The power of the land

For our future

The following is a translation of my statement in the National Assembly yesterday:

Today we are discussing a matter of profound significance – land.

The historic First Parliament of Bhutan has already deliberated many issues of great importance. Today’s topic of discussion, concerning the amendment of the Land Act, is also extremely important. The decisions we take will have a long-term impact, for better or for worse, on our country and our people.

It may appear that our kingdom has been blessed with plenty of land. This is true, but the amount of land actually available for agriculture and human habitation is very limited. This is because our landscape is dominated by high mountains and steep cliffs, and mighty rivers and deep gorges.

In addition, the Constitution requires that a minimum of 60% of the total land is maintained as forest cover for all time. This further constrains the amount of land available for human use.

This is why land is such a precious and scarce resource in Bhutan. This is why each and every one of our kings gave special emphasis to protecting State land and resources, while ensuring that all their people had access to land ownership. And this is why each and every one of our kings has sorted out and solved land related issues, personally, and in a step-by-step manner.

In 1955, for example, the Third Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty the Late King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, abolished the practice of serfdom in our country, and initiated major land reforms by which the common people were granted ownership of and complete powers over their lands.

His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo continued reforming and strengthening land policy for the benefit and welfare of the people. He granted kidu land to the landless, and initiated the land resettlement program. In addition, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo issued no less than six Kashos all decreeing that only the Druk Gyalpo, and no other person, has the authority to give away Government land.

Land issues continue to receive special attention under the reign of His Majesty the King. From the very day His Majesty assumed the sacred responsibilities of Druk Gyalpo, He has worked tirelessly to address all land related problems of the people. He has done so personally, and without allowing other persons to interfere.

As such, many people, throughout the country have benefited. People with no land have been granted kidu land; people with excess land, have had their excess land regularized; sa thrams have been provided so that people can enjoy the power and privileges of land ownership; and where the land is unproductive, people have been resettled and rehabilitated properly elsewhere.

We, the people of Bhutan, have enjoyed unparalleled levels of good fortune and prosperity because of the enlightened leadership of our beloved monarchs. As a result, each and every one of us has the opportunity to fulfill our aspirations to own land and a home in our own country, and to ensure that future generations can live where their parents lived.

Yes, there may still be some land-related problems. But they are rare, and they can be easily addressed within the current laws, regulations and system. As such, we should not hold discussions to revise the Land Act 2007. With the permission of the Assembly, I will briefly submit why we should not revise the Land Act.

Firstly, the Bhutanese people expressed deep concern when Their Majesties the Kings introduced parliamentary democracy in our country – our people were afraid that, in a democracy, no one would take care of their individual problems. That is why, when preparations were being made to introduce democracy, the people made sure that the Constitution clearly bestowed all powers of kidu and land to the Druk Gyalpo.

Second, in keeping with this provision of the Constitution, the 87th Session of the previous National Assembly enacted the Land Act 2007. In accordance with the Land Act, the National Land Commission, an independent institution to oversee all land related matters in the country, was established purposely removing administrative powers over land from government ministries. Furthermore, and more importantly, to safeguard against further political interference, the members of the Land Commission were composed mainly of secretaries to the government and the Gyalpoi Zimpon, and deliberately excluded ministers of the elected government.

Third, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, His Majesty the King has travelled the length and breadth of the country, to every dzongkhag, in order to personally address the land related problems of each and every citizen. As a result, the people of Bhutan have expressed compete trust and confidence in His Majesty, and have consistently maintained that they are fully satisfied that their land issues have been resolved.

Fourth, His Majesty the King has issued a Kasho to the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairman of the National Council and the opposition leader. In my personal and humble opinion this extraordinary Kasho reflects the deep concerns of His Majesty that deliberating the Land Bill 2012 could dangerously jeopardize the current system, a system that is working very well for the welfare of the people and the interests of the country.

Fifth, according to many news reports of the media, the people of Bhutan have expressed outrage and concern at the Parliament’s intention to deliberate the Land Bill 2012. The general public has clearly stated that there is no reason to revise the current Land Act.

Sixth, the term of this Parliament will soon be over. We have barely 10 months left. Therefore, we should not deliberate the Land Bill 2012, a matter of great significance, towards the end of our term when the current laws and system are working well.

In view of the points I have briefly mentioned, I would like to recommend the following course of action, and urge the Honourable Members of Parliament to support these recommendations.

  1. That we reject the Government’s Motion that the Land Bill 2012 be introduced in this session of Parliament but be deliberated by the next Parliament.
  2. That instead, the Government should file a Motion to withdraw the Land Bill 2012 in this session.
  3. That a Joint Parliamentary Committee be constituted to study the Royal Kasho, and to seek His Majesty’s guidance, who, by the Constitution, is one of the three integral organs of the Parliament, on how best to proceed keeping in mind the welfare of the people and the national interest.

Thank you.

 

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Comments

  1. We were expecting much more debate when the Land Bill was introduced but all we saw was Lyonchen losing his temper in front of live TV. He was showing his temper because Opposition Leader was praising the King.
    Lyonchen was using the “democracy” card again. Whenever an argument doesn’t go their way, DPT ministers always say, “but this is not good for democracy”. And when something favours their party but could be unethical or unconstitutional, they always say, “but this is good for the country”.
    My only reaction to them, “are Bhutanese people with horns???”

  2. How did the following get their land:

    Lyonpo Dago – Dagoling.
    Lyonpo Ohm – Om Nagar.
    Ex Goonglen –
    Chief Justcie –
    Ex Lyonpo Dawa –

    And many others who have lots of land, was it given to them or did they just grab it.

  3. Just Asking says:

    Why does PM get angry with what you say? You didn’t attack him or his family.

    Does he get upset that your arguments are stronger than the rest?

  4. Sangrilaman says:

    This treatise of the OL contains mixed feelings that stir emotions rather than resorting to the works of reason allowing the government to proceed with the issue of proposed Land Act. OL is right to take this issue against the government only as functioning office of the OL and has no reason further. Doubting the government of “peoples’ elects” is however spurious in itself by nature and the honourable Lyonchen has reason to express displeasure at it.
    The constitution is quoted for expressing views of the people as if it was making of the people. The fact was that people were bewildered in many issues when they knew that king was introducing democracy and handing the reigns of governance to the elected leaders. That simply does not mean the people were wise or knew better. When the government takes on its chores with vision to serve the Bhutanese public in more responsible way, it should be appreciated as progress and lend helping hand instead of resisting.

  5. Actually, every parliamentarian us either democratic cards or HM’s name when they don’t have points to argument, it is same for PM and OL…

  6. guardian says:

    As far as possible, members of both the ruling and opposition parties must refrain from using his Majesty’s name or the institution of monarchy to justify their arguments. It is not that we Bhutanese wanted democracy, rather it was given to us by His Majesty K4, so keeping this in mind, all issues must be discussed in a democratic fashion without resorting to using HMs name.

  7. guardian says:

    Sonam,

    So what card did you want the PM to be using in a democracy if you found fault in him using the democracy card, in reality you should be finding fault with the OL for using the monarchy card in a democracy, don’t you think so.

    In fact ‘mongar’ is correct in saying that people who don’t have valid points use HMs name to justify themselves. On the other, in a democracy, why is it wrong to use the democracy card to get your points across, which is only normal.

  8. As far as i understand, the Kasho in it had stressed the land ceiling to be incorporated and from this particular point there is a message for want of amendment and thereby the need of subsequent deliberations on the proposed land bill. But Hon`ble OL`s understanding and suggestion for forgoing/withdrawing was wrong…let us understand and accept…

  9. Land Bill 2012 has been left for the next parliamentarians, which is good news to the Bhutanese people. Our people will appreciate what has been deliberated and decided in the 9th parliament secession in the times to come.

    My appreciation to the Speaker on this issue. He took a stance even after the PM made a very strong comment to pursue the Land Bill 2012.

    Thumbs up to the Speaker.

  10. we should stop using HM for debate….Everyone know how much our kings have done for the country and people.

  11. phuentsho says:

    Our OL is very good at using HM as a shield to express his vested interests

  12. How shallow can you people get? None of you are more qualified than the Constitution to define Royal prerogatives, the powers, functions and the role of the Head of State as opposed to that of the Executive. You are being stupid to infer that the Executive is trespassing into the domain of the Head of State. His Majesty knows very well what his roles and functions are under the present system. Similarly, the Executive knows that they dare not infringe in areas where they have no role.

    By attaching His Majesty’s name to every little issue, you are eroding the inviolability and the sanctity of the monarchy. You are making it commonplace. Please refrain from doing so. When we invoke the name of His Majesty, it must be that we have exhausted all other options. Until then, please leave it to the democratic processes and the democratic institutions to mind the business of daily governance.

  13. First and foremost without touching the subject of Land Act, I think we need more answers on
    1) Gyalpozhing Land Scam (ACC – Why are you taking so long with the investigation?)
    2) Education City (Dubious Project managed precariously; Handled by PM’s Relatives)
    3) Trowa Theater (Lyonpo Zimba, what were you thinking?)
    4) Olakha Scam involving Chang Ugyen (Strange things happen in Bhutan; How did this Land Scam disappear?)
    5) Influential families forcefully holding large tracts of commercial land (It appears – they are waiting for the Politicians to come through for them; After all huge investments were made)
    6) What about Rtd. Lyonpo Leki Dorji’s Land Scam, didn’t two people land up in Jail for it?
    Furthermore how does Lyonpo Zimba own so many buildings in town? Where does he get the money to build an enormous Building in the heart of THIMPHU? And how does Lyonpo Minjur afford to build a fancy hotel in Trashigang?
    And could someone explain to me what “The MPs Rate” means? This is in regard to Punatsangchu Project.
    We also need to know more about the delegation members accompanying the PM and other ministers on their ceaseless Foreign Trips and how much the government is spending for their visits?
    Lost in Translation (OR) Lost in Transition! Official members of the Bhutanese delegation going missing in New York. Needs no explanation but very embarrassing for our country.
    We Need Answers.
    “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
    We need to be better informed to choose wisely.

  14. PM looked visibly shaken yesterday in Parliament. He must be really pissed, huh. If he weren’t such an actor, he would have broken down.

    But seriously, I couldn’t tell who won yesterday. And I don’t think that’s important. What’s important is that all the MPs should work together to remove all the ugliness surrounding land. And make owning land a thing of joy forever.

  15. Ap Drukpa says:

    JYT (You were our PM before, but thats till you showed your true colors, yes JYT, you are not our PM, you are DPT’s PM..)be more concerned with the Rupee crisis at hand, oh wait a minute you are one of those that also caused it with all your unnecessary trips abroad with a huge delegation, and i heard that half don’t return, what an embarrassment for our country. Wait arent those DPT supporters family that you illegally put abroad? and when the OL tried to ask he was shut off, because you needed it to be kept quiet. Going against another country’s laws huh JYT? And now desecrating what is sacred to us? And for what your own benefots.

    Now to think about it carefully they are all staunch supporters of DPT and they are rich mena? Wow looks like DPT knows how to keep their donors and rich supporters happy…
    NOW THAT MEANS…IF YOU ARE RICH, YOU ARE SHIELDED BY JYT AND DPT.
    DPT STANDS FOR THE RICH, INFACT ALL THE LAWS BEING PASSED ARE PRO RICH,
    DPT STANDS FOR THE RICH, DPT STANDS FOR THE RICH AND NOT FOR POOR PEOPLE LIKE US.

    ANYONE SUPPORTING DPT MEANS YOU HAVE OUR OWN AGENDA,

  16. Ap Drukpa says:

    Yes Sonam please let someone give us the right information..i dont want to hear only whispers

  17. The support DPT and JYT received from the majority of the people in 2008 was because of the fact that DPT had leaders that served under HM. They we thought would continue with the status quo and uphold the scared institution and serve with loyalty.
    But it turns out we were so very wrong. It didn’t take him even 4 years to reveal his true colors and intentions. He isn’t happy with PM but wants to be HM and all the sychophants makes him believe he is. Let us remind him that he has a term and maybe another one but that will expire but the institution and our beloved Kings will always be there and let me also remind him what happened to the last PM who wanted to be king.

  18. People play safe by using HMs name. Similarly NLC was becoming so powerful by misusing the term Royal Command. That is not what democracy wants. LYT is right this time to pursue Land Act 2012. It is strongly backed by the recent Kasho. There is no ambiguity in this Kasho. It can be easily interpreted without need to form any think tank group as suggested by OL.

    Why we need new Act?

    I think elected government should have the power over the management of the land in our country. Otherwise if every institution is functioning independent of the elected government, what is the use of a democratically elected government. Even the creation of DHI has taken over the control of finances of our country to certain extent. Why DHI needs money? It is the government who needs money to manage the country? I do appreciate the mighty PM when it comes to tackling those self-proclaimed independent institutions. He definitely have to bring those institutions under his grip. Otherwise, our democracy is a namesake. Why to waste so much resources for election and democracy, if in the end the elected government cannot even get hold on petty institutions like NLC and TAB. Even TAB wants to be independent. It is the selfishness of those institutions rather than their patriotism to serve our country. Common…..look at any other government in the world. All most all institutions is under the sole authority of the government. To check the integrity of the the government, we have five or more independent constitutional bodies apart from NC,NA and Judiciary. There will always be corrupt people in this world. To police and audit such people, we have ACC, Audit, Judiciary and so on. If they fail to prosecute corrupt government officials then it is not the fault of governance but the weakness of those constitutional bodies who has the sacred responsibility to preside of such issues.

    People who are opposed to the Cabinet’s proposal must understand the context of their proposal fully. What the Cabinet is proposing is to look after the needs of the people who have to be resettled or rehabilitated. That is different from giving land to land less people. That is a sole prerogative of HM. They are not proposing to give personal land kidu to land less people. Even today NLC gives government land to any other institutions without the consent of HM to build their offices or so on. They give land substitution to the people affected by developmental activities all the time. That is exactly what Cabinet wants to do it because they want to work for the people as land is a very important for developmental activities. Resettlement and rehabilitation requires lot of work and lot of resources that only government can plan and find it. It has to be properly planned and integrate with the existing plans. Currently NLC takes care of the rehabilitation and resettlement work without the involvement of the government. Somehow they get budget approval from the MoF by merely mentioning as the Royal command. That is taking advantage of the system. The people in NLC are not meant for such work. They even cannot handle what they are suppose to do. So it is right for the Cabinet to take over this land issues so that they can holistically plan well. If people are not happy with the government’s decision, they can always seek personal or community Kidu from HM. If you send all the land related issues to HM, then you are a fool because HM has more pressing responsibility than looking into every Bhutanese’s land problems.

    The new bill seeks new membership of the NLC committee. That is more important for the government to take over because the present committee has not delivered their responsibility effectively. That is why we saw lots of problems with land substitution in Wangdiphodrang. Do you remember this issue was deliberated in BBS TV many times. It is not because of the government’s unwillingness to solve it. Even PM convened a meeting in Wangdiphodrang with the affected people to discuss on this issue. Nevertheless PM did not have any power to make a decision on this because all the members of NLC where beyond his control. They were functioning as a separate entity. That is a hopeless situation for PM. He wants to solve the land substitution issues as quick as possible but he cannot. I understand why the Cabinet wants to take over this commission because they are the ones who is responsible for the development of the country, not NLC.

    If there is any land related corruption happening now or in future, then it is the responsibility of ACC and other institution to investigate such problems. If they fail to persecute the corrupt people, then it is not the fault of the government but ACC and judiciary.

  19. In the next election, it would be good idea to conduct medical fitness test (esp.. mental fitness) of our MPs not only qualifications.

  20. phuentsho says:

    Wangdi NC Sonam Yangchen had raised issues on the Trowa Theatre Land, and she pointed out all the provisons of the Land Act that has been contravened by the proposal to sell the land.
    While trowa theatre land is a controversial issue, she should also realize that many major land related scams happened when her father was at the helm of affairs in the Land Records and Survey.
    Before pointing fingers at others she must question the legality of what she owns also

  21. Dear Sonam,

    Very well said. For once, I am happy to read a comment on this blog.

    The Bhutanese people must understand that if the government is not to be given their just due, it will be unfair to blame them for their failures.

    No doubt, it is important to keep the government in check. However, the situation today is so pathetic that the government does not even have powers to appoint key persons to head the departments under them. The RCSC makes the appointments without even consulting the parent ministries. When these departments do not perform because the heads are miserable failures because they are not suited to the assignments they have been straddled with, then the government is blamed.

    How long can this go on? Don’t you think a dangerous situation is developing?

    If the government has been charged with a certain responsibility, they must be given the powers to fulfill those responsibilities.

  22. Just Asking says:

    Don’t you think the government has enough to do (and enough powers) even without having to put its fingers on the powers of the King?

    It is disheartening to see our democratically-elected prime minister traveling around the world preaching GNH and coming home back once in a while and challenging every institution.

    Children are dying of malnutrition in the east. Boys are getting stabbed in Thimphu. Young girls are making a living in filthy drayangs. Hospitals have run out of medicines. Some schools have still not received their text books. The ngultrum has depreciated against the rupees.

    People have forgotten their duties and responsibilities and instead want more power?

  23. phuentsho says:

    Just asking,
    With the understanding you have of the country you will keep on asking. You do not seem to have a clue about what is happening.

  24. Sangrilaman says:

    Drukpa, please refrain from your dirty threats against our PM. He has majority on his side from every nooks and corners of the country. Even if he does not succeed the next term, it will be because of better choice rather than personal hatred towards him as you expressed. It is indecent on your part as an individual to spit disgusts against the honourable Lyonchen. On the part of the government not chasing you for this vulgarity is the evidence of the party’s sincere dedication to democratic principles, serving for your rights. If you do not use the rights rightly, government may not go looking for you to compel but people can seek their rights to assuage threats against their leaders and government of the nation for subjecting the errant/rebel under law of the land.

    I voted for PDP and regretted the loss in the beginning. But things are moving seriously towards meaningful democracy with DPT and any person possessing sense knows. OL playing the HM card in democratic deliberation on issues of general good is a villain to democracy and betrayer of his voters. OL here means PDP and his emotional argument out of topic to disrupt the democratic process projects PDP as anti-people party. One man in sensitive position has so much power to make difference by impressive behavior. OL reached the height of his glory when he led the government to court and succeeded on the issue of vehicle import tax. But the high credit has variously dwindled thereafter to reflect negative balance! People do not just support parties; they support just ideas and attachment to those ideas in sincerity.

  25. Sangrilaman says:

    People do not just support parties; they support just ideas and attachment to those ideas in sincerity. JYT (PM) led DPT has stood the test beyond any suspicion. Long live DPT. Long live progressive Democracy in Bhutan.

  26. This is the topic on land issue. But most of you are simply deviating from the topic and making foolish comments. I now realise why PDP badly lost the elections. It’s due to your negative and anti-social attitude. You are envious when others are rising. You are enjoying when others are falling. I cannot believe that PM and OL got different kashos from HM on the land issue. How can OL claim that there is no problem of land issue in our country, when every judicial court sees numerous cases on daily basis?

  27. Dear all,
    The session is drawing to a close, let us forget our differences and these time wasting debates and instead let us put all our efforts into encouraging ACC to investigate all the scams immediately with which DPT is tarnished with. Let DPT come clean for the sake of democracy please. Let all other political parties come clean for that matter. PDP please pay up your debts. Then we can all have a free and fair election in 2013.

  28. Continued from the above post….

    Let us not be “frog in the pond”

  29. People, lets not forget that we are technically in the midst of a financial crisis a.k.a rupee crisis. DPT is, besides other things, also very cunning. And this Land Bill fiasco is a way to divert our attention from how they mis-managed up about 150 billion, with not much to talk about except sky-high inflation.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they again bring in McKinsey to advise them on the Land Bill. Or have they already?

  30. Ap Drukpa says:

    DPT believers i guess you stayed away from t live discussion on t land issue on BBS yesterday,didnt want to believe what was happening huh. for 1 or 2 people t govt changes the acts and overlooks the majority to suit their own needs that is POWER…shameful if you ask me.

  31. Jamphel says:

    Enough of this finger pointing and accusing business.
    DPT Ministers including Lyonchhen, MPs and DPT supporters should not mind when others are attacking you. You all are guilty as charged.

  32. Sonam Nidup says:

    Dear Honourable OL,
    DPT Party have disheartened all of us. Right now so much hatred is brewing inside us. You have to rise up to the occasion. Only your party can subdue the evil called DPT.
    A sad/hurt citizen

  33. OL please answer my question as to how the people I mentioned got their land. How did they qualify to receive kidu land. Was it the DPT who gave them the land.

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