DNT accuses education minister of misusing govt. machineries

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) submitted a letter to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) stating that education minister Norbu Wangchuk misused government machineries to promote and introduce new candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during his official meetings.

This, according to DNT, is a direct violation of the clause 11.6 of the Rules and Regulations of Political Parties, 2015.

According to DNT, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk was on an official trip in Trashigang as the Chief Guest for the 110th National Day celebrations. As a minister of education, he also visited and organized official meetings with the public of Radhi, Merak and Sakteng Gewogs, whereby one member from each household were asked to attend the meeting. During these meetings, Karma Chophyel, a PDP candidate from Radhi – Sakteng constituency accompanied the Lyonpo along with the Dzongdag, gups and other officials of the Dzongkhag.

“We have been informed that in all the Gewog meetings, the minister not only introduced Karma Chophyel as the PDP candidate of the constituency, but the minister also promoted him as the most capable candidate in the constituency,” states the letter. “After the promotion of the candidate, Karma Chophyel was also given the opportunity to stand in front of the public and introduce himself.”

DNT maintained that it is concerned about the real agenda of the meeting and whether the agenda of the meeting needs or deserves public gathering or was it organized as an excuse to actually introduce Karma Chophyel as the PDP candidate for 2018 elections.

DNT has also requested the election office in Trashigang to verify from Dasho Dzondag, officials of the Dzongkhag who were on visit with the minister and also from the gewog officials and the public who attended the meetings.

DNT, which claims to have evidence, is expecting the ECB to investigate and feels that the ECB should issue warning if it’s found correct and inform all the Dzongkhags saying that no officials should misuse their position to introduce any candidate.

“We hope ECB will take this matter seriously because this is not only the incident that happened. We have now come to know that it’s not only education minister, but other ministers are also doing the same thing including the speaker who is in Mongar currently,” said the DNT spokesperson. According to the spokesperson, just prior to the 2013 elections, the previous government (DPT) also used government resources to travel around the country and even now PDP government is doing the same – misusing the state resources on the pretext of going for official visit and then introducing candidate.

According to DNT, the opposition leader is also on tour and they want to know whether he is touring as the opposition leader or as the DPT president because DPT’s general secretary accompanying the opposition leader is also against the rule.

“They are misusing their position and power. The rules are very clear. We are not allowed to do this and even though we have rules, the implementation is very weak,” said the DNT spokesperson. The spokesperson further stated that there is a need to differentiate a politician from a minister of the government.

“Once you are the minister of education, you are the minister of education for all the people, not only the minister of education of PDP. There needs to be clear distinction between these two roles that one play,” he added.

DNT also maintained that they don’t have the same level playing field as with the opposition and the ruling government, and that the parties outside the parliament are having a difficult time.

“During our familiarization tours, the Dzongdags are preventing us from having meeting or any sort of gathering, but with PDP, they are facilitated by the Dzongdag, gups and officials. People are gathered and new candidates are being introduced. How can we have level playing field like this,” he explained.

“Although we have letter saying that we can go and meet the people, we are not allowed to meet people by the Dzongdags at district level,” the DNT spokesperson added.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, education minister Norbu Wangchuk, who is in Trashigang, said DNT should stop throwing baseless allegation against other parties and instead focus on promoting their party and let others do their work.

“DNT is getting jittery about the whole election approaching. As a government, we have seven more months to work and we would like to work till the last day and it is a part of my service to meet people,” the minister said. And regarding evidences, the Lyonpo asked DNT to put it up to ECB and let ECB decide.

“The Dzongdag accompanied me through all my public hearings and the Dzongdag will affirm that I have never spoken a word on PDP candidate, leave alone promote him as the best candidate. The supposed PDP candidate has never spoken in public gathering in my and Dasho Dzongdag’s presence,” Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuck said. Meanwhile, ECB has issued a letter to PDP asking for explanation and is waiting for their response.

Pema Seldon from Thimphu