Gyelpozhing: who’s right?

People's land

Almost six months ago, Tenzing Lamsang exposed the Gyelpozhing land grab case, and explained how laws of the land had been broken to acquire public land and redistribute them to influential people.

A week after that, Dasho Neten Zangmo, the Anticorruption Commission Chairperson, was quoted as saying:

We will look into the case and if there is any element of corruption, abuse of power and conflict of interest and if land has been taken unjustly from private people then we will further investigate the case.

It’s been almost half a year since ACC’s assurances. So I was happy to hear that they have visited Gyelpozhing and that they “… are in the process of reviewing allotment procedure, eligibility criteria, details of all beneficiaries and even the rationale of acquisition.”

But I’m worried that the investigation is taking too long. And Dasho Neten seems to echo my concern by saying that, “It’s going to take a lot of time going one by one”.

I’m worried. And I’m worried for many reasons. But mostly I’m worried because some of those who are allegedly involved are “powerful and influential people”. They include the prime minister, cabinet ministers and the speaker. And in their case, I’m sure that, as politicians, they would want the investigation to be complete well before the 2013 parliamentary elections. It is in their interests that the investigations are over by then. It is also in the Election Commission’s interest. But mostly, it is in the interest of the electorate, our people.

Even so, Dasho Neten has warned that the investigations will “take a lot of time” and ruled that:

We just can’t investigate only a few powerful and influential people. We have to see and study the background of all the beneficiaries like whether there is a ‘nexus’ between the allotter and beneficiaries.

I agree. We need a thorough and complete investigation. An investigation that is not targeted to “a few powerful and influential people”, but one that examines all the people who were involved, one that is comprehensive in its scope.

That said, all the so-called “beneficiaries” cannot be lumped together; they cannot be treated the same.

I can see at least three types of “beneficiaries”. The first type is the beneficiary who developed a “nexus” with the allotter. That would be outright corruption, and both the allotter and beneficiary should be taken to task.

The second type is the beneficiary who applied for land, and was allotted land even though that beneficiary did not qualify to receive land. If that beneficiary did not seek to influence the allotter’s decision in any way, then the beneficiary cannot be held responsible. It was the allotter’s responsibility to check and to confirm that all recipients of land fulfilled all the criteria. So in this case, the allotter should be taken to task.

The third type is the beneficiary who should never have applied for land given the existence of serious conflicts of interest. Beneficiaries of this type would include all public servants (and their immediate family members) who were directly involved in the acquisition and distribution of land. And naturally, they would also include all cabinet ministers (and their immediate family members), but especially ministers who’s job it was to supervise the dzongkhag administration, or to approve the proposed township, or the authorise the land acquisition, or to endorse the allotment criteria.

We cannot excuse the misuse of inside information, the abuse of government power, or the disregard of conflicts of interest. They are the most damaging forms of corruption. So in this case, the beneficiary should be taken to task immediately.

Photo credit: Business Bhutan who also reported that Gyelpozhing residents protested the plot allotments, and that people who lost land were struggling

 

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  1. Dear OL,

    Logics invites more logics. Rational arguments can be easily countered by more rational arguments. It only goes circular and tangential. As a citizen and voter, I don’t need logic or legality in this case. It is simply immoral.

    So I would appeal not with logics but with emotions – emotional arguments as follows:

    1) If the investigation finds there is no corruption that everything is done through correct procedure, then it is either POLITICAL CORRUPTION or LEGALIZED CORRUPTION. It is more serious – it can bring down the society. We can’t let this “previous” country to be governed by morally bankrupt politicians.

    2) If the investigation finds there is a legal loophole and not the faults of influential people to deserve land in remote Gyelposhing or that they have bought these lands paying their dues (paying in peanuts, which anyone can also afford given the opportunity), then it is called LEGALIZED ELITE CAPTURE. It is even more dangerous – it will breed class society (elite class and invisible class or rich class and poor class). We have to dismantle this, right from the foundation and instead build EQUITY and JUSTICE society.

    3) In the first place, if the influential and powerful beneficiaries want to shield their moral bankruptcy through investigation that cannot proceed fast (due to premature load bearing) and only mimic true investigation, then it is called being “YUMMY” (in Dzongkha) – shifting the blame on capability traps.

    I agree with OL that it is in the interest of Gyelposhing locals, these influential politicians, and in the interest of the nation not to proceed with investigation but rather gracefully return all the lands back to the State (not Government). Government should return the peanut payments made for these lands with compounded bank interest. It is morally right thing to do. If they decided even not to receive the compensation, then they all have my moral high respects and respects from 700,000 Bhutanese like me.

    Openness is not weakness – we all need to save the country from “Elite Capture” – legal or illegal.

    Dear OL, you are also included in that elite group but at least you are open to negotiation with the society.

    Individually, I have respects to all of them – from Prime Minister to Ministers to Speakers to others but I am outraged why they don’t uphold and keep the respects accorded to them by us and His Majesty the King. For example, when Lyonpo Zimba says in the hall of the sacred parliament “if there is not state funding, we have no choice but turn blind and deaf and forced to take money from rich people leading to corruption,” I was screaming at Lyonpo Zimba on my television, not because for any reason but simply because I have respect for him. I sat in front of TV shocked asking myself “Lyonpo, all 33 years of your training and learning under untainted King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is only turning you morally bankrupt at the end of your career to the nation? Oh no. Any young MP can say what you just said in the hall of the sacred parliament and national TV, but not you – Lyonpo! Don’t be disillusioned. You can do better than this – you are disappointing layman like me and all the monks of Chari and Tango who always say you are Dratshang Lyonpo due to your moral high….:( ”

    So at least Lyonpo Zimba (if not PM) should save moral bankruptcy by giving up Gyelposhing local land. I wait to see.

    With Deep Respects,
    Invisible

  2. Dear OL,

    When Dasho Neten Zangmo, the Anticorruption Commission Chairperson says that
    “We just can’t investigate only a few powerful and influential people. We have to see and study the background of all the beneficiaries like whether there is a ‘nexus’ between the allotter and beneficiaries”, in principle he is correct.

    However, I feel that in this specific case, rather than waiting for the complete investigation of all the allottees, people are more interested in certain specific case. More so, people have a right to demand so because this case was not brought out by ACC but by open media. Had this been an ACC finding than we would have totally supported the stand of ACC Chairperson.

    ACC must admit that the lapse was not in knowledge/overlooked by the commission therefore the case is more of public finding. Since the public brought the case in open, the investigation should be carried out in the phased manner: firstly to find out the truth of specific allegations and then subsequently a comprehensive investigation as suggested by the ACC Chairman.

    Just a thought…

  3. Invisible said: “I agree with OL that it is in the interest of Gyelposhing locals, these influential politicians, and in the interest of the nation not to proceed with investigation but rather gracefully return all the lands back to the State (not Government). Government should return the peanut payments made for these lands with compounded bank interest. It is morally right thing to do. If they decided even not to receive the compensation, then they all have my moral high respects and respects from 700,000 Bhutanese like me”

    Well said. This is the best option left.

    Cheers

  4. Tashi Dorji says:

    not directly related but since we’re talking corruption, isn’t the GNH Center in Bumthang a personal business venture of the PM and his family? Then why is the GNH Center being listed on the Cabinet Secretariat webpage. Is that office now being used as the personal office of the PM and not the Cabinet? moreover it says the coordinator of the project is Dr. Saamdu Chettri. Isn’t he one of the DPT workers employed in the PMO office and being paid by the government? So that’s what he has been upto all this while – being paid by the government to function as the General Manager of the PM’s family business. No wonder we have civil servants doing consultancy jobs or government drivers driving taxis. Guess they are just following the shining examples of our political masters.

  5. this case sounds interesting!…looks like everyone is involved one way or other [pm,speaker,cjustice ,cabinet ministers,royal family and even je khempo is not spared]….i just hope it is worth digging all….

  6. i would like to request ACC to complete the investigation latest by the december 2012 and declare the report public. this will answer the question to all bhutanese people and the institutions that are thirsty of knowing the true intention behind the alltment.

    our highly respected and well known politicians can either hold their head high or hide it behind shame.
    hope the report of ACC will be a independent one..

  7. Pema Karpo says:

    This Gyelpozhing land scam has me seething with rage for the elites of our country. They have everything and yet they have to be that greedy. I hope all these people who have no morals, no conscience and no integrity should be ashamed of themselves, especially the PM and his cabinet who preach equity and justice but the Gyelpozhing land scam shows them exactly the opposite. God save our nation

  8. i can tell says:

    Constructive suggestions by OL and Invisible.
    Lets see what happens next.

  9. Please touch the ground and feel the reality. If you want to dig out the filth that has been established when the ambiance was totally different then good luck. I see only hatred built against the government and more so targeted towards His Excellency the PM. OL should also remember that the beneficiaries of the land redistribution also included members of royal family.

  10. tshering wangdi says:

    i am very sure that ACC can do nothing to the people involved in gylposhing land scam. as per the law, i believe that a person under investigation should be suspended until the investigation is over.however i don’t see this happening. there was never equity and justice under DPT.

    May justice prevail…

  11. Ii is important to find out who formalized the registration of these illigally allotted land rather than focussing on allottees and the authority who had allotted.

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