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The Gyalpoizhing Verdict

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The very name of the place, “GYALPOI ZHING” is elusive as it has geo-political connotation since time immemorial. ‘Gyalpoi’ means the King’s and ‘Zhing’ means field or land.  In the first place, the natural aspect of the land can be described as a property of the King having been owned at one time by a mythological king during the reign of King Shrongtsen Gampo of Tibet (617-650).  Tracing back to that period, the local myths have stories of Chinese princess married to Shrongtsen Gampo, travelling along the valleys where Gyalpoizhing spans.   The story has it that she used to weave clothes at Gyalpoizhing open meadows during her sojourn.  The yarns meticulously arranged into sets of chirpine looms.  Those chirpine trees that served as her handlooms, in due course of time grew into huge trees forming the forest of Gyalpoizhing.  Anybody travelling through Gyalpoizhing would have noticed most of the chirpine forests on the plains grow in pairs resembling handlooms.  The thick forest served to the needs of the Tashi Commercial Corporation for harvesting turpentine oil, which they exported to India.   It is perhaps one of the best location in Mongar region to have been used as ration air dropping field during 1962 Chinese aggression when militia recruitment took place at Lingmethang in the neighboring valley adjacent to Gyalpoizhing for the Eastern youths.  It was also used as the militia training center during mass eviction of the people from southern Bhutan in 1990.  No matter, the local settlers, particularly people of lower Drepong owned a large area of the land, but the state always found useful using it for national interest.  Last came the Kurichhu project that drove locals as well as new settlers out of the valley.  They were assured plots in due course of time when the project began to come to its shape.

         The entire showcasing of the Gyalpoizhing town planning with all the dramas of allotting plots to aspiring locals appeared more a discriminating and misusing of authority with no respect to Kasho, the existing laws and regulations, thereby going beyond the boundaries of eligibilities.  The entire gamut of vested interest has ultimately ended up with the March 8, 2013 court verdict in the Mongar District Court Room.

The Gyalpoizhing land case is perhaps only the tip of iceberg.  If the Anti-Corruption Commission would go much deeper into investigating cases dating back to the time Bhutan began its 1st Five year plan, probably justice could be done on people who lost much of their ancestral landed properties.  There are several lip-locked land owners, who walked away biting their fingers, literally carrying nothing when the government proceeded to acquiring township lands from district vicinities.  Major victims were Dzong neighborhoods called Dangreps in various districts with no exception to Mongar district.  Hope the children of those parents get justice some other day.

Probably, the Gyalpoizhing land allotment case would be written in the history of Bhutan in view of its first ever nature of action processed with the initiatives of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

At the outset, Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo deserves a huge round of applause for her bravery in her unwavering effort in exploring into the in-depth of the land allotment case.  The ACC officials unveiled bringing out those high handed ministers to the court reminding the story of a great legend of our times.  Recalling the reign of the second king Jigme Wangchuk, it was Aum Neten Zangmo’s father, Dasho Drametsepa, who singularly arrested one of the most powerful governors, the Paro Penlop.  He had refused to settle the accounts of revenue collected from his region.  Dasho Drametsepa is not a myth, but a reality, who bravely faced his opponent called Parop Ratru and humbled him in one of the sword fight confrontation at the courtyards of the 2nd king.

Aum Neten has thus opened the second chapter of bravery, and cherished the legacy of her father by uncovering the misuse of power and authority vested upon those officers with much trust from the throne.  The 1990 mass eviction is also the result of misinterpretation of public voice by those stubborn high level public officers that brought about state unrest and victimized innocent public en masse.

 The only interest to read Kuensel has been to keep track of Gyalpoizhing case while campaign on democracy in Bhutan travelled across the world.  No matter how much the ACC made efforts to ensure justice through legal action against the offenders, the verdict passed by the Mongar District Court sends a dubious message to the public that sentencing them in one hand but letting loose on bail for few thousand ngultrums has some flaws in the verdict.  Compared to the court sentence of three years imprisonment given for merely possessing some packets of tobacco, misusing authorities, particularly not honoring king’s order is of greater gravity equivalent to treason.  In the traditional idioms, Bhutanese people would compare King’s command or order equivalent to the value of gold to trash and as heavy as a hill to be carried on the back.  But the land allotment committee under the chairmanship of those dzongda (king’s representatives in the district) has not honored the command with complete sense of duty.  As a result, most of the allotments were made at their own vested interest.

Gyalpoizhing does not mean that it belongs to the King and he can do anything as he liked.  It is the property of the state and belongs to the people.  The set criteria if followed with spirituality are of great values, but when it is not followed with honesty, dedication and spirituality, one need not require finding enemies from outside. Both the minister and speaker  should have resigned on moral ground the very day  ACC reaffirmed their stand after Speaker’s statement (of December 20) as  he pleaded not guilty and the ACC’s rebuttal by spelling out series of fourth Druk Gyalpo’s kasho dating back to as far as 1987.  The King had clearly expressed “his concerns over scarcity of land, and decreed that no one shall allot land, except himself”  The ACC “reemphasized the strict order to restrain allotment of commercial plots, until the government drew up a policy and procedure, and until they were put in place”. The kasho issued back in 1991 and 2003 with circulars from Urban Development and Housing in 2001 and 2002 instructed the dzongkhags “not to register the plots until the government’s approval was received, and to keep any land allotments in abeyance until the government approval was conveyed”.  However, land allotments continued without keeping in mind the contents of the kashos and notices whereby have undermined the orders from the highest authority. Further, the “OAG manipulated the case standing, stating there was no legal basis for the case to be pursued further, although the case warranted prosecution” thereby standing at bay without taking any responsibility.

There are three more courts viz. High Court, Supreme Court and the Throne beyond the district court of which the defendants can choose to proceed any further in their effort to prove their innocence given the advantage of their higher level of posts in the government. Although Mongar District Court has pronounced the verdict and sentenced the respective culprits with the degree of punishment the Drangpon felt appropriate as per law, it is yet to see whether the defendants remain satisfied or move further to appeal for review in the higher courts of law. Although the sentence ordered by the court is minimal and negligible compared to the gravity of the misuse of power and authority by the respective members of the land allotment committee, the proceedings that measured the height of those high officers in a court of law, has to some degree, tarnished their so called reputations of being dedicated servants to the unconstitutional government of the absolute monarchy that reigned until proclamation of the Democracy with Constitutional Monarchy in 2008.

Penjore is President of the Druk National Congress – Democratic and resides in the United States of America

23 COMMENTS

  1. This type of resourceful articles need to be published by Kuensel. Evey Bhutanese should learned this hidden history of our nation. Please keep on bringing the facts and truth to ordinary Bhutanese.

    Hats off for this post!

  2. Thinley Penjore’s commentary is one more damning statement against the Gyalpoizing land grab committee from the Bhutanese Diaspora. I think it is, from a knowledgeable source. I think that he agrees with most that has been said but with supporting back ground except for the mythology part. A good one!! According to the Imperial or Majestic Realm all land, wealth and people belong to the Emperor or the King. The concept is still alive in many cases. All subjects are servants. With this token that the Prime Minister of Bhutan has to bow low with his orange scarf down to the ground when he greets a Prince or a Princess of Bhutan. In other words the state and the people are bowing to the offsprings and the relatives of the Monarch. The PM is the Head of the Government and the representative of all the BHUTANESE and yet he or she has no choice but bow down and low. It is funny but will still happen until this element of driglhamnaja is changed.
    Bye the way one interesting observation made was about the father of Neten Zangmo (who I used to know very well once.) We never chatted about her father I suppose. What year did the confrontation occur? If dated, it could be historical episode/anecdote. Good write-up!

  3. Congratulations Thinley Penjore jee for the article.

    It was very insightful. Because you are also from Mongar, you know more than any one else how Gyalpoizing has been exploited.

    Everything cannot be written down in the space of one article. But I hope you will come up with more articles about Gyalpoizing in the future.

  4. It made a real good reading. After all, It is seldom do we get to read such ingenious articles. 2 things to note now:
    1.Aum Neten has her genetic as well as ethical strength to push these bad guys to prison. But again, the court is utterly unfair in rendering punishment. It has another gang of corrupt judicial we know since inception of the Bhutanese legal system. Their corruption climaxed during the 90s.
    Aum Neten, keep it up even if you have to go to the highest level.
    2, People sometimes forget the Government’s loot rather the ROYAL LOOT of their land carried out in earlier instances and this article does justice reminding us. This loot rendered us homeless, landless, and without nation. We ought to remember it.
    Mr. Thinley, well written.
    Nilik
    UK

  5. “The 1990 mass eviction is also the result of misinterpretation of public voice by those stubborn high level public officers that brought about state unrest and victimized innocent public en masse”………………….possible crux of Bhutanese refugee crisis. In other words, communication gap??

  6. Dear Thinley Pejore sir,

    […]
    Beware, you are also under the radar of Anti corruption commission lead by Aum Neten. Therefore, you have no any moral rights to pass comments about corruption.

  7. Hi Editor sir of Bhutannewsservice,

    Where is your democratic rights of expression ? It is really surprise to find that.. you have deleted half of my above comments/question asked to Thinley Penjore sir regarding collection of membership fee from the business community in bhutan to huge amount and misused of BCCI fund during his tenure as BCCI General secreatry before absconding from Bhutan.
    The Govt. says..he has absconded with huge amount of money . If it is baseless allegation…Thinley sir should be allowed to clarify the doubts from the public mind.
    I believe that, this forum has all the democratic quality to present our sincere views and thoughts for the betterment of democratic process of Bhutan and bring justice to the innocent people.
    Such unfair censor will lose respect to this website from the general public and may be branded as agent of anti social elements in long run.

  8. The editors are often confused between the right of expression and abuse. They need to get educated on this aspect and make rational demarcation between these two before this site is left defunct. Give people opportunity to express and allow them to respond. This will make the site more vibrant and useful in building our society. As you may have observed over the years, the site has been loosing its patronage. The papers produced within Bhutan have far more room for expression than the BNS.
    Nilik
    UK

  9. I am very happy to understand that responsible people like Ram Bahadur Lamchanay Gurung are concerned about the loosing respect to this website for not publishing his questions raised about me. It is also good to know that there is much concern about my future as I am ” also under the radar of Anti corruption commission lead by Aum Neten”. Perhaps that will be a Godsent if such an encounter at all happens. For any details about my past life in Bhutan, please read my book entitled, “The Quest for Democracy against all odds”.

  10. Thinley sir,
    To get/buy the book” the quest for democracy against all odds”
    as you have advised will remain dream for this poor guy.The book must be costly.
    Therefore,it would be great help,if you could kindly write in short about the real facts regarding the money you have collected from the business community .

  11. BNS editors I feel sure do have a challenge distinguishing genuine expressions from the ones written with ulterior motives; for both kinds of people are engaged into commenting here at BNS.

    Freedom of expression comes with responsibility and demands civility.

  12. “Right of freedom of expression” preserves the rights of the entire population on the earth freely and explicitly express their views and opinions. Considering the massive critical role in democracy or in making Bhutanese aware of the fundamentals of democracy and public participation in political life, it is indispensable that it is promoted to the maximum extent possible. Sometimes there may be immoderate forms of expression needed to be circumscribed for the protection of the other human rights. But there should come into play the fine balancing act which I would say is not less than a fair knowledge of our editors. Not knowing the fine line, presuming or simply flaunting the unnecessary editorial authority to take away some one’s right to express is as good as violating another gross human right.
    This fine balance should be able to give due respect to both the parties in upholding the right to freedom of expression and protecting other human rights. While it may be necessary to ban certain extreme forms, promotion of a pluralistic media are essential to give voice to counter viewpoints.