A Question of Intent – Jurmi Chhowing

(Act 1: Synopsis)

Dasho (Dr.) Sonam Kinga presents the synopsis of his forthcoming book, ‘Political Contests as Moral Battles’ on his Facebook Page. Dasho Sonam Kinga is a two-time member of the National Council (one-term Chairperson) and a recipient of the prestigious Red Scarf from His Majesty the King. In other words, Dasho Sonam Kinga’s words carry weight.

I read the synopsis as it was presented. Tantalizingly, the book waits. The summary was bold in its assertion that the DPT conspired and executed a plan of action undermining the right of the king, culminating in the notorious DPT convention of 19. 07. 2013. I do not contest the summary, because until the book is out, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. The devil may reside and appear in the details but the tone of the extract rings a loud bell: events which spiraled out of control and created disharmony the country could ill-afford.

Five years hence, this potentiality still rings an alarming bell. But perhaps this time the reminder is to let sleeping dogs lie, lest they froth, bark, bite and infect a maddening disease.

That is why I question the timing of the disclosure. Why choose this elective point in time to make it public? Is there an ulterior motive? If indeed there is – what is it? Because if there is nothing to hide the intention should be made crystal clear by stating the reasons for the exposé, especially at this highly-charged, fragile time. That no one appears to know the stimulus behind the action is the reason everyone who has read the synopsis is asking the same question – ‘why?’

We are, hence, left to our devices. For had he stated that his purpose was to not only keep the DPT out of power but also to reassure the masses that they should do likewise, then all he had to do was make that remark the opening statement, share the synopsis, and announce the date of publication. We’d have known where he stood. We’d have drawn our conclusions and left the matter at a literary stand. Since he did not make those clarifications, the subject matter has now sired conspiracy theories that are inflammatory to the very fires he means to put out.

I do not support the DPT. And glad as I am that Dasho Sonam Kinga has detailed the finer narrative of what transpired in an episode marred by the ambition of power, I feel flummoxed at the timing of it all, leaving me to question the motivation, again.

The mole on the tip of a nose is obvious. It isn’t going anywhere. There is no point in pointing it out. If you must, point it out subtly. But anyhow, we know there is a mole.

(Act 2: Broadcasters)

Dawa, a former journalist and hard-talking telecaster with the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, has spoken publicly about the workings of the most powerful news organization in the country. This revelation comes from a reputed journalist who used to grill his interviewees with the pressing questions and pulling inquiries that made BBS a watchable channel. He has now made his resignation from the state broadcasting station public in an emotionally charged address during a political rally. My focus wasn’t on the politics. My focus was on the charges against the BBS, as it looks like the BBS was compromised a long time ago.

I’ve no reason to doubt Dawa’s account. I first saw Dawa on the national station conducting a thoroughly engaging interview and then made it a point to watch his telling shows that were steered in a very informed, civil and inquisitive manner. His signature show bode well for the democratic discourse.

Personally (coming from a similar background in what was a hopeful media sector), I’ve sympathized with the teething problems that beset the pursuit and practice of journalism in the kingdom; with the problem often taking on the growth of all teeth yet being spoonfed bottles of pacifying milkby everybody – the management, the government and the public. Journalism was a lose-lose occupation. Half the blame lies in a management learning to cope with the power of information and how best to collect, administer and distil that information, and the other half in the practitioners of journalism suffering from inferiority complexes and a lack of imagination. With that in mind, when I saw the clip of Dawa reporting the professional interference from the powers that be and the personal turmoil he had to endure, I empathized again. I think he is right in that a news organization with the resources and capability of one such as the BBS should rise above the pettiness of administration, management, and – above all – party politics.

Where my sympathy is tested is at the questionable timing of his public outpouring. If he was speaking as a would-be DNT candidate and politician then the timing was impeccable.But I wish he had stated precisely that, because by blaming a political party – in this case the PDP – for his professional discrimination is too convenient a cop-out. Long before Dawa’s tenure, the ploys and plots of the BBS were legend; apparent in the type of programs they produced and aired and the kind of people they hired and fired (or coerced to resign). And this was happening since the days of the DPT; some might even argue much earlier. Which reminds me that the reason I was worked up was not because political points were scored, but because at last, an institution as hallowed but flawed as the Bhutan Broadcasting Service had finally been brought to light. And this is a matter demanding debate and deliberation. It is, after all, the single most powerful news media organization in the country. And if business as usual ensues, come 2023 we shall witness more confessions of wrongdoings at political podiums. The least desirous platform for such pronouncements.

Now is the ripening moment when the BBS can become a proper and transparent public station, with an apolitical stance and practice, mandated as free and fair. Because elections will keep coming, and parties with vested interests will come and go, attempting to influence news and media organizations – providing all the more reason to stick to democratic ethos.

(Conclusion: Synthesis)

In both acts the soliloquies lack clarity and intention. Motivation is everything. It is, by the way, not necessary that your incentive be only seen and heard when it is beneficial and hidden when it is at a disadvantage. Obviously, the best motivation is no-motivation, just as the best agenda is often no-agenda. Failing that, the next best motivation is the declaration of one’s intent – in its specific time, context and space. Otherwise, it is the very snake pit in which all sorts of serpents come to hiss, slither and coil. And I’d not like to concoct a conspiracy where there isn’t one. I’d much rather give you the benefit of the doubt. But first, please, you must extend the same courtesy to me.

The end.

Jurmi Chhowing is a writer. He’s the founder of Yallamma! The Writing Company. He can be emailed at iamdrukpa@gmail.com