Digging deeper

Yesterday, the government released the Tobacco Control Rules and Regulations. The rules, which come a week after the government had issued guidelines to relax the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act, have made matters even more complicated.

According to the rules, we will not be sent to jail for attempting to bring tobacco into the country without declaring it or for possessing tobacco products. Instead, we’ll be let go with a warning or penalized in line with Sections 86, 87 and 90 which state that:

86.     If a person tries to bring permissible quantity of tobacco and tobacco product without declaring at the authorized port of entry, the tobacco and tobacco product shall be confiscated and the person shall be warned in writing.

87.     If a person tries to bring permissible quantity of tobacco and tobacco product without declaring at the authorized port of entry for the second time and thereafter, the tobacco or tobacco product shall be confiscated and the person shall be imposed a fine of minimum daily wage rate of one year.

90.     If a person is in possession of permissible quantity of tobacco and tobacco product, which is brought into the country without payment of tax for personal consumption, the person shall be imposed a fine of Nu. 10,000/- and the tobacco and tobacco product shall be confiscated.

But there’s a problem: These rules may say that we won’t be sent to jail, but the Tobacco Control Act says that we will. The Act is quite clear on this – that’s why the judiciary has already sentenced several of our fellow citizens to prison.

And there’s another problem: These rules say that we won’t be sent to jail, but they are immediately undone by Section 92 of the rules itself according to which:

92.     If a person violates section 11(a), (b) and (c) of the Act, he/she shall be charged as per the provisions of the Act, irrespective of the quantity of tobacco and tobacco product.

Section 11(c) of the Act prohibits us from buying tobacco. And, according to the Act, the offense for doing so is a misdemeanor (1 year to 3 years in prison) but only if we reveal the source. If we can’t reveal the source, a felony of the fourth degree (3 years to 5 years in prison) is added to the misdemeanor sentence.

The Tobacco Control Act is draconian. So we must correct it; we must correct the extreme penalties prescribed by the Act. But developing rules and regulations intended to circumvent the provisions of the Act is not the answer.

The answer is to amend the oppressive Act. We, members of Parliament, must accept that the Tobacco Control Act is causing unimaginable hardship and suffering to our fellow citizens throughout the country. We must amend the Act.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Making a guideline that contradicts the mother law is UNLAWFUL. And creating a guideline OUTSIDE the parliament is even more unlawful and DANGEROUS.Increasing or decreasing or changing any provisions of the law is conveyed as an “amendment” of the law which must be done ONLY AND ONLY INSIDE the parliament, and BY THE PARLIAMENT.

    The TCA was a BAD LAW and this guideline is ILLEGAL. If the provisions of this law must be changed or adapted, only the parliament has the right to do so.

  2. A referendum, perhaps.

  3. I am supporting Honorable OL and Tangpa,if Govt. can make rules or guideline not according to Act,then in Bhutan we do not need any Act and every ministry,regulator or Dept.can make rule themself.

  4. WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS UPTO????

    Is the amendment process SO difficult that it cannot be done OR Is it the EGO of our leaders SO BIG that they are willing to do everything but amend the TCA.

    Please do something for us. We are already fighting our own battles for more important and necessarry issues. With the socio economic rise/developments, we Bhutanese are for the first time feeling the shock of cultural invasion. In past, our children who used to go out to towns, always returned Home, but now the village kids are getting lost to bigger towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. No doubt, the Plastic comforts have invaded our lifestyle, but what about the Spiritual comfort and mental peace. When we first voted, we were sad, we were sad because we always wanted to see our beloved King as our guardian. Same time we had some hope also, the hope that the new elected leaders will have more arms, hearts and soul to maintain the ever prevailing serenity and peace in the country. Today I am Disappointed….

  5. A comment from the TCA amendment facebook page.

    You are right. In fact the lawyer is right. First they make a bad law. They incarcerate innocents. Then they create guidelines NOT-TO IMPLEMENT SOME PROVISIONS OF THE LAW enacted by our parliament. That is illegal in two ways.

    1. Any guidelines created in regard to a law MUST ADHERE to that law and MUST NOT CONTRADICT that law at all times. Simple as it is. This new guideline invalidates the penalties as stated in the law.

    2. And most importantly, changing of the penalties of any law is deemed nothing less than amending the law itself, and the only place we can/we want to/we should/we must do that IS in our parliaments. If a penalty should be increased or decreased or changed in anyways, the process of alteration of the law which is aka amendment MUST be done in the PARLIAMENTS because that IS where we make/change our laws, that is the place the developed countries make their laws and that is where the civilized nations change their laws. If they start changing laws outside the parliament on their own will, needless to say creating a guideline that blatantly violates the law, I am afraid our people will start making laws on the streets soon!!

  6. yet again, the dpt govt proves to the bhutanese people its incompetence… unbelievable, the way they are so competent in being incompetent !!!
    it’s time the pm & his yes-men learn they cannot run this country as if it were a school. why are they so out of sync with reality?
    reality being that we have a written constitution that lays down the fundamental principles of governance, this even being reinforced by our king recently (when referring to the lg elections) which directly opposes the pm’s belief that the constitution should be interpreted liberally… no way, jose!! the ineptitude of pm jigme thinley & his team borders on the ridiculous.
    the dpt govt’s total disregard to uphold rule of law & ignore established procedures will not work in this day & age; they must recognize this. 

    finance minister wangdi norbu landed them in a huge mess with the tax revision that led to 2 embarrassing rulings by 2 courts..perhaps we need to expose health minister zangley dukpa’s pretentious wisdom of the tobacco act… we are fortunate we have a vigilant opposition who are not afraid to voice their opinion. if they continue this way, take them to court again is what i say.. 

  7. Be it increase of Tax on Vehicles or the TCA, all I can conclude from these is that the autocratic tendency of our leaders has not gone even though the Governance structure has changed. When the noble Monarchs have so generously and selflessly worked to empower the people, the elected leaders also must think that the power is the gift of our Noble Kings to the people of Bhutan and not to the few who continue to live in the past and pass one order after another without realizing the consequence. Dear, MPs, if you claim that you represent people of Bhutan, please introspect yourself.

    You will be blamed for the wrongs done because the education level in Bhutan has not reached to that level that all people can think independently. We have chosen well-educated MPs so that they can intelligently represent us but not impose their way of thinking on to the general masses. We need you to come and show us all the different possibilities, discuss them with the people all the ramifications,and let people decide what they want after being informed all the length and breadth of the issue. We don’t want you to decide a way and after that impose your will upon the people.

    At this point,I must mention that where there is low level of literacy among the masses and where people lack independent thinking capacity, a little propaganda can sway public thinking, sentiments and thus opinions. People will only understand an issue from the angle of what is intended by the handful of people propagating it and nothing beyond that. For example, if you show a video to a group of villagers or give them a speech about the harmful effects of tobacco and then next day go to them and ask whether Bhutan should ban tobacco, I am sure 99.99% will say ‘yes’. This is what exactly has happened. However, other pertinent issues like criminalizing of 30 or so people arrested under the act is never presented to the public. To make the matter more pathetic, people at this level have no knowledge to study the ramifications of the act holistically.

    Thus, I am not surprised about the recent survey on Tobacco and I would gladly call it skewed because it doesn’t represent a well-informed independent thinking citizens’ views.

  8. There are many of us who voice the same voice of the OL on the topic except that we can’t do anything. Therefore, it should be the sole responsibility of the OL to fight on behalf of us. We have no chair to fight against the govt.’s unlawfull actions.

    Now, we have a feeling that the Ist govt of JYT govt. will be known for running country unlawfully and the much effort and resourcesses are wasted in fighting that than doing development activities for the people.

    Now, soon the state funding for the parties is coming which is against the Constitution. We will waste time, resources etc..

    But, why OL you are late for the Q&A session?

  9. Karma 1 says:

    Where is NC in all this? Where do they stand? Is it also not their responsibility to ensure that the rule of law is followed and the Constitution is safeguarded?

    Did they also not remain silent and indifferent in the earlier supreme court tax case?

    It must be really hard for the 2-member opposition to fight against 45, including influential ministers, on the other side. NC is in a lot better position and has a lot more resources and influence. They are also 25 of them. I thought people in the NC, including the 5 eminent members, are much better qualified and would be a strong safety net to ensure that our democracy grows in the direction.

  10. YPenjor says:

    Dear OL, please read Anti Corruption Chairperson Dasho Neten Zangmo’s comments in Kuensel on Parliamentarians stand of Corruption Bill.

    I could not agree less with her comment on you, you give such a priority to Tobacco Act and did not speak even a word on Corruption Bill. While affected people by Tobacco Act is much lesser in percentage of the society, the corruption is a state sickness. Why are you so ignorant of this more important Bill/Act?

    Trying to act smart on Tobacco Act is catching up with your weakness in the real requirment of your ability. If I were from Sombekha constituency, I have lost confidence in you.

  11. YPenjor says:

    I mean I could not agree less with the comment of the senior civil servant on your no comment on the Corruption Bill in the joint seating of the parliament.

  12. YPenjor,

    Your comment is very unfair. Why are you accusing OL in such manner instead of encouraging him? After all, OL and his colleague, even though they are just two of them, have been working hard and have made a difference.

    Good that you are not from Sombekha constituency, otherwise you would have voted for someone like some of the DPT MPs who haven’t spoken a word in the parliament for the last 3 years.

    What about the NC, after all they are 25 of them and have much more influence and say. What about the government; isn’t their proud “Zero Tolerance” declaration just an empty rhetoric. It’s the government and DPT’s absolute majority in the parliament who can actually make a difference in fighting corruption. OL can just talk about it but he doesn’t have the mandate, influence and executive power to make things happen. It’s the DPT government and DPT MPs who can and must make this happen. So if you are serious and really concerned about corruption be realistic and put pressure on DPT government, DPT MPs, and the NC.

    Before you pass such unfair comments, you should think of walking in OL shoes for a day. Talk is cheap but getting things done is very hard—especially in OL’s 2-member opposition situation against 45 on the other side—including powerful ministers and the whole government machinery.

  13. Thinlay says:

    I second Y Penjor’ frustration with double standard of OL. Corruption eats away the whole fabric of society and is a main cause for downfall of many governments and individuals. It appears that OL is solely concerned with Tobacco Act that impacts only smokers and Tobacco smugglers (<10 % of Bhutanese) than corruption that affects 100% of Bhutanese. This is what i call "hypocrisy in democracy" and politicians color blindness for larger and more serious issue.

    Cheers

  14. Thinlay,

    I think getting frustrated with the OL but saying nothing about other important people and institutions makes you a hypocrite too.

    If you really want to help fight corruption, you have to put pressure on the ruling government, DPT MPs and the NC. Focusing on the opposition with just two votes in the parliament and with no influence and executive power will only be a waste of time and energy.

    In fact, learning from earlier experiences, if the OL raises this important issue the government and DPT MPs may purposely go against it and make sure that the OL’s proposition and ideas doesn’t go through.

    So it can actually backfire.

  15. guardian says:

    ypenjor,

    Agree fully with what you have written about OLs double standards.

    OL has now shown his true colors, while I have constantly been reprimanded by the OL for continuously questioning his stance on corruption, it is now clear where he stands on this issue.

    We know how passionate the OL can be, given that he has already initiated 3 or 4 blogs on the draconian aspects of the tobacco act, unfortunately he seems to be channeling his energies in to matters that affect a very small percentage of our society, while ignoring the larger problems like corruption which if left unchecked will lead to poor governance, which is already happening.

    I think the OL missed a golden opportunity to prove that he is willing to take the fight to the RGOB on the latter’s lack of progress in tackling this scourge called corruption which seems to be afflicting every government office in the country. This just goes to prove what I have been saying all this time, that he is protecting the interests of a few powerful corrupt people.

  16. guardian says:

    dorji,

    What kind of an argument are your trying to put up, the OL is the opposition leader and it is his moral duty to speak up against corruption. It is not Thinlay’s duty to put the ruling DPT on the dock. The OL had the perfect opportunity to do so on the floors of parliament and did not. What better stage do you need than the parliament to take the RGOB to task.

    So, please stop making excuses for the OL, if what you say is true about the government not listening to him if he did speak up against corruption, then why is he continuing with his fight against the tobacco act.

  17. YPenjor says:

    Dear Dorji, please come out of the box of your personal sympathy to the OL. From the Budhist gesture, I appreciate your soft corner for the small (just two) number formation of the Opposition Party. But, if you are interested to genuinely balance the importance of Corruption Act against the Tobacco Act, OL’s effort put in Tobacco Act will be much much more worthier to put in Corruption Act.

    What I am saying is, when OL can take the government to high court and supreme court on the tax issues and when the OL can afford to search for voluntary lawyers to fight Gelong Sonam Tshering’s Tobacco smugling case in the high court, why can’t OL utter a word in the joint seating of the parliament on Corruption Bill.

    You are asking me and Thinlay to charge the NCs and the DPT government. Probably you are not realising that the Bills are debated in the parliament and not outside the parliament hall. Without an opportunity for raising our own concern in the parliament hall our expectations remained with the OL.

    Unfortunately, the OL duped us. Guardian’s repeated statement of OL representing “few powerful corrupt people” has been openly proven.

    If I were from Sombeykha constituency, there is no reason why I should not vote for the DPT candidate if the candidates in both the parties are equally useless!

  18. Guardian,

    What about your own double standards? What have you done to put pressure on the RGOB to fight corruption? Isn’t RGOB primarily responsible to fight this evil? What have they actually done after proudly declaring “Zero Tolerance” on corruption?

    Look at what’s happening in India. Is it Congress or BJP that’s being attacked by Anna Hazare, Ramdev, civil society, and the people?

    In or case, if the ruling government with absolute majority in the parliament wants to fight corruption, they can easily make it happen. With the help few NC members, they have the votes to even change the Constitution. So if people put pressure on them and IF the government listens to the people, they (ONLY they) can bring down corruption in our country.

    With only 2 members, even if OL does nothing else but talk about corruption all the time and even if he starts 100 blogs on fighting corruption, nothing (absolutely NOTHING) will happen.

    I appreciate and share your concern about growing corruption. But only the DPT government and DPT MPs can help us. In democratic Bhutan, ONLY they have the power, votes, voice, and influence to make this happen and NOBODY else.

  19. guardian says:

    dorji,

    Since the DPT government is not doing anything to curb corruption, it is the OL’s responsibility to point this out to the government. Otherwise then why is he challenging the government on other issues if he has only 2 MP’s in the opposition like you keep on mentioning.

    Please stop giving the example of India about civil society taking the lead role in the fight against corruption, we have not reached a stage where our citizens need to go through a public dharna to get our message across.

  20. Guardian,

    Just because DPT government doesn’t do anything to curb corruption, does it makes sense to just let them be. After all even if OL makes all the noise, if the DPT government and MPs do not listen to him, nothing will ever happen. And if they don’t listen to us, the people/voters, do you think they will listen to the OL?

    “Please stop giving the example of India”
    This looks like a lame and lazy excuse. We don’t have to have rally and civil unrest like in India. There are many other peaceful means.

  21. YPenjor,

    I don’t think this discussion is about comparing the importance between Tobacco Act and Corruption Act. Both the Acts are important. I support Tobacco Act 100%. I don’t smoke and I don’t like people who smoke. But I also don’t think criminalizing our own people and sending them to prison for 3-5 years for possessing tobacco products of such small value is right. For someone like Sonam Tshering this will destroy his whole life — for such a minor mistake. After all he didn’t murder or rape somebody.

    Of course tobacco is against our religion. But at the same time, Compassion is the core of all Buddhist teachings. Where is compassion and justice in destroying the lives of our people for such small mistakes? Your own daughter or son could be smoking cigarettes without your knowledge. What if he/she is caught and sent to prison for 3 years?

    I don’t think there is a need for me to comment why OL remained silent during Anti-Corruption bill discussion. You can read his new post “Utter Nonsense.”

    Yes, I do sympathize with the opposition in the parliament. I appreciate the way they work hard and make contribution to debates on all issues. I wish we have a more balanced representation in the parliament.

    I don’t think you can compare not speaking for anti-corruption bill with tax and the tobacco act case. In the tax case, OL could take the government to the court because they did something unconstitutional. In case of tobacco act too people think something unlawful is being done by making a guideline that contradicts the act. So in both cases, the OL has a reason to knock at the doors of our courts and seek their guidance.

    I agree that the bills are debated in the parliament. But in other democracies, the MPs discuss and listen to people’s voices. So if you are so concerned and passionate about corruption, you could call or write to your MP. More importantly, instead of just accusing the OL who is actually giving us an opportunity to voice our views, you could post a more balanced comment by also asking the government, DPT MPs and NC to support anti-corruption bill. Because I believe most decision makers and MPs read this blog. So your voice and concerns can reach all who matter through this blog.

    With regard to OL representing “few powerful corrupt people,” I don’t think OL has the power to protect them if they have done anything illegal. If people close to OL are involved in corruption, it is the ACC and government’s responsibility to prosecute them. Who is stopping them from doing that? In a democracy, leave aside the OL, even the PM cannot protect people involved in illegal activities.

    Again it’s unfair to call OL “useless” just because he didn’t (couldn’t) speak during the debate on anti-corruption bill.

    In conclusion, I respect your views but disagree with it. We have both contributed to this debate with our own different views. Thank you for your time and participation.

  22. Guardian,

    You are right, it is OL’s moral duty to speak up against corruption. It is also the responsibility of all concerned citizens to fight corruption. But it is the government who should lead this fight.

    You don’t want me to give example of India. But I can’t help it, because in a young democracy like ours, it is important for us to learn from both the mistakes and successes of other democratic countries. Look at what’s happening in India now. People like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Ram Dev, and others are fighting the government (not the opposition) through peaceful means. They are just ordinary responsible citizens like you and I. These people are not waiting for BJP leaders to fight for them. In fact they don’t allow any politician to join their fight.

    You have been a strong voice against corruption in all your posts. I appreciate that and support you. But what I don’t understand is why you are only targeting OL and saying nothing against the government. Your fight should primarily be against the government. If you also target the government, DPT MPs and NC through this post, I think it will be a lot more credible and effective. Because I think all decision makers and MPs read this blog.

    I have nothing personal against you or Thinlay or YPenjor. I just thought that we need to be fair and that our fight against corruption would be more effective if we primarily target the government instead of just the OL.

    Thanks for your time and discussion.

  23. YPenjor says:

    Dear Dorji, as you have stated in your conclusion, no hard feelings to each other indivdually. We are all expressing our opinions as concerned citizens.

    We are simply using the right of our speech/statement gifted by our Constitution. The decision ultimately is in the court of the decision makers….not within your or my purview…cheers!

  24. guardian says:

    dorji,

    I agree with you that it is the government who should lead the fight against corruption, if they were doing that, then surely we would not be clamoring for the OL to do so. The fact that the RGOB is not doing enough to bring to book the people who are corrupt is the reason we want the OL to take the fight to them. When the RGOB increased taxes which were supposedly illegal, the OL even took them to court and won the case. So why this silence from him when such a big issue as corruption was being discussed.

    As the OL he has the moral responsibility to do this, even more so than the NC and other MP’s.

    My argument is this, if the OL can spend so much of his energy bringing out three different threads on why the tobacco act is too draconian, surely he can at least mouth a few sentences in parliament and convey to the DPT led government that they are not doing enough to curb corruption in the country.

    The OL is too smart an individual not to know that if he did take the government to task on the corruption issue, his popularity would have increased hugely, what is strange is, that in-spite of knowing this, why he chose to remain silent.

    Don’t you think it is strange for someone who opposes the RGOB on many issues and writes frequently on his blog to convey this, not to even have one thread on corruption, something which is such a big issue in the country. In fact wherever you go, corruption is the favorite topic on most peoples lips.

    Which goes back to my theory that he is indeed trying to protect some of his friends that are presently under the scanner of the ACC or that his opening his mouth would not go down well with them.

    Otherwise, I just don’t understand the silence on the part of the OL.

  25. guardian says:

    dorji,

    The fact that I write so much against corruption means that I am speaking against the government too. Right now, we as part of civil society cannot taking the government to task on their inability to fight corruption. Not only will it not go down well with certain sections of society, such actions will be viewed very suspiciously by the authorities despite the best of intentions.

    This is where we need the OL to do his part and make that difference. What he says would carry much more weight than what we blog.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your views and no hard feelings.

  26. Thinlay says:

    Ordinary citizens like us have elected MPs who are expected to raise and debate issues of larger national interests in the NA: I guess OL has to fulfill this expectation as being one of those elected MPs. If citizens take matter on their hand the result will be anarchy and street politics. That is why, we concerned citizens like OL and other MPs to debate issues that affect all Bhutanese and for the well being of Bhutanese society.

    OL harping continuously on Tobacco act and seems to be neglecting other more serious issue like corruption really irritates me.

    Thanks and no hard feelings for anybody.

  27. Oye Guardian,

    You are lost as you don’t Know who you should tell to fight against corruption. Tell ACC first. It is the Govt. you should be telling govt. rather than OL. You said you are in civil society. If so, you are there only for livelihood.

  28. guardian says:

    Oye DK,

    So you want OL to fight only against the tobacco bill or what.

  29. guardian says:

    DK,

    ACC is trying to fight corruption but they are not getting the help from the RGOB. So, I think you are the lost one here.

  30. Guardian,

    ACC does not need help. They have enough power and tools to fight corruption. You aacuse the govt. for not doing anything on corruption.

    U r only on corruption and tthen telling OL is only on tobaccothen.

  31. hahahaa. OL trying to make a difference.
    May be he is trying to make a difference for himself. The real hypocrite!!

  32. Dear OL,
    IF that is true, our government is trying to misuse their power. They dont have authority to ament any rules and regulations unless it is decided by parliament. We know that our DPt goverment is always trying to benefit themseves. For instance, providing CDGF is unconstitutional and ECB has written to our that CDGF is unconstitutional, but DPT government has turned thier deaf ear.So we are worried about those circumstances.

  33. guardian says:

    DK,

    Ol must be worried that he has a complete nut case like you supporting him.

  34. nalenjan says:

    I totally agree with what the OL has to say, despite adverse comments from some vested interests.

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