power to the cabinet to issue resettlement land,” said Karma Rangdol. He said during the deliberation on the Bill, the house will know the rationale behind it.

Dremitse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said “There might have been a reason as to why it was proposed in the first place, but it is yet to be discussed”.

Bongo-Chapcha MP, Ugay Tshering said when it came to land and census issues, it was the prerogative of His Majesty. He said no one will be stupid enough to put their finger on it.

 

Local Government leaders say leave it to the King

Nearly all the 11 Gups from the across the country that this paper talked-to were against the cabinet getting resettlement powers . They said among other things politicization of land issues would become a major problem.

A supporter, Gup Sonam Dhendup, from Yurung Gewog in the PM’s constituency said “There is no problem if the new Land Act gives Kidu powers to the cabinet”.

Phongmey Gup, Palden Dorji under Trashigang said “The people will prefer for the King to have the land resettlement power and the cabinet to only support the King”. He said change in NLC membership can create problems in the future as politicians change and so the King should have powers over the NLC as well.

Gup Chandra Prasad, of Dopuchen Gewog under Samtse said “There will be a problem of politicization in the future and so Kidu should be kept as per the Constitution”.

Gup Sangay Tenzin of Drapong Gewog under Mongar said “In the future there can be problems so the power should be only kept with the King”.

Gup Sangay Tshewang of Doteng Gewog under Paro said that the cabinet is not worthy to have such a power. He said ministers in the NLC will lead to rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.

Talo Gup Kinley said both for resettlement powers and NLC membership people trust the King much more so both issues should be left to the King.

 

Private Sector and Civil Servants also unhappy about new clauses

The Bhutanese also sought the opinion of civil servants, private sector employees and legal experts on the issue.

A government lawyer on the condition of anonymity said “I feel that it is a Usur Pation (hijacking or taking over) of the Royal prerogative by the executive. Resettlement is given as Kidu as it falls within the concept of Kidu. The provision is void ab initio (it can never come into existence) as it violates the Constitution”.

A female civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “When the power is given to a politician, it is doubtful as they have their vested interests and promises to keep. Giving away land is an ultimate power and the sanctity must remain the way it is. Should such power be given to the cabinet, the rich would start getting richer”.

Hotel Dragon Roots Proprietor, Sangay Dorji said “It is simple, let the power remain with HM. It is funny because it was HM who gave them the power through democracy and now they want it the other way around. It is like giving an inch and taking a yard. If such a clause has to go through, then it won’t be good because in the end it will be these politicians favoring their constituencies and voters.”

He said it doesn’t make sense. For example, the Gyelpozhing land grab, even with several reminders from HM had happened. anyway.

Pema Rinzin, a shopkeeper in Thimphu said “The government has already messed up our business. And now it seems they want to mess up land issues too. Land is best left to His Majesty”.

Tashi Norbu a private entrepreneur said Trowa theater case, Gyelpozhing land scam, Chang Ugyen case and others are examples of how politicians manage land.

“Only His Majesty should have a say on land allotment and in fact even the 1000 acre Education city should be given only after Royal Assent,” he said.

 

Kuenzang Choden, Tashi Wangmo and Dawa Zangmo

 

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26 comments

  1. The most important decision concerning very citizen of Bhutan, present and future is going to be tabled soon in the parliament in the form of land bill 2012. The land resettlement powers to the politicians, present and future. Do we really need to change?

    There is no need to change the present land act of 2007. The change I see will invite lots of room for corruption and nepotism. Even without the powers, politicians have already shown us the true colors in form of  trowa theatre proposal. If land lies in the hands of politicians, many more trowa’s cases will follow. Resettlement means resettling people or replacing land any where in Bhutan. e.g, political supporters from Punakha can be allotted land in Thimphu in the name of resettlement so forth and so on. Many land scams can be expected.

    If you want to realize the dream of owning land and home one day then trust only one person who can deliver it to you, His Majesty the King.

    People of Bhutan, wake up and make your voice heard. The MP’s are elected by you and they will listen.

    Kudos to the Bhutanese for a detailed article and making the Bhutanese people understand better.  

  2. I thoroughly support what rinzin has written above.The fact that the two controversial changes were made at the cabinet level (mainly two ministers including the lyonchhoen) it reveals their self interest and the greater plan in the future.
    Every body knows it is impossible for an ordinary person to buy a plot in Thimphu in the entire life.The land holders in thimphu are mostly the rich and the powerful ones including some of the the present ministers and also they are the ones who has plenty of excess land.I can imagine if they manage to get the kidu power which they are trying through the pretext of land bill 2012, they will have all the excess lands allotted to them and to their relatives and supporters etc.
    When we have not been able to properly implement the existing land act 2007 I cannot see any valid reason to change the same so soon.
    I trust the people of Bhutan to stand up and make our  voices heard against such unconstitutional and dangerous move by the government.
    Our king is supreme, our symbol of unity, the nations beloved father whom the nation trusts and any one trying to hurt this relationship will be given a fitting reply.
    Long live our beloved king.

  3. When most people don’t want the clauses in the bill the DPT is still trying to push it through. This is truly undemocratic. 

  4. Our politicians are starting to turn into Maoists 

  5. Has DPT government become so arrogant that they are now going against the wishes of the King? Are they so arrogant that they are doing such things when they will be facing the elections next year.

    I think people should really think how they vote next year. Of course JYT has already secured a job at the UN after selling happiness in this unhappy world.

    Damn us!   

  6. DPT, take my land and house, take my car, take my underwear, take my wife too… u want eveything… 

  7. I don’t know whether we can have effective democracy without actually empowering the Government. Land and People, especially the civil service, are two important factors of production which our democratically elected government has no control.
    I don’t seen any logic in having a bunch of bureaucrats as members in the land comission. These NC guys can’t see beyond thier nose tip. Imagine a NC that could not even think about thier retirement arrangement- the kind of dilemma they are in right now as to whether to resign and get the retirements or retire early and participate in the next elections. We don’t expect much from these guys except for some off the cuff arguments based on some academic bookish knowledge which. His Majesty will remain as the overall guardian of every important initiative in the country. At the same time, the government need to have enough powers to conduct its functions effectively.

    • In regard to the NC members, I agree with you fully, they are just a bunch of jokers who think they know too much, especially people like Sonam Kinga, the biggest  irony is that he actually represents my Dzongkhag. As for some of those so called eminent members, the less said the better. 

  8. I say govt has too much control over land. 

    This is why the govt is giving away 1000 acres of govt land to Education city. A project that has the PM’s son and nephew involvement. This is despite most international companies saying that project is not viable. Not only that govt is pumping in Nu 600 mn too. 

    On the Civil Service front it is an open secret that there is rampant nepotism perpetrated by the PM and Zimba who have put all their relatives or favourites in top posts.  

  9. During the reign of HM the 4th Druk Gyalpo, there was no such things as economic crisis, rupee crisis and bans. It was never heard of. There were no taxes imposed on the people. And even previously existing forms of taxes were abolished. Bhutan was the only country in the world where people did not pay income tax. Even the introduction of income tax during the latter part of HM’s reign was reluctantly endorsed by HM after repeated proposal in the then NA. The Bhutanese looked up to the government as the perfect decision maker because HM was there. That was happiness….in reality. People enjoyed the taste of freedom… no restrictions and no burden… they could live their lives the way the choose and did not have to worry about what psychotic thing the govt. may do or impose the next day.

    Within five years of democracy, everything’s changed. It’s always tax, tax, tax and grab, grab, grab……. nothing less and nothing more…. Is the land bill ‘a way to amend/redress the pending land’ grab cases? I wonder what would Bhutan be like after 10 years from now…

    Economic crisis and people are responsible? Who took to the campaigns, promised and took the privilege and benefits of taking care of the economy of the country? people are responsible only if they ruined their homes and individual lives on their own. When policies and nations fail, it’s the leader who’s failed….

    • Be fair…don’t react on partial facts…be holistic…understand both aspects of the argument before pouring out in a public forum

  10. I think it is important for us to understand what type of resettlement land our parliamentarians are talking about. If it is about allotting resettlement land to landless people then our parliamentarians should better remain in their own shoes, but if it is about allotting land to rehabilitate people who are displaced due to projects, then I think Gyalpoi Zimpon should be spared so that our people can have option to appeal to the Gyalpoi Zimpon if allotment is not fair. If this is what Acting PM means, then better change the term resettlement to replacement or any other suitable word. Let these two words have different meanings with two different authorities to allot.

  11. Haha, people want a government with no powers over land issues, so I hope people stop complaining about how long NLC takes to resurvey their land etc, I come from a small village in Trashigang and the resurvey of our land was completed sometime in 2010 and as of now I have not got my new thram. If you are willing to live with such delays, than no no to any change in the land act.

  12. People who are opposed to the Cabinet’s proposal must understand the context of their proposal fully. Otherwise you are just being a “frog in the pond”. What the Cabinet is proposing is to look after the needs of the people who have to be resettled or rehabilitated. That is different from giving land to land less people. That is a sole prerogative of HM. They are not proposing to give personal land kidu to land less people. Even today NLC gives government land to any other institutions without the consent of HM to build their offices or so on. They give land substitution to the people affected by developmental activities all the time. That is exactly what Cabinet wants to do it because they want to work for the people as land is a very important developmental asset and it effects many Bhutanese people. Resettlement and rehabilitation requires lot of work and lot of resources that only government can plan and find it. It has to be properly plannned and integrate with the existing plans. Currently NLC takes care of the rehabilitation and resettlement work without the involvement of the government. Somehow they get budget approval from the MoF by merely mentioning as the Royal command. That is taking advantage of the system. The people in NLC are not meant for such work. They even cannot handle what they are suppose to do. So it is right for the Cabinet to take over this land issues so that they can holistically plan well. If people are not happy with the government’s decision, they can always seek personal or community Kidu from HM. If you send all the land related issues to HM, then you are a fool because HM has more pressing responsibility than looking into every Bhutanese’s land problems.

    The new bill seeks new membership of the NLC committee. That is more important for the government to take over because the present committee has not delivered their responsibility effectively. That is why we saw lots of problems with land substitution in Wangdiphodrang. Do you remember this issue was deliberated in BBS TV many times. It is not because of the government’s unwillingness to solve it. Even PM convened a meeting in Wangdiphodrang with the affected people to discuss on this issue. Nevertheless PM didnot have any power to make a decision on this because all the members of NLC where beyond his control. They were functioning as a separate entity. That is a hopeless situation for PM. He wants to solve the land substitution issues as quick as possible but he cannot. I understand why the Cabinet wants to take over this commission because they are the ones who is responsible for the development of the country, not NLC. They are reposnible to solve the land substitution problem.

    • we don’t want frogs in the ocean, biting off more than they can chew.

    • Thank you very much for the explanation. That is very useful for my understanding. Many of my friends also feel the same way and we have also been talking about it. Thanks once again 

    • I support Sonam!Old members of NLC needs to be dissolved in the interest of all Bhutanese Citizens.If you do a research,major Land Owners are already the Influential and powerful people and how did they manage to grab so much Land is still a mystery?But This needs to be democratized.The Proposed bill doesn’t ask for Kidu Rights it demands for Equity and Balance…

  13. Lots of media houses having people with political ambitions misinforming the population !!!

  14. If the land act 2007 is implemented seriously – both in spirit and action I think there is no need for the revision. Because many provisions of the act are not implemented as written in the law and because a few individuals use a lot of prerogative in interpreting the clauses confusion crop up. 
    Regarding the local governments I wonder why this paper did not interview anybody from the Thromdes – the urban local government. I am sure the reaction can be different and even interesting. 

  15. The way things are developing right now will all lead to the concentration of power (absolute power) with the DPT government. As it is they already have the following powers: Political + Legislative + Executive + Budget control + Positions/Offices (placing own candidates in key positions) + Business licences (Tourism, Airlines, Banking, etc showing favouritism to relatives and the usual suspects) + And now they want to have control over Land distribution
    There is a looming danger of Crony Capitalism. Who becomes rich, who gets what will all be based on one’s affiliation with the political leadership. If things are left as it is, a level playing field will not be possible thereafter.
    Favouritism – Nepotism – Cronyism – it is bad enough it exists – henceforth such practices/misdeeds will be INSTITUTIONALIZED.
    The big question nobody is daring to ask is – Are we moving towards a ONE PARTY DEMOCRACY? 
    Will the 2013 Elections be FREE AND FAIR?
    I can’t understand what is happening to our country. Why are some people grabbing Power – haven’t they learnt anything from our Beloved KINGS?I have never been more concerned. 

     
     

  16. @ Sonam who used the “frog in the pond” metaphor – it is because of people like you that the phrase “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish” was coined

  17. Do you remember the Tobacco Control Act of 2012? How many people went to JAIL for it? All of us didn’t bother to think upon the consequences of such legislation. We thought it didn’t affect us and that we could get around it somehow. But affect us – it did – Big Time. How much hurt and anxiety we had to go through from such a draconian rule. Our indifference (lack of interest) cost us. Response from us was at best Reactionary BUT nevertheless LATE!!!
    The proposed Amendment to the LAND ACT of 2007 – is a Déjà vu – BUT with Greater Consequences. 
    This time it is not a question about spending some time in jail but about taking the Country along a path of no return – a country where the difference between the rich and poor will be far too great that it will result in a revolution – disorder – a collapsed economy – a bleak future for our children – the very sovereignty our country will be compromised. This bill if passed is going to make DPT government an autocratic government and Jigmi Y. Thinley a despotic ruler. DPT’s ambitions are growing by the day.The very thought of the consequences of this bill sends chills down my spine. My fears are not unfounded: -Take for example – THE EDUCATION CITY SCAM (Corruption case at the highest level) – Lyonchhen stands to benefit both directly and indirectly. When the country is faced with Rupee Crisis, how could he go and spend Nu. 15 MILLION on conducting a GNH Conference in New York. Others of note are TROWA THEATER CASEGYALPOSHING LAND SCAMCHANG UGYEN’S OLAKHA LAND SCAMNOW THE GOVERNMENT WANTS THE POWER TO GIVE KIDU LAND. THEY HAVE NO DECENCY AT ALL!!! PLEASE TAKE SOME TIME TO REFLECT UPON THIS AND DON’T GET CAUGHT UNAWARE!!!

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