The conviction of the Speaker and Home Minister along with 14 other plot allotment committee members in the Gyelpozhing land case has generated a lot of public interest and reaction.
The verdict in its entirety does credit not only to the Anti Corruption Commission but also to the institution of the Judiciary.
However, at the same time questions must be asked of the Office of the Attorney General which had famously declared that ‘there is no case’ when they were given the case by the ACC. The OAG had even gone to the extent of preventing ACC from prosecuting the Gyelpozhing case at all.
The fact that the Mongar District Court not only accepted the case but also convicted the accused shows the OAG in very poor light.
The office of the OAG, today more than ever, has lost every modicum of public faith, credibility, and respect.
The OAG should serve as an example to all public agencies and officials on the results of compromising ones organizational ethics in the face of political power.
The ACC and its Chairperson Dasho Neten Zangmo must be commended and appreciated in carrying out a tough task in an efficient and responsible manner without any fear or favor. It is even more commendable since the ACC is made up of civil servants.
The Mongar District Court Judge and the Judiciary as an institution must also be appreciated for giving a verdict which upholds ACC’s investigation and evidences. Though there will always be some debate on the length of the sentence, the current verdict coming after the Tax verdict has once again established the Judiciary as an important institution that will protect and uphold the rule of law and democratic values.
The Media especially the national paper and the national broadcaster must also be appreciated for constantly updating the Bhutanese public on the court proceedings and developments in the case.
However, now the most important responsibility lies with the Bhutanese public and also various other public agencies. It will be important to ensure that honest and upstanding public servants like Dasho Neten Zangmo and the Mongar Judge and their respective organizations are given all the support possible. The fate of these individuals and their institutions should be a matter of utmost public interest especially in a democratic setting.
The failure to support and encourage such individuals and their organizations will only lead to a weaker and poorer democracy, and we will have nobody else to blame but ourselves.
For those who have been convicted this may be an emotionally turbulent period, but they should also look at the larger national and systemic interest. They may personally suffer today but in the future the same clean and transparent system will protect the interests of their children when they are out of power. A strong and clean system, more importantly, will strengthen the nation and its people.
For some time there has been some baseless speculation of Gyelpozhing being a political plot or conspiracy.
The truth, however, is much simpler and much less devious. When a large number of people in Gyelpozhing or anywhere else feel they have not received justice the issue, sooner or later, is bound to hit the national headlines especially in a democratic setting as it has done in many other cases.
The Gyelpozhing case by itself should serve as a reminder to all officials high and low to follow the rules and laws strictly in carrying out their duties or suffer the consequences of not doing so.
In some ways it is still early days for the case as the case might be appealed to the High Court and then the Supreme Court.
In the meantime the electoral eligibility of both the Speaker and Home Minister is in doubt since they have been criminally charged and convicted.
Though the Speaker and the Home Minister have been held legally and morally accountable there are others also who cannot escape moral accountability.
Those individuals who held high official positions in the government at the time and where well aware of the laws are also morally accountable for accepting illegal plots either directly or through family members. These include both serving and retired ministers, bureaucrats and Judges all of whom should have known the laws and system well enough to know that all was not well with the plots they accepted.