The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, January 8, 2007

Non-nationals, must not be repatriated to Bhutan- Druk national congress

Refugee organisation opposes Bhutanese CEC remarks

A refugee organisation has opposed the recent remarks of the newly appointed chief election commissioner of Bhutan at the National Assembly session regarding the Election Bill.

In a statement on Monday, Druk National Congress led by Rongthong Kuenley quoted the chief election commissioner Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi as saying that the Elections Bill was distributed to the assembly members for information and awareness in preparation for the elections in 2008, and not for discussion. Wangdi also said the draft constitution has already been endorsed by the people.

"The discussion on the draft Election Bill in the National Assembly presented a clear picture of the Bhutanese Election Commissioner's mindset and the acute need to cultivate a democratic culture and to embrace democratic ways of functioning," the party said.

According to online version of the government mouthpiece Kuensel, the education criteria for parliament membership had sparked hot debates in the assembly session with some members strongly objecting the provisions.

"The Druk National Congress demands an explanation from the Election Commissioner as to how he concluded that the people of Bhutan have already endorsed the draft Constitution? So far, the people of Bhutan and observers of the changing political scenario in Bhutan have only seen "meetings" on the draft Constitution being held in 20 districts by the fourth King, and the fifth King when he was Crown Prince," Kuenley said.

The party has also condemned the provision of minimum graduate certificate to be eligible to contest for parliament membership in the first election scheduled for 2008. The bill drafted by the commission states that person not acquiring graduate degree would not be allowed to contest in the election. According to government statistics, the total graduates by 2008 would cross 16,000.

"Democratic governance is only possible with the participation of the entire spectrum of society – citizens from all walks of life – from every race, culture and background, who are represented in the Parliament by candidates of their own free choice, the party said adding, "And every Bhutanese citizen of voting age should be eligible to contest the elections. Even members of the Royal Family, civil servants, army personnel, Trulkus and members of the clergy should be eligible to offer their candidacy provided they resigned from their current post."

The party has also called on the Bhutanese government to initiate process for solving the refugees issue saying the offer of the EU, the US and other international organisations marked change in atmosphere and both the governments of Bhutan and Nepal must grasped this opportunity to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

"The Druk National Congress agrees that non-nationals, if any, must not be mistakenly repatriated to Bhutan, at the cost of genuine Bhutanese refugees. The Bhutanese Government must know that it has a moral duty and a responsibility to accept its citizens back to Bhutan. The refugee issue needs to be resolved at some point of time for it cannot wash its hands off it easily, because the people in the camps are internationally acknowledged as Bhutanese refugees," the statement by the party said further. ia Jan 08 07

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