The Office of the Attorney General’s ‘opinion’ that there is no legal basis to pursue the matter through the court and that no laws were broken in the Gyelpozhing case has provoked a strong public reaction.
The Acting Prime Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said,” They (OAG) are the legal experts and they know best, since this is a legal issue we’ve to abide by it”
Minister for Home and cultural affairs, Lyonpo Minjur also named in the report said, “We have to leave up to them (OAG)”.
Political Parties say it was conflict of interest
While the government and those involved in the case may believe that OAG knows best the vast majority of people that talked to The Bhutanese have a different view.
Political parties all felt that the OAG had not done its job.
The Druk Nyamprup Tshogpa spokesperson Dr.Tandin said,” The OAG’s decision or the report is not a surprise as the OAG being the government’s legal arm was expected to give such a report.”
He said that there was a systematic flaw in the appointment of the OAG through the PM’s recommendation. He said as a result there is a conflict of interest between the OAG and the government. “It also shows the character of the individuals who head these institutions and their ability to tackle issues and do their job correctly irrespective of who they come across. They have failed to do this”.
Dasho Penjor Dorji of Druk Mitsher Tshogpa party said, “There definitely is government influence on the OAG’s decision”. He said that the OAG which was the legal arm of the government cannot be expected to prosecute or charge sheet the government.
Opposition leader Tshering Tobgay said, “I had foreseen the OAG not wanting to prosecute. It is unfortunate as the ACC had put in more then a year’s worth of thorough investigation, met many people, and concluded that the allotments were illegal.”
He said, “The next step is that probably and hopefully ACC will take up the prosecution in keeping with the ACC Act. This is not the end of the Gyelpozhing case and theses are important times for our democracy and rule of law. We will wait for ACC’s action and see what happens.”
The Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam party spokes person Sonam Tobgay said. “Truth must prevail irrespective of personalities but again people must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Dasho Penjor Dorji also said that under Section 128(3) of the ACC act the ACC can take over the prosecution process from the OAG.
Dr Tandin Dorji said, “We should now ensure that the new government in the future should not influence institutions such as the ACC, OAG.” He said that the country being a young democracy should learn from these incidents and allow the due process of law to take place.
Ordinary citizens share their views
Meanwhile there was noticeable anger from ordinary citizens that the paper talked to.
Rinzin Namgyel a shopkeeper in Thimphu said, “Small people like us have to follow so many laws and rules but there are none for the powerful.”
A mother of two and a working professional Sonam Dechen said, “Looking at this case I get a feeling as if we are still in the time of Penlops and warlords where might is right.”
Tashi Tshering 17, a student said, “The youth are always blamed for gangs and causing trouble but it is sad that leaders who are our role models are showing such a bad example.”
Norbu a taxi driver in town said, “I am quite shocked that ordinary people lost their plots in such a way and that they will not be getting it back.”
A corporate employee Karma said, “Why blame only the OAG when the top people in the political, legal and bureaucratic system are all related or have links.” A senior official with the Labor ministry said, “After a long investigation from the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and reports in the media how can the OAG find is no legal basis”.
A final year student from Sherubtse College Tashi Tshering said “It’s boring to live when the aristocracy still dominates Bhutan.”
A PGDPA student from Royal institute of Management (RIM) Semtokha said “I was eagerly waiting to know how the OAG, as a government representative, would take up the case but am disappointed with the outcome.”
Phuntsho Dema a private employee said, “It has now become very clear. The rich and powerful can engage in corrupt practices but there will be no consequences and the law will in fact protect them.”
Chencho Nidup, 32 said, “This is outrageous. Democracy it seems is meant to serve only the influential.”
Social Media reactions to the OAG report
The Social Media was abuzz with people on Twitter and Facebook discussing the OAG report with mainly a strong sense of outrage.
On Facebook’s Social Democracy page Tshering Dorji wrote, “The reader of this report gets a feeling that the primary aim of the OAG team was to refute every allegation made by ACC/Media.” On another site Lhendup Kalden wrote, “As always the bigger fishes got away.”
Sherab Jamtsho opined, “Our societies are not destroyed so much by the activities of bad people but by the inactivity of the good people.”
Tshering Wangchuk said, “That is the problem in our country. When it comes to high profile people there is no law to sue them. When it comes to ordinary people the law is very strong and rigid. It seems laws are applicable only for ordinary people. I wish i was a high profile person so that I don’t have to follow the laws of the country.”
Twitter was also active with non-stop tweets on the issue. Lekey Wangdi tweeted, “The Gyelpozhing case can be prosecuted even after decades, in my opinion.”
Tashi Gyeltshen wrote, “In GNH country land grab is “administrative lapses as well as alleged ethical impropriety.”
Pelkhil School’s official twitter account tweeted, “If you ever get into a legal fix, make sure u get the OAG to prosecute you! Their compassion is limitless!”
Jigs news a popular anonymous account tweeted, “OAG says there is no legal basis to forward the case to court. I say try the ‘illegal basis’ angle.”
When this paper tried to contact individuals involved, most of them refused to comment while some were outside the country.
The only person who spoke was Lyonpo Minjur. He said, “During my whole career, I’ve served with all my commitment and dedication maintaining the welfare of the people. Even when it comes to land allotment at Gyelpozhing, during my stint as a Dzongda, I did not manipulate anything, going strictly by the laws in force”.