Immigration: Phuentsholing’s immigration office has installed biometric authentication system at the checkpoint to keep track of foreigners entering and leaving Bhutan.
A biometric system uses information about a person or other biological organism to identify that person.
About 800 labourers from India and 250 tourists enter Bhutan from the Phuentsholing checkpoint every day.
Non-Bhutanese workers are asked to give their fingerprints on the scanner along with their bio-data and picture to register in the database. Tourists have to register their data with the print of their two index fingers.
The immigration officer Kinley Tshering said with such system, it will help immigration office to trace labourers’ entry and exit status, which was not possible before. The system will also provide fast and easy enrollment.
“This will also help us trace the labourer if absconded, left the country legally or was deported before,” he said. “We’ll blacklist the labourer’s name if he or she absconded. The system will reflect his or her status.” Labourers are issued a one-year work permit.
However, to make sure data are recorded in the system, contractors or agents should inform when a labourer makes off,” Kinley Tshering said. “If they leave country without informing the relevant person or authority, the system will show that the particular person is still in the country.”
The system’s database can be accessed from any checkpoints in the country so that the absconded cannot enter from anywhere. The system will enable immigration officials to verify whether an individual had violated immigration laws or had bad records while in the country.
The biometric system is expected to curb instances of fraud, duplication of documents and to nab imposters.
It takes only about a minute for a person to register at the system if the internet connection is good. However, the immigration office has problem of space.
Biometric authentication system will also be installed in Samtse soon.
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing
Maintenance: Lampposts along sidewalks in several parts of the city are being removed to be replaced by new ones.
This is a part of Thimphu thromde’s annual maintenance and repair works in which lampposts have been given priority this time. The areas include Kawajangsa, Motithang, Chubachu, along the hospital road and near Jojo’s building in the town, among others.
This would cost the Thromde about Nu 5M, said offcials and the work has already been awarded to be completed in five months.
The head of urban road and drainage system Sangay Wangdi said the lampposts along Kawajangsa had to be removed as it collided with the overhead high voltage electric wires.
“It was difficult for us to maintain the lampposts,” he said.
Engineering division’s Sonam Tobgay said the new lampposts are be 9m while the old ones were 7m.
“The new lampposts will give better and stronger lighting,” Sonam Tobgay said. “Along with that we will also be replacing the cables and wires.”
The issues gewog administration officers from various parts of the country raised in relation to judicial cases and their perceived notions of injustices therein points up a shortcoming in the judiciary.
Perhaps, that is also the reason they thought and tacitly insinuated that Anti-Corruption Commission look into issues of miscarriages of justice.
What the changing times call for, as evidenced in how people look at this important arm of the government, is for change in conduct of business.
An adage our judges, lawyers and legal practitioners have committed to their memories, could be what the society seeks and the judiciary could benefit from.
It goes that justice should not only be done, but it has to be seen to be done.
It is based on this axiom that the phrase principle of open justice emanates.
What this requires is for the judges to conduct their business in open, not necessarily in front of the public literally, but through their judgments, which should contain reasons for their decisions.
The whole point of this is to expose and regularly subject court decisions to not just the scrutiny of other law practitioners outside the judiciary, but to public comment and even criticism.
Now this is a crucial aspect to ensure the quality of judicial making, not so much because of the fear of abuses of authority as is the case in many countries within the region.
Save for some big cases the judiciary sat on in the past, the detailed documents of which are available for the public to peruse, the judicial website otherwise lack any updates.
Initially when the website was created, and in keeping with the country’s transition to a democracy, some senior justices had said they would upload whatever cases they decided on for the people to see.
Some justices in the past have been honest about their fears of being ridiculed and scorned at for the decisions they make, especially if it made it online.
The other way to look at this could be that they would grow, not just thick skin over the years with criticisms they might be inundated with, but in terms of knowledge enhancement through various feedback.
But above all, to reiterate, justice will be seen to be done.
This old saying was not adopted based on some mere abstract ideal, but from actual practice tested over a long period of time.
Environment: Within the next four years, about 400,000 saplings would be planted along the Punatsangchhu valleys in Wangduephodrang and Punakha.
The initiative, Punatshangchhu Hydropower Project (PHPA) officials said, was a part of the beautification and compensatory afforestation project to compensate the environmental damages the project caused.
The plantation, to be carried out on 600 acres of land, is expected to cost the project Nu 24M.
PHPA I’s chief environment officer Lobzang Dorji said the compensatory afforestation work started since 2010.
“So far, we have planted more than 117,000 saplings on 180 acres of land,” Lobzang Dorji said.
Between 2010 and 2013, the environment division had planted 35,408 saplings at Wolakha in Punakha, which cost more than Nu 2.33M.
Besides, PHPA I had also funded Nu 8.5M for plantations on 153 acres in places like Jiligang, Zomlingthang, the Phochhu and Mochhu confluence, Chimi lhakang, Chundu gompa, and Dangchhu in Wangdue, among others.
“The afforestation was done in two phases, one by the project’s environment division and other by the dzongkhag with funding from the project,” Lobzang Dorji said.
PHPA I’s environment officer Thinley said they have also planted 850 saplings along Wangdue-Tsirang highway on about 2kms and 422 saplings above the bridge. The roadside plantation had cost the project Nu 3,27,82.
The project also spent about Nu 2M for a forest nursery project created above the College of Natural Resources in Lobesa for the plantation project.
The plantations, Thinley said was done with the help of local people while PHPA employees carry out the maintenance works.
“We have planted species that are collected locally and raised at the nursery center,” officials said.
The species include Cassia, jacaranda, sliver oak, oak, naku pani, jack fruits, Jamun, zizyphus, gulmohar, bahunia and lampatey jarul.
The project, however, faced some issues. The fencing of planation especially on the roadsides was often removed, broken, and plants uprooted.
Officials said although the roadside plantation was supposed to beautify the highway once the plants start to flower, Lobzang Dorji said most plants were dead or damaged.
He said that was occurring despite continuous maintenance and replantation.
Lobzang Dorji said initially they used wire mesh fencing but it was stolen and sold to scrap dealers.
“Some used it at homes for garden fencing,” he said. “We then used bamboo baskets which didn’t work either.”
By Dawa Gyelmo , Wangdue
Mining: According to the preliminary findings of the dzongkhag team that investigated the complaints made by the 13 households of Khariphu in Thimphu against Kuenphen Norden Mine, the complaints have no substance.
“The complaints against the mine don’t seem valid after all the tests, statements, and investigation,” an official said. The lease expired on March 31 but could not operate because application for a renewal is still on hold.
The villagers who gave their consent to the mine to operate, said the mine brought development to the community – roads, lhakhang and irrigation channel, among others.
The mine operator said he contributed Nu 0.1M for construction of a lhakhang in the village, built walls for a bridge worth about Nu 0.4M and provided free transportation of timber and other materials to villagers.
He said that there were no problems in the past 10 years until he began preparations for the renewal of lease last year. There were new applicants to operate the mine in Khariphu last year.
One of the two new applicants had promised to pay Nu 50,000 a year for each household if the villagers gave their signatures. Some of the villagers who did not sign for Kuenzang Gyaltshen’s lease renewal had signed for the new applicant who promised Nu 50,000 for each household every year.
Thimphu dzongrab led a team including experts from DGM and NEC for site investigation more than a fortnight ago. The team visited the chiwog again yesterday to collect statements from the villagers.
Kuenzang Gyaltshen applied for the renewal of the lease last year to the Department of Geology and Mines. The mine’s feasibility survey report was submitted to geology and mines department for approval. The current mine has environment clearance that expires after September this year and NEC has granted land lease of more than 58 acres for the next five years.
The compilation of dzongkhag report is in the final stage.
By Tshering Palden
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Cabinet ministers and National Council members offered prayers at the Janachidoe kurim at Pangrizampa yesterday. The nine-day annual ritual for wellbeing of the country and its people ended yesterday. Former Yangbi Lopen Sangay Dorji presided over the ceremony with more than 200 monks.
GAOs posed this question to ACC representatives based on how people in the gewogs saw judiciary
GAOs: Does Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have the authority and the audacity to investigate cases of corruption against those in the judiciary?
This issue dominated the discussion yesterday between gewog administrative officers (GAOs) and ACC officials, who had come to speak to GAOs about how corruption could be tackled at local level.
“Is the judiciary, or judges beyond ACC’s purview?” one GAO asked before sharing a story from his gewog in relation to his question.
He shared a case of a woman, who had some land- related issue, but was denied justice because the judiciary officials and her opponent were hand-in-glove.
“Although the woman had all her evidences, ACC refused to register her case,” he said.
ACC officials at the symposium organised for GAOs in Thimphu, said there must be an element of corruption to register a case, which should be accompanied by evidences to support an allegation.
“ACC doesn’t respond to hearsay,” ACC’s chief planning officer Karma Thinley said.
Another GAO said ACC should investigate how court judgments are passed.
A GAO from Sarpang said court verdicts changed when the same case was appealed to a higher court.
“ACC should study why such things happen,” he said. “We have to find out how the lower court judge passed the judgment and hold the judge accountable if he is wrong.”
The GAO said it is crucial that corruption be curbed in the judiciary as that passed wrong message to the public.
“No wonder people feel there are two laws in the country,” he said.
Some GAOs, however, told ACC officials that people in the locality reported false allegations against them and ACC officials harassed them.
The GAO from Chukha asked whether ACC took action when such allegations or complaints proved wrong.
ACC officials said people who reported false complaints were charged for defamation.
Karma Thinley explained that ACC had put in place good screening methods to avoid defamation. “Complaints lodged with ACC go through committees and information system screening,” he said.
ACC officials also said a woman was imprisoned to six months in 2011 for false information she provided.
To end the session, ACC officials said GAOs, as government representatives in the gewogs, were there to provide check and balance and help combat corruption.
“Civil servants need not necessarily commit crime, but they will be held liable if they fail to do their duty,” ACC’s integrity promotion officer Jurmin Tenzin said.
ACC officials also said with more authority and budget decentralised at local levels, risks of corruption also increased consequently.
They said local government topped the list of corruption complaints.
By Tashi Dema
Crime: Mongar district court yesterday sentenced a 30-year-old man to two-years and six months in prison for raping a 15-year-old student in November last year.
The man and the girl, who were in a relation, went to Gyalpoizhing on November 12 and stayed at their friend’s till November 17.
The girl had lied to the man saying that she is a Class XII student of one of the higher secondary schools in Mongar. She had not given the man her name and told him that she is 29 years old. The man believed her. The girl had also called the man several times to come and meet her.
According to the verdict, the victim was a participant in the defendant’s criminal conduct or consented to the criminal act, which is why the man was given only two years and six months term.
The man was detained since November 19 last year after the victim’s parents lodged a complaint.
The man can pay thrimthue in lieu of prison term.
Panelists at the women in politics conference yesterday were divided on the issue
Gender: Deliberating on the introduction of quota for women to take part in politics at the “Women in Politics” conference yesterday, participants felt the need to create a more conducive environment for women in all fields than just politics.
Choosing their words carefully considering the sensitivity attached to the subject, some panelists said quota alone was not enough to empower women’s participation in politics.
While panelists comprising politicians and journalists agreed quota system was important, they felt it required more deliberation at all levels.
Talking about his experience during the last election, pitched against three women candidates, North Thimphu representative Kinga Tshering said the election results was not based on gender.
Citing examples of women leaders in the world, Kinga Tshering asked if these women would be bestowed the same respect and appreciation had they been propelled to that position through quota system.
“It’s not about whether quota was right or wrong but how we can facilitate women participation in all platforms and not just politics,” he said.
Some panelists said to have quota for women would undermine the ability and competence of women.
Dogar-Shaba representative Kezang D Wangmo said she wanted to be a role model for all women, but not through an assistance such as the one which a quota system would provide.
“I want to earn my way through my credibility and efforts,” she said.
Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party vice president Tshewang Tashi said whether a quota system was necessary merited further deliberation through a consultative process.
“We all presume that the so-called educated lot has all the answers, what about the rural mass?” she asked. “The issue isn’t about parties not doing enough, but about not getting women candidates.”
The last election witnessed a drop in women representation to 6.9 percent from 13.9 percent in 2008.
Even in the local government elections, of more than 1,000 seats for various posts, 165 women contested but less than half were elected, including a lone female gup.
Some panelists said if quota for women did not come through, the same situation of poor women representation would continue.
Without women representation, some said the essence of democracy is lost.
Calling herself as a “political war veteran” Nyamrup’s former north Thimphu candidate Sangay Zam said women would not make it through the elections if people were to wait for a change in mindset.
“It will take really long for women to enter into a profession regarded as that of men’s,” she said. “There’s no other way but to have a quota system.”
Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s former Lingmukha-Toedwang candidate Dr Sonam Wanggyel Wang was also in support of the quota system.
He said 54 countries in the world had voluntary quota system, while 15 countries had statutory quota system.
“Why can’t we have our share?” he said.
In the last election, only People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pledged to ensure 20 percent quota for women in all elected offices.
However, PDP’s Ritu Raj Chettri said at a time when some people were worried about their next meal, social rights had to be taken into consideration over political rights.
Also highlighting the importance of creating an enabling environment for women candidates, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa president Lily Wangchuk said there is a need for gender responsive policies and laws.
Lily Wangchuk said she is unsure if quota is required at the national level.
“But it is necessary at the grassroots level,” she said, in the light of local government elections. “It will be unfair for empowered women to speak for less empowered women at the local level.”
On the other hand, PDP’s south Thimphu candidate Tandin Wangmo said for adequate representation of social issues at the Parliament, equal women representation is a must.
“Women can articulate the issues of women and children better,” she said.
Another panelist, freelance journalist Kesang Dema said there could be 101 reasons why women have not come forward to join politics and even more reasons for not being voted in.
“Is offering quota the only option we are left with?” she said.
By Kinga Dema
Verdict: Mongar district court will soon pass verdict of the three restitution cases and ruling on the two committee members involved in the illegal allotment of land in Gyalpoizhing.
The verdict that was supposed to have been passed by January this year was delayed due to change of address of the convicted. The case remained pending also because the judges were out of station.
Out of the 75 land restitution cases, the district court has so far passed summary judgment against 72. Hearings of the land restitution cases began from November 26 last year.
Mongar Drangpon Phurba Dorji said the court officials are working on passing the judgments on the five cases. Of the three restitution cases, two are undergoing the court hearing and one will be represent by his jabmi in the court since the person involved is on leave.
The two committee members, the dzongkhag’s the then assistant planning officer and the district education officer, were out on studies when the rest of the committee members were undergoing trials at the district court. Their case was deferred until their return and hearings began from December 2 last year.
Between January 10 and 17 this year, all the 13 former Gyalpoizhing land allotment committee members paid thrimthue (monetary payment in lieu of prison term) against the district court’s ruling of one year prison term. Calculated at Nu 100 a day, each committee member had to pay Nu 36,000.
The former National Assembly Speaker and the former home minister who were the members of the land allotment committee also paid thrimthue to the high court last year.
The former Speaker paid Nu 90,000 in lieu of a two-and- a half-year prison term, while the former home minister paid Nu 36,000 for the a year-long prison term.
The former Speaker was found guilty of illegally allotting plots to 23 individuals, including his maid during his tenure as the Mongar dzongda and the chairman of the plot allotment committee between 1999 and 2002.
The case of illegal allotment of land in Gyalpoizhing erupted in the media in 2012.
By Dechen Tshering, Mongar