“Robbing the Country Blind”- Beyond an English Lesson

“Robbing the country blind” was a figure of speech that Druk Phuensum Tshogpa took literally. Over the past months many people including Dasho Benji himself gave the party several English lessons. This case became so popular that the whole nation would by now know the meaning of the figure of speech, but as a matter of fact, no one will ever use it, especially on Facebook.

Beyond the English what lessons did we learn?

Individually, we must be warned that we can’t just say anything against anybody if we can’t substantiate it. You should be more careful if you are a prominent figure in the society. Your words can be interpreted in many ways. Most importantly we should know freedom of speech has limits, which is not defined.

On the contrary, what Dasho Benji did was a very democratic example to the so many young followers he has on social media. He is illustrating how to speak up without feeling shy, and most importantly he was showing us that we need not be anonymous to speak up boldly. But what DPT did to Dasho will have very deep impact on the emerging culture of social dialogue. People will never take chances and we may always resort to speaking anonymously.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, as a party should have never bothered about such petty comments because this is politics. They should focus on bigger goals of nurturing democracy in the country rather than giving suicidal threats from time to time. Their very nature of going off-focus lost them the 2013 elections, where instead of talking about what they will do they spent the whole campaign period talking and laughing about what the other party was going to do.

While it’s easy to file a defamation case, just as freedom of speech has no well defined boundary, defamation doesn’t have any shape too. Freedom of speech doesn’t necessarily end where defamation begins. The thin line between the two is very flexible.

Therefore, now Dasho Benji’s lawyer is charging DPT for “infringing upon the fundamental rights of an individual, which is guaranteed by Constitution.” He goes on for 13 pages where international examples of how political parties can’t sue individuals were cited.

In a surprising backfire, after failing to convince the party that ‘robbing the country blind’ was afigure of speech, Dasho Benji is now substantiating his Facebook comments by digging out the ugly past, which could cost the party Nu 75 million. The Party shouldn’t have cornered the cat.

On 11th December, DPT will present their argument and the case will go on for some time. The Opposition will lose so much in this case- from time, attention to their real job, public support and perhaps Nu 75 million.

Who Should Win?

If DPT wins, freedom of speech will be under question. There will be lesser people daring to say anything openly. There will be lots of anonymous users on social media. The very foundation of democratic dialogue will be dead.

If Dasho Benji wins, then it will lead to more social dialogues, not personal attacks. People who are hiding behind the mask will slowly come out in the open without fear. DPT will need a loan of Nu 75 million to drink their own Ara.

Opinion by Passang Tshering

This opinion first featured on the writer’s blog www.passudiary.com and was used with his permission. The writer is a school Teacher and was appointed the Social Media Monitor of the 2013 polls by the Election Commission of Bhutan.

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