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Hearings over for one former committee member

The judge will work on a verdict, based on what was heard in the district court

Land Allotment Case: After exchanging several statements and rebuttals in the last couple of weeks, both Anti-Corruption Commission and Dechen Singye submitted their closing statements at the Mongar dzongkhag court yesterday.

Dechen Singye is one of the three indicted for official misconduct, allotment of government land and illegal registration of plots in relation to Gyalpoizhing land case, the other two being National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim and  Home Minister Minjur Dorji.

The closing statements were basically a recap of some of the main arguments the two sides presented the court, with regards to the case.

Reading out ACC’s closing statement, Mongar drangpon Gembo Dorji said, while Dechen Singye conceded to having applied and signed paperwork to acquire a plot for his sister living in Paro, what remained unclear was why she could not write her own application with her own initials and fax or post it to him.

In their statement, ACC officials had said it was not that Dechen Singye’s sister was pressed for time to apply for the plot, that he had to process the papers on her behalf.

“The application was dated November 1, 2000 and the plot was allotted only on June 1, 2001,” ACC officials had said. “As the plot allotment committee member secretary, the defendant was aware of the criteria, based on which his sister was ineligible for a plot in Gyalpoizhing.”

Going over the criteria the Ministry of Social Services had crafted in 1991, ACC officials said, preference for allotment of plots within a township was supposed to be first given to people owning and operating legal shops in the said township.

The second preference was for local residents in the township, before opening it up to others.

“When the criteria that came in the form of a circular clearly specified who were eligible for plots, any deviation from it has to be with personal motive,” ACC officials had written.

The defendant’s sister, it said, was from Trashiyangtse, and she neither had a shop in Gyalpoizhing, nor was she a resident of the place.

In fact, many residents of Gyalpoizhing, ACC’s closing statement had said, did not benefit plots.

It was said they had failed to report for the lucky draw.

“They didn’t make it to the lucky draw because they were not informed about it,” the statement said, adding the defendant’s submission that his wife represented his sister, who could not make it to the draw, was unfounded, because one of the additional criteria, the dzongkhag authority then “imposed”, was for people to report in person for the draw.

So that his sister would benefit a plot, ACC’s statement said the defendant, besides writing her application and using his thumb impression in his sister’s place, rejected other applications.

“He deceptively inserted a plot number against his sister’s name,” the statement had said.

Whether as an individual or an entity, the commission, the statement said had no personal animosity against anyone involved in the case.

“To take advantage of circumstance for personal gain or interest contrary to laws is corruption,” ACC statement read. “Corruption is a crime, and one that this small country cannot tolerate or afford.”

In Dechen Singye’s statement that the drangpon read out, he had basically reiterated his earlier arguments that he had not deceived the government through manipulation of the processes to allot land to his sister.

He provided a witness, a beneficiary of a plot in early 2000, to corroborate his points.

An ordinary technical staff in Mongar municipal then, Dechen Singye said he had not the authority to decide or make rules with respect to plot allotment.

“I worked as a subordinate staff and followed orders of the chairman then,” he said.

He also said there was no denying the kind of system that Bhutanese people lived with during that time.

“Most of us summoned before the court here today are all victims of circumstances, particularly humble civil servants like me,” he said.

In his statement on January 10, Dechen Singye had explained the reason for his breaking into tears in front of the court.

“It was the feeling of unfairness, and the subsequent feeling of helplessness, from learning of the existence of two laws for citizens of one country,” he said.

Like all facilities, he said, a different set of rules and laws applied for people belonging to certain sections of the society, including legal intervention they could avail of.

The drangpon, in the meantime, will begin working on a judgment, based on the exchanges of rebuttals and statements between the two parties so far.

When, the verdict will be passed, however, is unknown.

By Dechen Tshering and Samten Wangchuk

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