Thursday, August 23, 2012

Four gup elects await court verdict

While gup elects from various parts of the country received dhar from His Majesty yesterday,four gup elects of Samdrupjongkhar were deprived of the opportunity.This is because the Samdrupjongkhar drangpon had
sent summons to the gup elects, as there were cases filed against them in court andthe matter is under judicial
The gup elect of Serthig, Dewathang, Lauri and Martsala had to return to Samdrupjongkhar to resolve the case.Dewathang gup elect,Sangay Pelzang, is alleged to have conducted campaigningin Bangtso Gonpa around11 pm, along with his friend, before the poll day. He was also accused of promising friends to favour them if hegets elected.
Lauri gup elect, Pema Dendup, was accused of giving Nu 500 to one of his opponents, Tandin. The other three gup candidates had filed the case, alleging that there was collusion between the two, which
led to Pema Dendup’s election. Pema Dendup had given in writing that the money was a consolation, but the other gup candidates questioned why he chose Tandin only, asthey also lost the election.

A gup candidate in Serthig gewog, Tashi Phuntsho, filed a case, saying that 11 voters approached him, saying that the photographs of gup candidates were not in the same sequence in the EVM as pasted outside the polling station.
“That has confused the voters, leading them to vote for the wrong candidates,”Tashi Phuntsho alleged. He
lost by 11 votes to the gup elect, Kencho Chophel.
The returning officer of the Jomotshangkha-Martshala said there are internal disputes regarding the Martsala
gup elect, but cannot be specific until the drangpon returns after his medical treatment.
The election of the four gup elects will not be considered legal until the court cases are solved.

IFJ expresses concern over Media Freedom in Bhutan

The build-up to the private media’s concerns over the government’s recent policy shift on advertisement has been highlighted by the international Federation of Journalists (IFJ) with the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The federation expressed concerns over such a policy shift in an online post.
IFJ is the world’s largest organization of Journalists established in 1926 and re-launched in 1946. Today the Federation comprises around 600,000 members which includes journalist from more than 100 countries.
It promotes international actions to defend press freedom and social justice through strong, free and independent trade unions of journalists. It is the organization that speaks for the journalist within the united system and within the international trade union movement.
IFJ policy is decided by the Congress which meets every three years and work is carried out by the Secretariat based in Brussels under the direction of the elected Executive Committee. The recent Congress was held in Cadiz on May 25 to May 28, 2010.

IFJ’s concern
Besides the policy shift, the IFJ has also shown its concern over the stamped confidential circular issued by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) which directed all departments under it not to entertain any advertisement to The Bhutanese.
The IFJ posted: “a secret circular was issued by the Ministry of Information and Communication on April 2 asking all government departments to withhold their advertising from the daily newspaper, The Bhutanese. This circular came to light mid-August and has caused serious concern among independent media”.
However MoIC’s Media Officer, Daw Penjor said it is being misinterpreted.
The IFJ wrote that the government’s directive which forbade advertisements to The Bhutanese is believed to be in retaliation for the publication of articles critical of possible abuse of power and corruption, arising from the government’s use of its discretionary powers.
A week later the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) circulated a circulation on 16 August which stated that all election advertisements would be given to the two state-owned media and one private radio. A reliable source said that the ECB was forced to make the move after they received a muscular letter from Finance Secretary on August 9.
The IFJ however also posted that, in June, the MoIC in Bhutan, ostensibly in line with a directive from the Ministry of Finance imposing budgetary restrictions on ministry budgets, asked all government departments to review their ad placement decisions in all media outlets.
However, Daw Penjor refuted it and said that this is factually distorted. He said the clarification was issued through a press release on August 20, this year; few days after the ECB issued a circular in Kuensel.
The biggest congregation of the world’s journalists posted, “We call on the government of Bhutan to review these directives and to follow the official policy which protects an independent media.”
IFJ said in the online post that it is the declared policy of the government to delink ad placement decisions from the content or editorial stance of the media outlet concerned.
They said that this is a sound policy, vital to sustaining a free media in a country where the limitations of the market impose formidable barriers to media growth. “It must be fully adhered to in practice.”
However, the Royal Government has issued a press release clarifying on the recent ECB’s circular on election related advertisements to the media.
The press release states, the circular from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on June 11, 2012 was not directed to the ECB alone but to all government agencies. The press release justified that it was directed to all government agencies to apply cost cutting measures not only in government advertisements but across the board.
“The circular was sent mainly to rationalize government expenditure and as part of the royal government’s belt-tightening exercise,” it stated.
Further it stressed that the type of media used for the government advertisement must be most suitable and appropriate in terms of budget availability, type of advert and reach required, and that there is no need to have the advertisements put in all papers at the same time.

Govt. steps on its words
The printed ECB Circular, however, states that their circular originated in obedience to the directives contained in the circular (MoF/R-Circular/2012/694) of 11th June, 2012 that government agencies are to publish advertisements in selected medium and not all the papers at the same time.
Contrarily, the government in its press release clearly mentioned that the Royal Government does not have a hand in ECB’s decision to select the three media houses since it is an autonomous agency and in fact, one of the Constitutional bodies.
Moreover, the government said that the Royal Government strongly believes in spreading out advertisement revenue from the government to “as many media houses as possible, and not just to the three that the ECB has mentioned, for a vibrant press and for democracy”.
Coincidentally Bhutan has also plummeted six places in the World Press Freedom ranking from the 64th position to the 70th position among 179 countries.
The organization that conducted the survey ‘Reporters without Borders’ say that indication like financial pressure on the media, self censorship, freedom to criticize, threats to journalists, ability to investigate and harassment to the media are used to calculate the total points.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Christian post’s claim untrue, Dungpa

An article posted on the site said that a Dungpa (sub divisional officer) Pema Wangdi manhandled an independent Christian Pastor Pema Sherpa on July 30.
This has however turned out to be a lie after The Bhutanese conversed with both the parties and eye witnesses.
The recent border quandaries had prohibited people residing in border areas especially in Sarpang from conducting meetings and gatherings for the security reasons.
In this regard the Gelephu Dungkhag office had disseminated public notifications not to conduct any kind of meetings. And for emergency purposes it should be approved by the administration.
However on July 30 the Dungpa received a report from the Gup saying that four Christian pastors with 35 cohorts each had gathered for a religious ceremony in Gelephu.
After receiving the information, the Dungpa visited the site and tried to convince the pastors with the valid points.  Pastor Kinga and Rajesh Sangrula apologized and said that they will conduct religious meetings only within their families and left the site.
However the two other pastors Ganga Bdr. Rai and Pema Sherpa could not be convinced.
“If anyone wants to conduct such huge gatherings, they should first get approval from the Administration.” Gelephu Dungpa, Pema Wangdi said. “They violated the notification from the government.”
He said Pema Sherpa declined to end the ceremony and said that the Dungpa can ‘report it to anyone’.
“The Christian post has exaggerated the incident and I did not even mention anything about the religion,” the Dungpa said.
Contrarily the pastor said the Dungpa grabbed him by the chest and threatened him with his Patang (ceremonial sword).
“I don’t see any harm in organizing such religious gatherings,” Pastor Pema Sherpa said in a phone interview. He said the Dungpa did not mention anything about the religion but asked him to dismiss the crowd.
Pastor Pema Sherpa said he was aware of the ‘notification’ but the gathering was a religious one, and everyone has the right to practice religions of their choice.
“Therefore I could not digest what the Dungpa told me,” he said.
Dungpa Pema Wangdi said when he was trying to wear his patang the pastor might have mistaken it as an attempt to use it on him.
The incident was also witnessed by some local government officials.
“They only exchanged words and I did not see the Dungpa hitting Pema Sherpa,” said Gelephu Gup Tashi who was present at the site.
According to the Dungpa the security and safety of the public has become a priority after the recent unfortunate incident in which a Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) soldier was ambushed by armed assailants.
Pastor Pema Sherpa has submitted a letter of apology in which he stated that he will not repeat such a thing again.

The lively woods that fashioned a life

Shazob Karma Wangchuk, the title is self explanatory that the person is creator of many things wood or wood-based.
All he needs is the baow (deformed part of a certain tree).With his exceptional skills, he transforms the rough shapeless baow into an attractive dhapa (traditional wooden bowl) within few minutes.
For Karma Wangchuk who is a well known Dhapa maker in Lhuentse, his title is more than justified and the specimens he produced and the ones he continues to fashion are all exquisite proof and authentic credentials for the title acquired through years with the trade.
The Dhapa maker had no clue as to where a trade employed only as a meager means to livelihood would take him when he chose the line of work in 2005.
The trade even in Karma’s early days didn’t prove to be thankless for it proved was an alternative source of income to his family.
A rickety bamboo structure houses his enterprise which comprises a single facet motor powered by electricity. But within the confinement of the run-down establishment are the many dozens of the finest quality of the traditional wooden plates which takes shape with a roar of the motor engine.
A skill passed down from father to son, Karma is most thankful to his father and teacher.
The deformation of trees such as Aakshing, Guliser and Serkaling which are found in Pimi and Jang area under Lhuentse Dzongkhag serves as the raw materials for his enterprise. Such diseased trees are what he looks for as raw materials.
For any other person, such a deformation on the tree is of no use. Many would not even give it a second glance. But for a dhapa maker, it is a trophy in the forests.
After obtaining the valid license from Department of Forests and Park Services, raw material collections are done in 11th, 12th and 1st months of the Bhutanese calendar. The ‘deformation’ hanging by the trees are removed and transported home.
The 5th, 6th and 7th month of the Bhutanese calendar, are the busiest of the year for Karma and a good overnight work is almost an everyday deal for him and his engine inside the bamboo hut.
The collected materials are soaked in water for at least 3 months which are then let to dry for the same period of time. Only then are the woods ready for transformation into other similar products.
The price of the products ranges from Nu 300 to Nu 800 dependent on the size and overall quality of the finished products. The products are sold to a broker, one Mr. Ngawangla at Trashiyangtse.
Karma Wangchuk said that he earns Nu 45,000 and sometimes even more in a year through sale of the products minus an annual expenditure of approximate sum of Nu 15, 000.
Such earnings every once in a while proves a blessing for him and his family of 14 which includes six sons and a same number of daughters.
The difficulties Karma faces in the course of his work is generally to-do with access to the permits for collection of raw materials. According to him, it is one government procedures with the biggest bottleneck.
“The permits have to be availed from the Department in Thimphu only,” says Shazob Karma Wangchuk adding that obtaining permits wiles away a major chunk of his earning.
In a heartfelt suggestion obviously generated as a result of painful days and hours of wait at government offices, Karma said, “It would be a great boon for people like us if the issuance of permits for such category is devolved at least to the level of Chief Forestry Office”.
Nevertheless, Karma has decided to commit his life to the trade.
Over the years his respect for the trade has only grown and he speaks highly of his enterprise especially in the backdrop of ever dwindling practice of traditional Dhapa making in the country.
Karma said he is happy he will be helpful to keep the Country’s tradition alive.
The raw materials in the forests are however on thew decline every year. Karma says that every collection season, he has to walk further and further.

Little Robed-in-red hoods

It comes as a shock for any Bhutanese to hear that someone robed in the Buddha’s attire participated in criminal activities or was party to assist or facilitate such acts. This naturally implanted forethought strikes many Bhutanese minds because it’s general knowledge that monks are groomed and brought up with the most stringent disciplinary codes of conduct and should supposedly possess the most virtuous of takes on everything in creation.
A fellow from the line of monastic bodies is therefore expected to be the last to make it to the list of people in conflict with the law. They are expected more so to be within the premises of their institution dedicating prayers for the welfare of sentient beings.
Conversely and not really to please the eyes and ears of any pious soul, the statistics at the Police headquarters paints a most contradictory picture where many monks have visited and revisited the not so holy premises and vicinities of the lawbreaker’s lair.
If the data with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) in Thimphu are any indication increasing number of monks have constantly placed themselves in conflict with the law.
From 2010 till August this year, some 21 monks have been arrested and detained by RBP personnel on grounds of various crimes committed.
The monks involved were listed under crimes which ranged from possession and consumption of controlled substances, battery and burglary.
From among the 21, 11 were arrested on varying counts for possession of controlled substances, seven were arrested for battery, two for burglary and two for murder.
Some of those who feature in the list are also the ex-monks who were already expelled from the institutions for crimes committed.
A police officer said a total of nine monks were arrested in 2010 alone. These monks were arrested in connection with the possession of controlled substance and battery which normally happens during gang fights.
Such nature of crime according to the police officials are the highest ever committed by the monks.
These former monks who dropped out of their schools are from various Dratshangs (monastery) and Shedras (Buddhist schools) across the country. These ex-monks once relieved from monkhood go wayward and many remain as vagabonds who loaf around in the capital city.
The police also said that it is difficult for them to trace the figure for ex-monks who have committed crimes. This is because a serving monk becomes ‘former monk’ when they are expelled for the crime committed. Moreover, these ex-monks after they quit their monkhood claim themselves as ‘jobless’ while registering the case with the police.
However out of 21 cases recorded, the most heinous crime committed ever is the murder of a youth by a group of boys, among which one was a monk. The victim, a 26 year old was killed at Changjiji this year.
Two former monks, aged 20 and 22, were arrested after it was discovered that they were involved in the crime on May 22 this year.
Other than the crimes mentioned above, monks have also been involved in crimes such as committing con, larceny, gang fights etc.
The Dratshang Lhentshog’s Secretary, Karma Penjor, said this is due to the reflection of the society’s changing values.
“We’re equally concerned about it,” said the secretary. The Lhentshog is making concerted efforts to curb such social problems created by the monks.
The monks are properly advised and are also warned. Only when the corrective measures are exhausted, do they resort to expulsion. “The codes of conduct for the monks are strict and the disciplinary action includes expulsion,” he said.