If the due process of law is followed on the ACC report on the Gyelpozhing land grab (which is nearing completion) it could affect the electoral prospects of four key DPT leaders.
The leaders who are involved in the Gyelpozhing case are, the National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim, Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, and the finance minister, Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu. Recently the Speaker announced his intention to resign to make way for younger leadership in DPT.
A senior official from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) said, “Candidates who have a case registered against them will not be allowed to contest in the elections”.
The senior ECB official said, “As per the rules on the disqualification of a political candidate a person shall be disqualified as a candidate or a member holding an elective office under the constitution, if he or she as per section 179 (g), is accused of felony in a pending case and the competent court has taken cognizance and charges have been framed against the person.”
Another section for disqualification of election candidates is if candidates have been convicted for any criminal offence.
What could come as bad news for the above leaders is that the ACC Investigation so far has established that a land grab did happen in Gyelpozhing.
The ACC Investigation has found that in Gyelpozhing the 1980 Royal Kasho on land, whereby only His Majesty the King can allot land has been violated. The ACC investigation has also confirmed that the 1979 Land Act has been violated in Gyelpozhing.
The ACC investigation has also found that the allotment committee did not follow proper procedures. The ACC investigations also confirmed that the Dzongkhag committee and the then Mongar Dzongda Jigme Tshultim had ignored repeated letters and warnings to not allot or register land in Gyelpozhing.
It has also been found that the plot allotted across the river to the Prime Minister and Lyonpo Zimba was originally government land.
According to the ACC, the Gyelpozhing case will be treated as the same like other cases. The ACC said that based on the findings of Gyelpozhing investigation action like prosecution referral, disciplinary referral, and systematic recommendations for corruption prevention will be taken.
The ACC said that following the outcome of the investigation the agency will follow the due process of action. The agency, however, said that under normal circumstances; the commission does not prosecute cases as a result of its investigations.
The prosecution mandate according to ACC lies with the OAG.
As per Section 128 of the Anti Corruption Act 2011 and the Prosecution Referral Guideline 2011, the commission makes referrals to the OAG only when there is sufficient evidence and that the prosecution would serve public interest.
Once the ACC report is out there will be considerable interest on if ACC refers some cases to the OAG and if the OAG itself prosecutes the case.
Both agencies would play an enormous role in the re-election bid of the above leaders because if both agencies delay the process or don’t carry out their due process then there will be little or no obstacles for the leaders.
The Gyelpozhing land grab took place back in 2001-02, when the Speaker was the Mongar Dzongda and chairman of the Dzongkhag land allotment committee, Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu was the then finance secretary, the PM was the then home minister and Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba was the finance minister.
The scam consisted of illegal allotment of town plots and government land to influential people in Gyelpozhing town when many local businessmen and farmers who fit the criteria or lost land did not get their plots.
Apart from the violation of laws there was a strong conflict of interest as the Prime Minister as the-then Home Minister was the direct superior of Mongar Dzongda Jigme Tshultim and accepted illegal government land from him along with Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu.
The DPT’s officiating Secretary General, Tshewang Rinzin, said, “The case pertained to about 10 to 15 years back, and till then the party had not yet been formed, so the party has little knowledge on it.”
However, Tshewang Rinzin said if the investigation of the case was completed and if the accused were found guilty then it would definitely affect the party, “There can even be a possibility that the candidates might not be given a party ticket to stand as candidates.”
He added that it would be difficult to comment on the ECB rules as the report was yet to be out and the party till date had never discussed this matter in any of its party meetings.