In what has been an unexplored aspect of the Gyelpozhing case the current Speaker of the National Assembly Jigme Tshultim enjoyed a meteoric rise in his civil service career after the allocation of plots to influential people in Gyelpozhing.
This happened in the presence of ministers in the cabinet that had received land from the Speaker.
In what some are calling a conflict of interest issue, the current Speaker of the National Assembly Jigme Tshultim after serving from 1998 to 2002 as the Mongar Dzongda was promoted as the first non Foreign Ministry staff to be the Chief of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
It was at the same time when the current Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley was the Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2003. In those days the appointment of officials to senior posts were done on the prerogative of the individual ministers or the cabinet. Even the Royal Civil Service Commission had ministers as its members.
Sources say that the main prerogative to appoint the Chief of Protocol mainly lay with the Foreign Minister.
The Speaker was subsequently sent as the Bangladesh Ambassador in 2004 after serving for a short stint of two years as the Chief of Protocol.
An Ambassador’s post is the most coveted civil service job given to a select few diplomats or senior civil servants and is also the highest paid job in the civil service due to foreign allowances and representational grants which were in addition to the basic salary.
The Speaker subsequently resigned in 2007 as the Ambassador and joined DPT to win and be given the post of the Speaker.
From 2003 to 2004 Lyonpo Jigme Y Thinley served as the Prime Minister of the Cabinet and also as the Home Minister.
Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk had served as the Foreign Minister from 2003 to 2007.
During the Speakers stint in Mongar in a period of 2001-2002 plots were allotted to influential people who were not eligible.
The then Foreign Minister Jigme Y Thinley and current Prime Minister had received a 50 decimal plot across the Kurichuu River in Gyelpozhing. The cabinet consisted of other Gyelpozhing land beneficiaries like Lyonpo Leki Dorji who received plots and Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba the then Finance Minister who received around an acre across the river.
According to sources in the government the appointment of an ‘outsider’ to the prestigious and important post of Chief of Protocol in the much coveted Foreign Ministry came as a surprise. Sources say that this also lead to ‘resentment’ within the then Foreign Ministry staff of breaking with a long tradition of having Chief of Protocols from within the Foreign Ministry.
The earlier Chief of Protocols had been Dasho Tshewang J .Rixin, Dasho Dophu Tshering and Kezang Wangdi (current ambassador to Bangkok) who where all career diplomats. This norm was broken when the Speaker was made the Chief of Protocol.
A precedent was also set after this leading to the speaker being replaced by the Samtse Dzongda Tsering Dorji (now Home Secretary). After that the again the tradition was maintained of having career diplomats as Chief of Protocol like Aum Kunzang Choden and Singye Dorji. However, recently as per the PCS system in an open competition the former Punakha Dzongda Kunzang N. Tshering was selected as the new Chief of Protocol.
According to sources the Anti Corruption Commission in its investigation of the Gyelpozhing case could not legally pursue the angle of conflict of interest and also subsequent possible benefits give to the Speaker in the absence of a law at the time on conflict of interest.
Though the ACC Act now addresses conflict of interest the same Act cannot be retroactively applied then.
Apart from the individual ministers prerogative the cabinet was all powerful in civil service appointments as they also largely made up the Royal Civil Service Commission then.
Conflict of interest, however, is not restricted to what happened after the allotment of plots. Even during the allocation of plots the conflict of interest was apparent as then Communications Minister Lyonpo Leki, in charge of looking after town planning and ensuring that rules were followed accepted land.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba who also took land was the then finance minister and in charge of allocating government resources for such projects.
Lyonpo Jigme Y Thinley who already served as Prime Minister from 1998 to 1999 and was Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2003 accepted land.
Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu also accepted land in his family members name as the then Finance Secretary.
Tenzing Lamsang /Thimphu