In what is perhaps the first time in Bhutanese politics, a serving minister stepped down and resigned from Parliament yesterday. Former Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen has resigned voluntarily after two years, five months and 29 days as an elected representative.
Beyond an emotional resignation for the party supporters and those who know Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen, it is about accountability. Conscience. It sets a precedent.
This is not the first time a Cabinet member has been involved in a court case. But this is the first time a sitting minister has resigned because of a case in the court.
It is perhaps a coincidence that all the three governments Bhutan has had since the introduction of democracy a minister was embroiled in a criminal case. Despite a pending case, Druk Phuensum’s home minister completed his term, the People’s Democratic Party’s first foreign minister was removed from the Cabinet. All of the three ministers were charged for something that they had done much before they joined politics.
Every year, many are implicated for embezzling state funds and abusing their authority. Given the trend, if we put 10 civil servants or for that matter 10 business individuals in a room and ask honestly whether they were corrupt-less, the answer would be no. The problem is many indulge in corrupt acts unconsciously.
The average Bhutanese person is chhoesemchen, sympathetic towards someone’s misery, and thus, vulnerable to what is being called ‘small corruption’ to save a friend, a friend’s friend or a neighbour’s friend from trouble with the law. That tendency, strongly entrenched in our system, has led to the rampant practice today of adjustments in bills, claims, and benefits.
It is akin to smearing doma lime on electric poles and walls of buildings, hitting a nearby bush when you need to take a leak or removing the facemask when de-suups are not around. It is so Bhutanese.
The Anti-Corruption Commission and audit authority will only do so much unless each individual comes to their aid or better still watch one’s actions in line with the Bhutanese values of thadamtshi and leyjudrey.
It’ll be difficult to unlearn such a habit. But we must do what is necessary. There is no dearth of reminders and guidance. His Majesty The King had said, “Corruption is unambiguous- there is no great or small corruption. And no one can be above the law.”
We have to instil this noble thought in ourselves to be called a Bhutanese in the truest sense.