Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Despots Are At It, Yet Again!

The progenitors of Bhutan’s democracy are surely shedding tears of anguish at the way our democracy is shaping out. Now the Election Commission has willed that the political parties and their candidates do not have to go for door-to-door campaign during the election period.

I wonder if that is a round-about way of suggesting that the electorate should instead go to the doorsteps of the political party candidates to listen to their campaign, which is an absolute and essential part of the election process?

Jokes aside, I had suggested early this year that “Elections Can Wait” - that we should consider deferring the 4th elections to a more suitable time when we have recovered from the ongoing crisis inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I mean how many Bhutanese - the residual population after the exodus to Australia - have the inclination, or the resources, to spend money behind a trip to their village homes to cast their votes?

It is a pity that the Election Commission has thought up everything else that is anti-democracy but not that which should help the country see a robust turnout during the elections. The least the Election Commission could have done is - made it possible for voters to be able to vote from the places where they are currently domiciled - instead of having to travel long distances to cast their votes. They should have allowed Postal Ballot - for the Bhutanese diaspora. These cost-effective measures would have assured good turnout during the elections.

But frankly, why do I get this sneaky feeling that it is precisely what the Election Commission is aspiring for: poor participation by the Bhutanese citizens!

Saturday, August 26, 2023

You Found The Donkey - Now Find The Load

The KUELSEL reports in their today's newspaper that the DrukAir has established an interline arrangement with the Turkish Airlines, with the stated objective of handling passengers and their baggage.

The meaningless alliance

How nice!! Now only thing that remains to be seen is - from where will the passengers and baggage come? The answer is obvious:


Without doubt the DrukAir’s next stop in their quest for better management of passengers and baggage should be - Jaigaon. Because, given the RGoB’s enabling policies, coupled with the DrukAir's exorbitant ticket costs, the tourism operators in Jaigaon currently hold complete monopoly - total cast-iron grip over Bhutan's tourism business - atleast from Bhutan's highest potential tourism market - INDIA.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

That The People Shall Be Amused

Once in a while there appears reports in the media that can amuse and entertain the readers - but most often it is clear that people fail to see the real implications of what they are saying or doing. Beginning from this post, I would like to attempt to record all such reports in the media, for posterity’s sake.

I believe that the following two deserves the place of honor for this maiden post on the not-so-funny guffaws.

One talks of our close to a century of aspirations for 100% organic farming - but what is quixotic is that the report actually names a number of government agencies charged with the responsibility of importing and distributing chemicals - to help the farmers achieve our national aspirations.

The other credits the Bhutanese electorate as being mature enough to decide which of the political party is likely to serve the country better - and yet he welcomes the decision of the ECB to oversee and endorse the political parties’ manifestos, through a committee to be appointed by them. It appears that the contributor misses out on the obvious - the ECB’s deliberate message to the Bhutanese electorate - that they will decide what color and shade of democracy we can have.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Cath Lab Services at the JDWNRH

Sitting across the table facing a couple of dignified Europeans, and thanking profusely for their planned project for the people of Bhutan - I was a little unnerved to be discussing something about which I was, well and truly, clueless! But a man has gotta do what he has gotta do - and this day I needed to sound positive and competent - not necessarily knowledgeable - to handle what was being planned and proposed. As the incumbent Club Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu, my principal role was to discuss, finalize and implement all Club projects, on behalf of the Rotary Club of Thimphu.

Sitting at the restaurant of the Hotel Tashi Yoedling above the Memorial Chorten, it was July of 2019. Details were being discussed - on how best to frame the proposal for a US$99,000.00 Global Grant Project, to The Rotary Foundation (TRF) - for the establishment of a Cardiac Catheterization Lab Service (Cath Lab) at the JDWNRH, Thimphu.

At the opposite end of the table were the representatives of the principal donors and proponents from Germany and Denmark - Dr. Med Wolfang Pfeiffer, Bhutan’s Consul General in Germany, Dr. Christian Wolpert, Medical Director and Professor Sam Riahi, Chief Consultant, MD, Phd., FESC, both from Aalborg University Hospital, and Member of the Rotary Club of Nibe, Denmark. They were the ones with the deep pocket - I was the one with the knowhow and the skills to put flesh to the bones.

Five years later, yesterday the 18th of August 2023 - once again at the same hotel restaurant - I sat seeping Lemon-Honey tea - opposite the same persons - Dr. Wolfang and Professor Sam, with whom we started the journey of the project that finally culminated in the successful installation of the Cath Lab at the JDWNRH. The project that was conceived and set into motion five years ago was finally a reality - it was handed over to the JDWNRH authorities on 14th of August 2023. Although I am no more a part of the Club, the international partners to the project wanted to meet me and thank me for spearheading the project during its initial phase - five years back.

I presented to Dr. Wolfang and Dr. Sam a signed copy each of my book titled "BHUTAN BIRDS" - as my private and personal appreciation to the international project team members for their tireless work for the past five years that this project took to materialize.

In between exchanging pleasantries, Professor Sam proudly shows off to me a photograph where he and Dr. Pfeiffer are seen posing with His Majesty the King of Bhutan. He tells me, gleaming with pride, that His Majesty had granted them an audience!!

He did not need me to tell him what an extremely rare privilege and honor it was for him and Dr. Wolfang. He knew it! Even beyond that, I told him that it was an acknowledgement at the highest level - both for his Club and other partnering Rotary Clubs in Europe, as well as the Rotary Club of Thimphu. It is proof, if any were needed, that the project has been recognized at the highest level. There can be no better endorsement of the value of the project. All those connected with the project should derive a sense of pride and achievement.

The Royal Government of Bhutan, it appears, also sees value in the project. Yesterday, the Hon'ble Prime Minister seems to have suitably impressed the international team during a lunch to which they were invited - with his clarity of thought and purpose.

As for me, I am touched, and thankful, that I am remembered during this moment of success and achievement - that too by the international partners, NO LESS!

As was already agreed during our initial discussion in 2019, the Cath Lab project will continue with the Phase II of the planned three phases. The IInd Phase will focus on the soft component - strengthening the HR competence at the JDWNRH. With my very best wishes, I offered them my suggestions as to how to make the IInd Phase even more meaningful and enduring. As in the words of Dr. Wolfang - the main bole of the tree is now firmly entrenched into the ground - it must now be cared for and tended to, so that it can support a profuse of branches and leaves - to benefit the people of Bhutan for many generations to come.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Shining Example Of Democracy At Work

Bhutan probably qualifies as one of the world's youngest democracies - we began our democratic journey only in the year 2008. This means that since the democratic form of governance was first conceived in 508 BC in ancient Athens, we have more that 2,500 years of past successes and failures of the democratic cultures, systems and processes, to learn from.

It is a shame that there is no indication that we have learnt even a day’s lesson - in our past fifteen years of dabbling in what we gratefully accept is a ---- Gift from the Golden Throne.

For proof, read the following shamefully undemocratic announcement by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) - supposedly the sole custodian of all that is fair and good in a democracy.

No political parties or candidates may make any pledges unless they have been approved and sanctioned by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).

According to the above announcement, the Election Commission has elected themselves as both judge and jury - they made it clear that THEY WILL DECIDE - not the political parties - nor the electorate - what is good and acceptable. The Election Commission, in other words, is making it clear that they have the mandate to decide what is a good manifesto and what is not. In other words, the Election Commission has the moral authority to govern, not regulate, the political parties and the electorate.

In other words, they are saying that the electorate and the political parties have no independent role in the country's democratic process.

If this is how democracy is to function in this country, why don’t the Election Commission draw up five sets of manifestos and hand them each to the five political parties to pronounce to their electorate? Where is the need for the leaders of the political parties to break their heads to design, what they believe, are the most progressive and useful manifestos?

It is so terribly disheartening that an authority charged with the responsibility of assuring a vibrant democracy in the country should choose to behave in this most undemocratic manner. And from all signs, we are going to have to allow it.

There was a time when I used to take great pride in being known as one belonging to a country called BHUTAN. Years back, when I was invited to Hong Kong to attend a marriage party, I wore my Gho to the event - to show to the gathering of the very best from around the world that I am Bhutanese, and proud to be one. I was thrilled to be the center of attention in that star spangled gathering.

At the age of 28 I was elected to be the President of the Working Group of 19 nations during a UN/ILO international gathering. There was a sense of achievement, a sense of pride of belonging. Today I stutter and stammer - when I have no choice but admit that I am from …. Oh that country Bhutan!

We need to retrieve ourselves from this headlong plunge into the abyss of doom where we are surely headed. Each of us who claim to be Bhutanese must consider it a pride, a duty - to strive to contribute a verse, even a single word - towards achieving that end.

Remember, NO ONE WILL DO IT for us.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

For The Lack Of An Alphabet

Dear Wolfgang,

Thank you for your mail.

Yes, I have been pointing out that our “Ngueltam/Chaetam” are incorrectly spelt.

Earlier they used to be spelt correctly with the alphabet

as follows:

In due course they came to be wrongly spelt as follows:

So far the authorities have chosen to remain unimpressed by the mistakes.

It took me a long time to find out the provable cause for the mistakes. One learned Bhutanese scholar finally explained to me that the reason may have been as a consequence of the introduction of the mechanical Dzongkha typewriters in the 1970s. He explained to me that the alphabet

was missing in the mechanical typewriters’ keyboard layout. Thus, people were forced to substitute the alphabet with the word

He tells me that even he did so in his literature writings using the Dzongkha typewriter.

Regarding the expression “Tam”, “Trum” and “Tang” … I choose to spell it “Tang” because, as you know, our metal coins have their origins in the Koch Narayani who designated their coins “Tanka”, derived from the Sanskrit, meaning money.

The term “Tam” used by Tibetans …. No one has been able to explain to me convincingly what the word stands for. Thus, until I find an acceptable explanation for the other terms, I will continue to use the term “Tang”. I do not find it necessary that we should adopt the word just because the Tibetans did it - not unless there is some basis for doing so.

Sadly, Ngueltang and Chaetang that are applied to describe our modern coins and paper money are also totally wrong.

Our paper currency “Ngueltang” means = Silver Coin ---- when it is neither silver nor coin.

Our coins that came to be called "Chaetang" means = Half coin …. It is not half but a full coin.

In my next life I will choose to be reborn as the Governor of the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan ….. then hopefully I will have the authority to make amends 😜