Letter trail

Several of you (Pro Media, Zamtap, Sonam, Kudrung and Kids) have asked me to post the letter that Lyonpo Khandu and Dasho Chencho wrote soliciting financial assistance from people who are not registered members of their party. One reader, Kids, almost begged: “I sincerely request your excellency to share the letters with us.”

There’s no law prohibiting me from posting the letters (one in Dzongkha, the same in English). Yet, I feel uncomfortable. So please bear with me. But, be assured that my reluctance to post the letters here is not because I don’t want to share the evidence, so to speak. I just don’t feel comfortable.

One reader, however, obviously had a copy of the letter. This is part of what Rinzin wrote in defending the fund raising efforts of the DPT MPs: “The last paragraph of the letter reads ‘Kindly note that the Election Commission of Bhutan(ECB) in consideration of the financial difficulties faced by political parties have raised the maximum ceiling of an individual contribution from Nu.100,000 to 500,000. Please also note that in accordance with the Laws, your contribution will be adjusted as;
i. Registration fees,
ii. Membership fees,
iii. Balance as your contribution.”’

The “last paragraph” that Rinzin reproduced in fact proves otherwise. “…your contribution will be adjusted as: i. Registration fees,…..” is evidence that the letter was sent to people who have not paid registration fees. People who haven’t paid registration fees are not registered members of their party. And they had no business soliciting contributions from them.

I repeat: Section 146(c) of the Election Act states that a political party may be dissolved if “it has solicited or resorted to collection of funds from private individuals or any agency other than from its registered members.”

I’ve forwarded the letters to the ECB today. I’m confident that they’ll take it up from there.

Illegal, immoral, dangerous

Three months ago, some PDP members in Paro received a letter. The letter was signed jointly by the DPT MPs from Paro: Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk and Dasho Chencho Dorji. The letter, which apparently targeted businessmen, asked the recipients for financial support to run the DPT office in Paro.

Article 15.4(d) of the Constitution declares that political parties can only accept money or assistance made by its registered members. And, Section 146(c) of the Election Act states that a political party may be dissolved if “it has solicited or resorted to collection of funds from private individuals or any agency other than from its registered members.” Furthermore, Section 54 of the National Assembly Act clearly states that “A member shall not resort to any form of fund raising from individuals or any agency.”

So, what Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk and Dasho Cencho did – solicit funds, by letter, from people who are not registered members of their party – is most probably illegal.

But what they did is morally wrong too. Members of a ruling party sent letters to members of a very weak opposition asking them to make financial contributions and to join their party.

And what Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk did is dangerous. When the minister for economic affairs solicits donations from businessmen, it might easily be construed as outright corruption.

Illegal, immoral, dangerous: I’m forced to write to ECB about this.

Raising funds honourably

I was surprised to learn that “… the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) leaders recently told their members of parliament (MPs) to raise money for the party.” (Read the Kuensel article). This is illegal. And I’m sure that the DPT leaders know that this is illegal.

The National Assembly Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008 forbids members of the National Assembly from fund raising. Section 54 under Chapter 7 (Role and Responsibility of the Members) specifically states that “A member shall not resort to any form of fund raising from individuals or ay agency.”

I’ve already accepted that we must be vigilant against our government’s tendency to disregard the law. But this is ridiculous. After all, we, the honourable members of parliament, were the ones who studied, debated and passed a law that prohibits MPs from engaging in fund raising. That law has been in place for not even a year, and it risks being broken by the very people who framed it.