The PM focused on Denchi, Education City, Trowa Theater, and Gyelpozhing at the graduates Orientation
Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley made an impassioned defense of several alleged corruption cases against his government giving a virtual clean chit to himself and some of his colleagues.
The PM said that the cabinet and he had been accused of favoring his aunt Aum Dechen in Denchi.
He said that they were accused of paying to her an amount which was unjustifiable or more than double of what should actually have been.
The PM clarified that the Denchi town was declared as Dzongkhags town B along with other Dzongkhag towns in a joint sitting of parliament.
He said the rate for the Dzongkhag town B specifically Denchi in Shumar geog, Pemagatshel dzongkhag had been fixed by PAVA at more than Nu 18,000 per decimal for commercial plots and Nu 9500 or Nu 9700 per decimal for residential plots, both he said was higher than what was paid to Aum Dechen and as a result to all the others.
In Denchi, the PM said, nobody wanted to sell their land least of all his aunt, as it was ancestral land with sentimental value attached to the land.
He said the land which belonged to his family for centuries used to be land that was cultivated and managed by the Assamese people known to his family. “The King of Assam used to send people from Assam to cultivate the land. It has a special historic significance,” said the PM.
The PM said his aunt had a house on that land, which was being used as an orange orchard and because she was his aunt they were able to persuade her.
“I bullied her and she said to me that I was bullying her into selling the family land instead of helping her to strengthen and preserve family property,” said the PM.
The PM said he was able to persuade her and because she held the majority of the land of about 24 acres others also agreed to sell their land.
Lyonchhen said that since the issue was raised she told him to take back the money and the others too would do the same.
The PM told the graduates that according to PAVA the plot rates in town B are higher but still people did not want to sell their land.
“This happened because Aum Dechen was my aunt. Is she not a Bhutanese citizen? You should ask if she had been paid the fair amount which is more than Nu 18,000. You will find the details in tomorrow’s paper (meaning today),” said Lyonchhen.
The Bhutanese had earlier reported that the cabinet violated government laws to provide high compensation rates to landowners in Pemagatshel with the biggest beneficiary being the PM’s aunt, Aum Dechen, who owned about 24 acres.
The 116 acres of rural Kamzhing land, owned by 26 thram holders, and the government was being acquired by the government for the new Denchi town.
The semi-autonomous Property Assessment and Valuation Agency (PAVA) committee applying the governments revised Land Compensation rules and rates of 2009 set the compensation rates at Nu 3,952.42 per decimal.
However, the cabinet violated the Land Compensation rules and the Land Act and increased it to Nu 9,000.
This is because only the PAVA committee can fix rates using the government formula as per the Land Act, Compensation rules and fixed uniform compensation rates.
A Land Act expert said, “The Prime Minister’s defense will not stand in the court of law as you cannot pay urban rates for what is clearly classified as rural land under PAVA and the Land Act.”
As per the PAVA committee and land Compensation Rates and rules the rate had been set at Nu 3,952.42 per decimal because the rural Kamzhing land of Aum Dechen and others was located more than 2 km and less than or equal to 6 km from the municipal boundary of Denchi town. A copy of this rule is with The Bhutanese.
“The Prime Minister’s logic is incredible because by his logic the government’s own PAVA rates and PAVA committee’s decisions are worthless and can be applied subjectively,” said the Land Act expert.
The PM’s aunt’s actual compensation as per the Land Compensation rules and PAVA should have been Nu 9.48mn, but, after the cabinet’s hike, it had been increased to Nu 21.60mn.
This meant that Nu 12.12 was paid above the official government compensation rate to the PM’s aunt.
The total financial burden for the land acquisition increased from around Nu 40mn under the old rate to around Nu 90mn as per the cabinet’s orders.
Gyelpozhing land scam:
The Gyelpozhing land scam involves the National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim, the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, and the finance minister, Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu (allotment done for Sonam Norbu under the care of Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu) among the current ministers.
They had been allotted land in violation of His Majesty the fourth King’s Kashos (decrees) on land allotment and the Land Act of 1979.
The PM said the Gyelpozhing case which was just a minor issue happened even before this government came into existence and it had been made into a huge issue.
He said since it has to be clarified in a broader sense the government had forwarded its report to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) but the result was to be awaited.
The PM said with the ACC being a constitutional body, that they could not say anything and all the ministers including he himself had fully cooperated with the ACC on any queries. “We made ourselves available for questioning.”
The PM giving an ultimatum to the ACC said, “If there was no response from the ACC until next week we will give our side of the justification through the media.”
He said that for generations, his family valued the extended family. Lyonchhen said that if somebody related to him gained anything according to the rule of law it could be difficult for him.
“I am being accused of nepotism but if you dig into the backgrounds of the individuals who oppose me they are also my relatives. Here if you are my relative, you will also be under attack,” said the PM.
The PM warned the graduates that with the nearing of the elections, they would be frequently viewing these sorts of issues and told them that they might have many personal attacks made on him on facebook but he still maintained his silence.
Lyonchhen clarified that the twitter account which had been created in his name was not his, “Somebody is impersonating me which is a crime. These are the same group of people who are misguiding you and insulting your intelligence and are against the basic principles of journalism.”
Education City Project:
Earlier, it was learnt there were about 18 potential bidders from companies like Tata, Mahendra, Lanco, Ambuja and Hindustan, but, in the end there was only a sole bidder for the project.
The sole bidder is a joint consortium between Infinity InfoTech Parks Ltd and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (ILFS). A company represented in Bhutan by the PM’s son and nephew.
The PM stated that the project had been delayed for a long time and in the end it was the same party who got the project.
He said that people did not want to invest in Bhutan saying that it was difficult to make profit. He also said that his son was not even a shareholder but just an employee there.
He said that the government and the Druk Holdings and Investment had to spend a lot of money just to prove that it was an open bid. He said that all kinds of people came but eventually they dropped away one by one because they were not interested.
Trowa Theater land case:
The Trowa theater land which covers 19,500 square feet has been regarded as a case of policy corruption by the National Council. The government had earlier endorsed the Trowa theater owner’s proposal to sell the land.
The owner not only paid the lease rent for more than five years but he had been allowed to operate the business entity and generate financial returns without signing any lease agreement with the government.
To this the MoWHS minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba told the graduates that the Trowa theatre case had started since 2001.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said after the rate had been suddenly increased from Nu 2 per year to Nu 42 several talks were held between the Trowa theater owner and the MoWHS in order to come up with a proper solution.
He said one of the solutions was to sell the land to Kuenlay Wangchuk but due to government policies this had been just kept as an option.
Another solution was that Kuenlay Wangchuk’s proposal to sell Trowa theater to the government, but, that too didn’t work out due to the price being too high for the government.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said since the two parties couldn’t come to a term, a lot of time had been wasted.
Lyonpo said, “since many poor people were complaining about shortage of housing and the land on which the Trowa theatre was built was under the National Housing and Development Corporation, who themselves did not have enough money to attend to the shortage of house problems the only option was to sell the land to the owner of Trowa theatre and use the money to build houses.”
Lyonpo said he did not ask the land to be sold on a subsidized rate nor at a higher price but according to the terms between the seller and the buyer.
“Whenever a government land is sold or leased there are government rules to be followed and the Land commission is the agency which regulates these rules. So looking at the advantages we asked the Land Commission to sell the land,” said Lyonpo.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba added if the Land Commission asked them not to sell the land according to government rules or lease it then the government will look for capital elsewhere and will buy the structure.
“And if the land commission told them to sell the land then it will be sold and the matter will end here,” said Lyonpo.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said there were no unlawful practices, but, now people were saying that it was unlawful.
The PM said this issue came up because the owner of the Trowa theater was his own daughter’s in-laws.
“This is all to harm and defame me and the current government, had it been another person the media would have supported the person who owned Trowa theater,” alleged Lyonchhen.
He said the government had also not taxed him but had the government taxed him for all the period he did not pay, he would bear huge losses.