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At stake in the lhakhang Karpo case

Two years after the Gyalpoizhing case in Mongar, all eyes will now shift to west Bhutan, in Haa, where the Office of the Attorney General will prosecute foreign minister Rinzin Dorje in connection with alleged corruption in the lhakhang Karpo case.

The foreign minister, who was the dzongda when the Anti Corruption Commission unearthed corruption practices in renovating the most important lhakhang in the dzongkhag, is on “authorised absence” since yesterday.  He will join office after the case is resolved, and if found not guilty.

The ACC has no authority to suspend the foreign minister, nor does any law mandate that, according to lyonchhoen.  But lyonchhoen took a fair decision to relieve his minister, even if on paid leave, until the case is resolved.  It will be awkward for the minister to report to court and manage foreign affairs issues.  This was a good decision for the sake of transparency and accountability in our young democracy.

But there are new questions raised due to a twist in the case of the minister.  The Haa drangpon had informally declared a conflict of interest.  The drangpon is a Dorjipuen (spiritual sibling) of the minister.  Dorjipuen is a strongly practised tradition in the country.  The drangpon is not the right person to preside over the case.

There are skeptics, who are silently questioning how bold the OAG will be in prosecuting the minister.  Call it preempting or mere fallacy, but there seems to be some discomfort with the OAG prosecuting the case.  This arises because the Attorney General is appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister, and is the legal advisor and legal representative of the government.  More so, because, in the recent past, OAG had cast some doubt.

In the controversial Gyalpoizhing case, OAG dropped the case, citing that there were not enough grounds to prosecute the former home minister and National Assembly speaker. The ACC took it over, won the case, and abruptly ended the political career of the two high profile elected officials.

But we should trust the OAG.  It is an important constitutional body, and we are confident that it will look beyond the interest of the government.  The charges are clear, and the minister had justified his stand in one of the private media.  The lhakhang Karpo case is not as old as the Gyalpoizhing one.  Neither is it complicated.  We should see the case resolved soon.

The foreign minister’s is an important portfolio.  The ministry is today without its top leaders, as both minister and secretary are on “authorised absence”.  Lyonchhoen will fill the void when the foreign minister is away.  This is not the first time a minister has had to take up an extra portfolio, especially that of the foreign ministry.  And everything went smoothly.  If the minister comes clean, there is nothing like it to end the controversy.

All is well should soon end well.

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