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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - 6:34 AM
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Badminton coaching camp draws 62 youth in Mongar

IMG_9933Youth practice badminton at the Mongar LSS auditorium

Sports: Sixty-two youth between 10-20 years are participating in a two-week long Badminton coaching camp at Mongar Lower Secondary School in Mongar.

National Badminton Coach Sherab Gyeltshen said the main objective of organising this champ, which ends on January 18, is to train players from the eastern dzongkhags for the preparation of U-19 tournament which will be held in May this year.

For the last one week, the coach has taught the basics of badminton and its rules. Sherab Gyeltshen said it was important for the juniors, those between 10-12 years to be more interested in learning.

Bhutan Olympic Committee’s focal person in Mongar Sonam Darjay, said, this is the first coaching event held in the district.

He said, the U-19 Badminton Championship tournament will be held in Trashigang this year.

According to the Coach, the championship is conducted to select potential and talented national players. The Bhutan Badminton Federation today has 20 national players.

One of the participants from Mongar Higher Secondary School, Tashi Tshering, 16, said this was his first time to learn and play badminton. “Two weeks of coaching is not enough for the youth,” he said.

By Tashi Phuntsho, Mongar

More teams sign up for national league

Football: Paro United FC is the newest club to join the national league this season.  Seven teams will take part in the tournament this year – four from Thimphu and one each from Punakha, Paro, and Phuntsholing.

FC Rigsum is one of the new clubs to enter the A-division level from B-division this year.  A total of 27 clubs – eight A-division, 10 B-division and nine C-division – have registered this season with Bhutan Football Federation (BFF)

Competition officer with BFF, Kinley Dorji, said that the rise in the number of clubs could be because of growing interest in the game. “The quality of players has improved drastically over the years.”

Every new club with the federation has to start from B-division.  If a club wants to get into A-division, it has to top the B-division, and then play a relegation match with the team that is at the bottom of A-division.

Prabhu Mangpang, manager of Friends United FC, said that the club was preparing for the tournament and would start practice sessions starting February.  The team, which is currently in B-division, is looking to top the division and book a place in the A.

“We want to play relegation match and win,” said Prabhu Mangpang.  This is the third season that the club is competing from the same division.

Yiwang Pindarica, manager of Thimphu United FC, said Bhutanese football might not be that bright at the moment, but it is set to improve. “It’s a long way to go, but slowly and steadily things will get better.”

Kinley Dorji said that the federation and the club are facing financial challenges.  Although BFF gives every team a certain amount of money to run the club, it is not sufficient.  BFF gives Nu 25,000 to C-division, Nu 30,000 to B-division and Nu 100,000 to A-division clubs every season.

“If more private agencies can help sponsor the clubs, it’ll make a big difference,” said Kinley Dorji.  Meanwhile, BFF is also working out new marketing strategies.

By Younten Tshedup

English II paper’s evaluation begins

Investigation ongoing to fix accountability for question paper leak

BCSEA: Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) started evaluating the class XII English II answer sheets yesterday following the prime minister’s approval of its board’s decision.

Some 40 English teachers were recalled to evaluate the paper at the College of Science and Technology (CST) and will complete it in a week.

The council’s press release stated the board “recommended that BCSEA evaluate English II paper and award marks accordingly, but impose severe penalties on those responsible for the paper leakage.”

Following a huge public outcry, the Cabinet requested BCSEA to reconsider its earlier decision, and take some time to study the situation carefully and resolve the problem with more suitable options.

The board met again on January 7 and decided to revoke the earlier decision of validating the English examination results based on the marks obtained in English paper I.  The decision comes exactly a month after word went around that the English II paper had leaked.

Council officials said although this decision may not guarantee complete fairness and acceptability by all, the board felt it was comparatively a better decision as it would “ensure timely declaration and fairer examination results, since the penalty will be meted out only to individuals involved in the paper leakage.”

The experienced evaluators, officials said, could identify students, who had access to the questions, by judging the style or wording of the students’ answers.

Besides, BCSEA could verify the students’ performance in the trial examination or the English II paper.  However, they would not base their decisions entirely on it.

BCSEA’s initial investigation found that nine students of a school in Paro had access to the whole question paper set on the eve of the examination and were the primary source of the leak.  Others received a few questions much later that night or just before sitting for the examination the next day.

The students, who were responsible for leaking the questions, would be barred from appearing examinations for the next five years, according to examination rules and regulations for malpractice.

Officials said since students got parts of the question not long before the examination, could mean that they had very little time to prepare.

The board ruled out re-examination because of financial implications for students and parents, logistical and physical difficulties both for the government and the students, difficulty in accessing study materials and cause delay in admission to colleges and for scholarships, among others.

“Above all, there’s no guarantee that all students would be present at the re-examination,” a BCSEA official said.

As the evaluation of the paper has been delayed, the declaration of the results would also be delayed by a week, according to officials.

“So, the results would be declared along with class X results,” the official said.

The prime minister recently at the meet the press session said the government would trace every student, teacher or government official involved in leaking the class XII English II paper and penalise them.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay had said that, regardless of the decision the BCSEA board takes, the government is determined to find out the person responsible for distributing the questions. “Otherwise the credibility of our examination system is at stake.”

The government would also support the board’s decision as long as the decision was well considered.

Meanwhile, BCSEA is also asked to complete the investigation at the earliest possible and establish measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“We’ve done what we could within the mandate of our organisation and have sought further help from relevant agencies in the investigation,” BCSEA official said. “They’ve been supportive.”

Right after the English II paper examination was over, the last paper last year on December 13, word went around of the paper being leaked and the council received a report through the supervisor of Drukgyel HSS, Paro.

The Council’s investigation began immediately.  It covered Paro, Thimphu, Chukha, Bumthang, and Samdrupjongkhar before confirming the leak on December 19.

About 11,000 students appeared the class XII board examinations last year.

By Tshering Palden

Housing allowance to be paid in full

The decision was prompted mainly by the plight of those availing institutional quarters

HRA: The Cabinet last week approved the decision to pay full 20 percent house rent allowance to civil servants starting July 2015.

Finance minister Namgay Dorji said the decision couldn’t be implemented sooner because it was not budgeted for this fiscal year. “It’s costing us an additional Nu 85M annually, that’s why it will be effective from July this year,” lyonpo said.

This means civil servants, especially those occupying institutional houses, will be paid the difference that’s left from the housing allowance after paying their house rents.

The government started reviewing the 20 percent house rent allowance last August, following anomalies that arose in its implementation a month after the allowances and benefits for civil and public servants came into effect.

One of the conditions the finance ministry had set was that civil servants mandated to stay in institutional houses would not be eligible for the house rent allowance.  However, this did not go down well with school principals, because no matter how poor their housing may be, they are by policy mandated to stay in institutional houses in the campus.

With most school principals being senior and their 20 percent housing allowance being quite substantial, they had raised that it was unfair to deduct the whole allowance when their houses were not even worth Nu 1,000.

“The earlier decision affected teachers and principals in remote parts of the country and, with this, there may be pressure on government housing,” lyonpo said.

“But we had to take a decision and we hope it’ll encourage teachers and principals to stay in the campus.”

While the impact on government housing is yet to be seen, the decision has addressed the grievances that school principals from remote parts of the country had raised.

On August 7 last year, Mongar dzongda had submitted to the finance minister an appeal from school principals in the dzongkhag to review the payment of house rent allowance.

Mongar schools’ principals had stated that the principal quarters in remote schools weren’t decent enough to compensate the amount of allowance they were entitled to and had suggested refunding the balance housing allowance, after deducting the carpet area rent of the quarters they were occupying.

“We’d request you to accord approval to reimburse the balance amount, as this would avoid teachers from moving out from the existing teachers’ quarters,” the appeal had stated.

Trongsa and Lhuentse dzongdas also raised this issue at the dzongda’s conference.  They said teachers have informed them that they wouldn’t mind moving out of their quarters on campus to live in huts nearby.

Finance ministry’s joint secretary, Nim Dorji, had earlier said that the main contention with the housing allowance was that civil servants, especially principals and teachers, and those staying in institutional housing, felt that the supposed surplus of 20 percent housing allowance be paid to them.

According to finance ministry officials, the review took time because they had to study more than 2,000 government housing rents, for which were based on rates fixed in 2000, even though the market rates were different.

By Sonam Pelden

PM calls on Indian President

PresidentVisit: Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay calls on the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday in New Delhi, India

Visit: Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay, on his first day in Delhi called on the President, Vice President and met the Indian Foreign secretary, Minister of External Affairs and the minister of Power yesterday.

President of India, Pranab Mukherjee welcomed Lyonchhoen and said Lyonchhoen’s speech at the Vibrant Gujarat event has made a positive impact in India.

The President also mentioned about PM Modi’s visit to Bhutan shortly after the elections and recalled most fondly, his recent visit to Bhutan. Lyonchhoen informed the President about the close economic cooperation between India and Bhutan.

Lyonchhoen also paid a courtesy visit to the Vice President of India, Mohammed Hamid Ansari. They discussed the relation that Bhutan and India shared.

“No two countries in the world have such good relations like Bhutan and India,” the Vice President said.

Discussions were also held on democracy and the progress of the 11th Plan.

In the morning, Foreign Secretary of India, Sujatha Singh called on Lyonchhoen. Lyonchhoen thanked the government of India for their support in Bhutan’s development.

They agreed to work towards realising the target of producing 10,000MW of electricity by 2020 and also discussed the issue of recent communal violence in Assam and on improving border security.

After that, the External Affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj called on Lyonchhoen.  They discussed Indo-Bhutan relations and the sub-regional cooperation between Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan. The discussions also touched on building economic and security cooperation.

Towards the after noon, the Minister of Power, Piyush Goyal, called on Lyonchhoen. Lyonchhoen thanked the power minister for India’s longstanding support in the hydropower industry. The minister assured that India’s willingness to continue supporting the hydropower sector in Bhutan.

“This is the beginning of a big friendship,” he said.

They also discussed other alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar.

Lyonchhoen then met with members of the India Bhutan Friendship Association and in the evening, Lyonchhoen also met with the Ambassador of European Union to Bhutan.

By Tshering Wangdi, Delhi

Murdered man at Central Plaza identified

The body of an earlier hit and run victim in Paro though is yet to be claimed 

Crime: The man, who was found murdered at the Central Plaza building in Lungtenphu, Thimphu, was identified as Tshewang, 29, from Paga goenpa in Chapcha,  after relatives came to identify the body yesterday evening.

According to police, the body was handed over to relatives around 6pm yesterday.  The man, whose parents had divorced, was unemployed and lived with his relatives in Thimphu.

As of yesterday evening, a search was still on for the suspects and the occupant of the flat in the attic from where the body was thrown off. “The case is under investigation and we’re doing the best we can,” a police official said.

A relative of the victim, who claimed the body yesterday, said he knew of the murder through the deceased’s younger brother.  Police contacted the younger brother, who left his mobile number with police, when the deceased was detained earlier in connection with a drug abuse case.

“The deceased’s parents were divorced a long time ago and his mother died a few years ago,” the relative said. “We don’t know if the deceased knew the suspect.”

The relative said that, although he lived in Thimphu with his relatives, he kept shifting from one relative’s place to another, making it difficult for them to keep track of him.

The man was found dead in a pool of blood on January 13 around 7.30am at the entrance of the five-storied Central Plaza building.  The building sweeper discovered the body when he went to switch off the lights in the morning.  The sweeper informed the building owner immediately, after which police were informed.

Calling it a clear case of homicide, police said the murder had taken place in one of the flats in the attic, after which it was dragged to the balcony and thrown off.   The occupant of the flat has been missing since then.

The owner of Central Plaza building said the apartment was rented out to a person, who owns a shop in town, but his brother used to live there.  Most flats in the building are occupied as shops, while some flats on the top floor are rented out as low-budget apartments to couples and bachelors.

Health officials said the murder could have happened around midnight.  The body had multiple fractures and a wound on the head.  He had also suffered two massive fractures on the left leg.   The house was stained with blood, and officials found stained broken bricks in the house.

Meanwhile, a man in his 50s, who died on impact after being hit by a Maruti Alto car at Changdungka, opposite Paro International Airport last week, is yet to be identified.

The body has been kept at the mortuary of Paro hospital since January 8.  According to Paro police, the man was wearing a mathra gho at the time of his death.  He was 5.8” tall, well-built with grey hair and moustache.

Police has issued a notification requesting family and relatives to claim the body within three days failing which the body would be “disposed off.”

Police said the driver has been detained and that the driver was under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred.

By Kinga Dema

BCSEA must regain public trust

Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) will not reconduct BHSEC-XII English II examination. That is one of the greatest shockers the nation got in recent memory as BCSEA issued a communiqué to the media houses yesterday. The board has decided to evaluate English II paper and award the marks accordingly.

What to make of this decision from a highly regarded office, we do not know.

Authorities knew of the leakage of the paper on the very day of examination. That was one month and two days ago today. As it should, BCSEA launched an investigation immediately. But its decision to base the validity of English exam result on English I marks was plain senseless and unfair. Public reaction was strong.

After all these events and many moons later, the BCSEA board met for the second time on January 7. But the decision that the board arrived that day, to evaluate English II paper and award marks accordingly, is equally devoid of sense and meaning.

Those responsible for the leakage of the paper should be penalised, severely, of course. What is immensely wonderful is that BCSEA hasn’t yet got to the person who did it when it could get to the first person who sent the first text message on the phone.

BCSEA may have reasons for taking so long to decide on what to do and who to hold responsible. But that is not acceptable to thousands of students and parents who demand fairness in the truest sense of the term. Why is there such a thing as exam if anyone can leak papers and those who do not get the questions beforehand should settle for what marks are given to them?

One full month is a long time. BCSEA must settle on a decision that is fair to all who sat Class XII examinations last year.  It should make sure that there is fairness in all its decisions and actions. Where we have a problem today is in the sherig sector. Let the people not lose faith in the system that holds the pulse of all other sectors.

This is not the first time. Papers have leaked in the past. Whatever happened to those who leaked the papers, who knows? What we urgently need today is stringent measures and mechanisms so that such incidents do not occur in the future.

From whoever and wherever `the directives came from, to base the validity of English I marks for English II, there is a need to achieve complete fairness.

This is the time for the authorities to prove what they are worth. Do not ever undermine people’s intelligence and hard work. This is the time for the authorities to regain public trust.

Bolstering communication machinery

DSC_7333National Assembly Speaker Jigme Zangpo launches the strategic plan 2014-2018 yesterday

Website: The National Assembly (NA) yesterday launched a bilingual website that will now allow the people to watch the Parliament sessions live on the site.

Jigme Zangpo, the Speaker, said that it is important to have such a website for better public service delivery and to have strong government.

The website has a platform where people can share their opinions and leave feedback.

The speaker said that the new website will strengthen democracy as people can share their thoughts.

“It would also help government officials to share their feedback and thoughts. It will help maintain transparency and accountability,” said the Speaker. “We want to make our Parliament competent.”

UN Resident Representative, Ms Christina Carlson, said the strategic plan 2014-2018 will guide NA for the next four years in its endeavours to promote and deepen democracy.

“The parliament’s website offers a space to make Bhutan’s democracy inclusive and vibrant through improving people’s participation in democratic discourse,” said Ms Carlson. “We look forward to following the discussions taking place between members of Parliament and their constituents in the online forum, as well as on other digital platforms such as SMS and intranet.”

NA secretariat can also inform MPs through SMS on the site for meetings and special gatherings.

The website was designed to bolster the communication machinery of the NA and in both Dzongkha and English languages, which is first of its kind among government agencies besides Dzongkha Development Commission.

The National Council’s (NC) website, which will be launched soon, will also be accessible by using the same URL: www.parliament.bt.

The first strategic objective of the plan is to strengthen the institutional capacity of the NA Secretariat, which will be followed by improving the legislative capacity of NC.

The third strategic objective is to enhance the oversight capacity of the NA and finally the NA’s representation and outreach capacity.

Both the website and the Strategic Development Plan were developed with financial support from the UNDP.

By Tashi Tenzin

Students display photography skills

Training: After attending a weeklong photography workshop, Jigme Wangmo, 15, studying in Jampeling higher secondary school in Trashigang, claims that she knows how to take good photographs.

When the workshop began, Jigme Wangmo was handed a sophisticated Canon DSLR camera.  She didn’t know how to start it, let alone operate it.

Today, she can take photographs that are as good as those taken by professionals.  Her works were displayed at the Royal Society for Protection of Nature’s hall, along with 20 other participants of the workshop, yesterday.

I realised I loved taking portraits of dogs and nuns, when we visited different places during the workshop, Jigme Wangmo said.

“I learnt how to take good pictures but, at the same time, learnt the importance of telling a story through a picture,” she said.

Jigme Wangmo plans to teach her friends when school restarts.

Tutor and organiser of the workshop, Fredric Roberts, 72, said taking professional photographs was not the only thing they taught during the workshop.

“It was important that students learnt how to be patient and observe all the little things in life happening around them,” Fredric Roberts said. “It was the life changing experience we wanted to give to these students, which I’m sure they’ll cherish for life.”

Fredric Roberts is a former Wall Street investment banker turned photographer.  Six renowned photographers, based in New York, California, Hong Kong and Nepal, assisted him during the workshop.  They are volunteers and teach in different countries.

I am proud of them and they have proved that they are sponges for knowledge, Fredric Roberts said. “These kids are smart and sensitive, and it was shown in their pictures.”

While another tutor, Arthur Ollman, said the students now know how to appreciate and be impressed by all the small things, such as dew droplets and texture of the tree barks.

“They now have a different perspective on everything they see, which is really valuable and such creative thinking can be the solution for problems in the future,” Arthur Ollman said. “They’re now uncovering and seeing thing differently, which were already there.”

Arthur Ollman has been a photographer for more than five decades and is currently the director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.

Impressed by their works, Bhutan Nuns’ Foundation’s Ani Namgyel Lhamo decided to join the next workshop, which will be conducted next year.

“I’m really inspired by their works and I’m bringing along other nuns for the workshop as well,” Ani Namgyel Lhamo said.

Fredric Roberts and his team are travelling worldwide teaching youth the power of expression through photography.  This is the second similar workshop they are conducting in the capital this year.

Fredric Roberts and his team also left behind two sophisticated cameras so that the students can continue learning photography.

About 20 students participated in the workshop and half of them were from rural areas.

The workshop was conducted in partnership with the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy and Bhutan Foundation with support from Bhutan Airlines.

By Thinley Zangmo

Lauri’s long wait for electricity soon to be over

DSC_6078Villagers of Doongmanma contribute labour by carrying electricity poles to their village

Power: With almost 90 percent of the work completed, Bhutan Power corporation (BPC) expects to electrify Lauri, Samdrupjongkhar’s most remote gewog, by mid this year.

Divided in two packages, work on the much-awaited rural electrification  (RE) project began in 2012 and was supposed to complete by June 2013.

But monsoon and its remote location hindered the installations of trunk line and, the electrification was delayed.

However, BPC is now left to erect a few transformers, wire and charge the system, which is expected to complete by February end.  The RE would benefit about 543 households.

BPC’s RECD deputy manager, based in Samdrupcholing, Choney, said once the work completes, only then electricity would be passed after safety awareness is created among the people.

“We’re hoping and quite sure that we’d complete testing of transformers by the end of this month and then complete the entire work by February,” he said. “Almost 85 transformers have been installed.”

However, he said, it would be possible to provide electricity only if people have already installed wirings in their homes.  To date, only 30 percent of the households have connected wires with the meter box.

“Otherwise, the transformer would remain idle,” he said. “The villagers should install the wirings inside the house on their own expense.”

He said they have already informed the villagers to start installing. “If one household has wiring and the rest 12 households don’t, then it will be time consuming and expensive to pass electricity from one transformer.”

The electricity would be passed from the Kurichu power station via Dewathang power station, which will pass from Samdrupcholing, Pemathang and Serthi gewogs.

Meanwhile, Minjiwoong village in Serthi gewog has already been electrified, while the rest of the villages would be connected after the safety awareness.

Villagers said they would now be able to use electric appliances and light their homes at night so that their children could study at night.  They said it would also cut down the use of firewood and save trees.

Thirty-two-year-old Pema Tenzin from Doongmanma said he had already installed the wires and was eagerly waiting for the connection.

“Many of us have already bought rice cookers and water boilers,” he said. “We’ve worked hard carrying the poles so that we could get electricity, but it took longer than we expected.”

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar