Government may also launch an investigation on other aspects of the project
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that the Cabinet had decided to close the Education City project and has instructed the Bhutan Education City board to complete the remaining procedures to wrap up the project.
The Lyonchhen, talking at the monthly meet-the¬press, said that the Cabinet had discussed the issue of the Education City project, and specifically the legality of the land leased to the Education city, in several Cabinet sittings.
He said the National Land Commission (NLC) made it very clear that they have not allocated land to Education City, and cannot do so, as the lease is for 90 years. The Prime Minster said the Cabinet requested the BEC board to study the matter properly and they requested the NLC to reconsider their stand. The PM explained that the NLC made it clear that they stand by its earlier decision and they cannot lease land to the Education City project.
Lyonchhen said, “During the 26th Cabinet meeting, the Cabinet considered the matter and decided the decision of the NLC would be binding as it was correct and legal, and as such, the Cabinet instructed the BEC board to complete the remaining procedures to wrap up the project since land is not available.”
“As far as the government was concerned, the Education City project did not get the land and proper procedures had not been followed as it proposed a 90-year lease with automatic three extensions of 30 years in the concession agreement that was not legal. Given these facts, the Cabinet decided to close the Education City project,” said the PM.
The Prime Minister said that government had not really taken a stand on the project being good or bad and as far as the government was concerned, the previous government had taken a decision and this government had wanted to go ahead and honour the decision, but only as long as it was legal.
The PM said, “There are certain questions about legality of other issues surrounding the project, and so if required, a separate investigation could be conducted if any other aspects of the project is illegal.”
The PM said that a separate investigation on the project would be conducted if the government received formal and authentic complaints or questions posed with enough substance that merited the investigation.
Lyonchhen clarified that this was not a witch hunt or being done to discredit the former government.
The PM also addressed the Opposition party’s views that there was an Education City Act which needed to be repelled to close the project.
Lyonchhen clarified that when the Act was being discussed his party’s principal concern was that an Act should not and cannot be formulated for any single project.
He said, “During the discussion, it was said that the Act is not for a single project but for Education Cities in general.”
The PM said that the existence of the Education City Act does not overrule the provisions of previous laws like Land Act. He said, “Even though an Act exists, land cannot be provided under the existing provisions of the Land Act and then it does not make sense to have an Education city without land. The most responsible thing to do would be to bring closure to the project.”
Responding to a question on the investment already made of Nu 120 to Nu 130 mn on the access road and bridge the PM said, “The government has already made investment in roads, bridges, water supply and transmission towers have been built. We will have to look at who should be held accountable for incurring such heavy spending on part of the government. The Royal Audit Authority, I am sure, will investigate it as a part of their regular job. “
The PM said that the Education City counterparts from India also made some investment. “I have met with the representatives from ILFS and I have informed them that in closing the project we have to look at investments made from both sides and then bring it to closure as quickly and fairly as possible,” he added.
Commenting on the proposal to build 699 luxury villas, of 50 decimals to an acre each, the PM said that if such villas were for giving it out others, rather than to students and teachers as proposed, then it would be illegal.