Bhutan's Queens, Denmark And Refugees [ 2006-12-8 ]
By Hariprasad Adhikari
It is a well-known fact that the so-called constitutional reforms, such as writing of the constitution by the king, appointment of the chief election commissioner and other members of the commission, demarcation of the constituency of the lower house (National Assembly) and the registration of the voters from all the constituencies, are going on in Bhutan. In order to make the king's democracy successful, electronic machines were purchased and tentative dates for the so-called first general election were declared to be held in sometime in 2008.
Similarly, the National Assembly buildings for the upper and lower houses and a hostel for the members of parliament for both the houses are being constructed. Furthermore, the wide office and accommodation for the chief justice of the Supreme Court (who will stage-manage all the executive, judiciary and legislative activities of the king's democracy) are being erected. The expenditure for the so-called constitutional and judicial reforms, except for the construction of the parliament house and MP's hostel, are being borne by the countries of the European Union such as Denmark, the Netherlands and the like.
Interestingly, the countries of the European Union are also the pilots who generously provided relief materials and scholarships to the Bhutanese refugees and selflessly helped to advocate their cause everywhere at world forums. The ambassadors of the EU countries based in Kathmandu visited the refugee camps frequently since their establishment in the 1990s. Also, the EU generously passed a resolution in their parliaments indicating the main defects in the Bhutanese citizenship laws of 1985, which resulted in ethnic cleansing in Bhutan.
The EU nations are well aware that the allegations made by the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) that the "people in the camps are not genuine Bhutanese"is completely hollow and baseless. They know very well that the people in the camps have genuine documents and evidence to prove they are bonafide Bhutanese. For updates, the EU conducted several surveys through researchers in their universities. Moreover, the result of the first verification process carried out by the joint verification team of Bhutan and Nepal of Khudunabari (one of the Bhutanese refugee camps) helped them to understand the issue clearly.
Furthermore, Denmark during a round table meeting had firmly said that if the regime of Bhutan does not accept the demand of democratic reform, then it will be very difficult for Denmark to continue with its aid because the voters and taxpayers of the country do not allow help to non-democratic governments. Surprisingly, the Government of Bhutan is not only undemocratic, it is racist and dictatorial in nature and is run by the relatives and inmates of the king.
Be this as it may, Queen Ashi Dorjee Wangmo Wangchuk (actually the key player of King Jigme Singye's regime) was invited by the Queen of Denmark on an official visit. Queen Wangchuk is not only the queen, but the chairperson of the non-governmental organisation, Tarayana Foundation. It is likely that the foundation is funded by Denmark for the betterment of human beings irrespective of caste, creed and race. Therefore, it is possible that both the queens of Bhutan and Denmark might have discussed the matter relating to the Bhutanese refugees in the seven camps of Eastern Nepal, who have been suffering immensely due to the discriminatory policy of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The queens might have realised the efforts of many civilised countries of the West to repatriate the refugees to their homes.
Though it may sound very hypothetical, there is an incredible chance that the queens of Bhutan need some big platform to keep themselves alive politically in the country because the present privileges of the three queens (out of the four ) will begin to erode after 2008 when the fifth king of Bhutan will ascend the throne if the scheduled coronation is not withdrawn by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk.
Therefore, what is the harm if Ashi Dorjee Wangmo Wangchuk and her sisters rush in democratic politics? Why should she not be suggested to take confidence-building measures (CBM) to correct the wrong deeds carried out during the period of ethnic cleansing? Why not suggest her to relocate the people who have been settled on the land of the refugees in southern Bhutan and declare fair compensation to all those affected by the ongoing ethnic cleansing?
She can encourage the king to declare unconditional clemency to all and have all those Bhutanese who had been given citizenship identity cards in 1981-84 to be repatriated. She can ask the king to honour the Sukumbasi list prepared jointly by Dasho Stewang Penjore, Dasho Angay, Khandu Wangchuck, the present prime minister, and the screened list of the sukumbasis by Trimpons or Dragpons (Judges) Dasho R. N. Dhital and Dasho Pashang Tobge. She can keep the draft constitution as an interim constitution and arrange to accommodate the dissident voices and their presence in the making of a final constitution.
It is hard to understood how the proposed elections can be free and fair when 19 per cent of the total population, containing most of the ethnic groups, are not included or not allowed to get registered in the voters' list. Why have not the political parties formed in exile not been invited to be registered in the so-called first general election? Therefore, the need of the hour is to make arrangements to register the refugee population in the voters' list in the refugee camps if early repatriation is not possible.
There are plenty of examples of registering people in the refugees camps such as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only were they registered, they were also allowed to vote from the camps. For this, the aegis of the United Nations could be explored. Otherwise, the so-called general election of Bhutan will be nothing but a well-known tactic of the RGOB, which has orchestrated one plot after another for more than a decade, to hoodwink or betray the well-wishers of the world as well as the citizens of Bhutan.
(Adhikari is a former National Assembly member of Bhutan)