Archives for 2011

Food for thought

Shangri-la's?

Khaw Boon Wan, a Singaporean minister, recently declared that “Bhutan is not the Shangri-la on earth”, and that the Bhutanese are an “unhappy people” for who “Singapore could well be the Shangri-la!”

Mr Khaw’s remarks, which were made in Singapore’s parliament, have upset a lot of people in our country. That is natural. He has attacked our image. He has challenged GNH. And he has insulted our people. So, many of us are angry.

Even so, we should listen to him. And if what he has said carries even a grain of truth, we should listen carefully. We should, for instance, listen very carefully when he says that we are a tiny nation sandwiched between giants and that, as such, self-determination and self-reliance are difficult to achieve, especially when we can barely eke out an economy for ourselves.

And we should listen very, very carefully when he points out that our people are “toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products.”

We’ve become used to lapping up international praise, and without even pausing to consider whether or not we deserve that adulation. But on the other hand, we are quick to condemn the occasional criticism. We shouldn’t. If critical remarks are insightful and constructive, we should, as Business Bhutan put it, receive them as valuable “food for thought.”

Bhutan prays

His Majesty the King

It’s almost exactly a week since the 9.0 earthquake hit Japan triggering the worst disaster in that country since WW II. The catastrophe, which has already taken thousands of lives, and left countless more homeless and destitute, has galvanized governments and peoples around the world in support of Japan’s mighty relief efforts.

In Bhutan too, people throughout the country are offering prayers for the victims of the disaster in Japan. His Majesty the King has lit butter lamps and offered prayers with the Japanese community in Bhutan. Similarly, the prime minister and government also offered butter lamps and prayers.

Earlier this morning, the Central Monastic Body began offering three days of continuous prayers for the victims in Japan. The prayers are being conducted in all twenty dzongkhags. But if you are in Thimphu, please visit the kunrey in the Tashichhodzong to join our monks in solemn prayer.

Our youth have also starting mobilizing support for the earthquake victims. Kilu Music School together with Radio Valley, Bhutan Today and The Journalist have announced that they will be performing a “donation concert” to raise funds.

And I just received the following SMS:

Thimphu Primary School is doing a sponsored walk on Sunday 9:30 AM to the  Buddha Point. We’re trying to raise money for the earthquake victims in Japan. Please join us, contribute and walk to help someone in need. See you there – TPS family:)

UPDATE

His Majesty the King has donated US$ 1 million to the Japan

The Youth Development Fund will organize a fund raising concert on 26th March

Prayers for Japan

Tragic

Japan is reeling from extreme devastation. Friday’s massive earthquake, the biggest in Japan’s recorded history, and the powerful tsunami that it triggered has caused unprecedented destruction to many parts of the country.

The death toll has already crossed 2,800. And it is expected to get much higher – in Miyagi prefecture alone the number of deaths is expected to exceed 10,000. To make matters worse, three nuclear reactors at Fukushima have failed threatening a full-blown nuclear meltdown.

Japan has faced major disasters before. The Kanto earthquake of 1923 killed more than 100,000 people. And the Kobe earthquake in 1995 killed more than 6,000 people and left 300,000 homeless. The Japanese – famous for their perseverance, resilience and stoicism – recovered from these disasters. They also prevailed through the ravages of World War II.

There’s no doubt that Japan will rise yet again. But each day seems to bring even more dramatic pictures of destruction, and yet more bad news.

Governments from around the world have come forward to help out with disaster relief. So far 69 governments and 5 international institutions have made offers of assistance.

Bhutan is not among them. We should be. And not just to have our name included in the list. Instead, we should offer whatever help we can because we mean it. And because, we’ve been receiving Japanese assistance for more than 45 years. Agriculture, communication, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, governance – assistance from Japan, currently the second largest donor after India, has touched almost every aspect of our development.

We won’t be able to make a significant offer. But that should not stop us. Our offer of assistance, though relatively small, will be meaningful. It will be a token of our support to the Japanese people. And a symbol of our gratitude for their unwavering friendship.

In the meantime, I join the people of Bhutan in offering our deepest condolences to the Japanese people. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them during this very difficult period.