The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) yesterday lodged an official complaint against former National Council chairperson, Dasho Sonam Kinga (PhD) with the office of the media arbitrator for his August 31 post on Facebook about the 2008 elections.
DPT’s general secretary, Sangay Phurpa, lodged the complaint as required by rule 9 of the election dispute settlement rules and regulations. The complaint states the case of controversy as, “derogatory post by Dasho Dr Sonam Kinga during election period after repeated notification from Election Commission of Bhutan.” The post, DPT states, “violates the election notification and regulation and it contains a story with presumable intention to demonise the party.”
According to DPT, the legal provisions of the electoral laws, which have been breached and is the ground of complaint is Section 4.4 of the Election Social Media Rules and Regulations.
Section 4.4 of the social media rules and regulations states, “no individual shall communicate/transmit/post hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or political party.”
Rule 9 of the election dispute settlement rules and regulations deals with election complaints and states that an election complaint related to performance of newspapers, radio, television stations and Social Media shall be directly lodged to the Media Arbitrator.
On August 31 morning, Dasho Sonam Kinga posted on his Facebook page saying that he has finished his book “Political Contests as Moral Battles” A perspective on Bhutan’s democratic transition about 2008 elections. He said the book is partially based on his Ph.D dissertation (2010) and hopes to publish it in December this year.
“I am sharing today a summary of the book for those of you who are interested to know what it is about. It is about how DPT won and lost elections and many more things related to pre and post 2008 elections!”
That evening, DPT president Pema Gyamtsho wrote on his Facebook page saying he would not respond to Dasho Sonam Kinga’s post on his book demonising DPT, “for the simple reason that I respect the authority and wisdom of the Election Commission of Bhutan to deal with him as per the rules they have issued and are being aired on BBS repeatedly. Neither me, nor my party, will be dragged into a controversy that undermines the very fundamentals of our nation as a peaceful, united and harmonious one under a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy.”
Dasho Sonam Kinga did not respond to Kuensel’s call and message requesting for his views.
On September 1, Sangay Phurpa said DPT emailed a complaint letter to the election commissioner with copies to the head of election department and the media arbitrator. “We are deeply perturbed by Dasho Sonam Kinga’s post on his personal Facebook account. In the wake of the election campaigns and after ECB’s notification calling the general public to refrain from posting derogatory remarks against any political party/ candidate, this Facebook post of Dasho is totally uncalled for,” the letter states.
Sangay Phurpa said the party submitted the letter to inform ECB of the Facebook post and not to complain. “But they don’t entertain such letters and we were asked to submit it through a complaint form,” he said. “Our supporters were concerned and worried about the post and were asking us what the party was doing about it. And to inform the ECB, we have to fill up the complaint form.”
On DPT lodging the complaint after he said in his post that he wouldn’t respond to Dasho Sonam Kinga’s post, DPT president Pema Gyamtsho explained that he had meant not responding on Facebook. “But I mentioned that we will go by ECB’s procedures.”
DPT’s vice president Lily Wangchuk said that the former NC Chairperson’s commentary has come against ECB’s social media policy and Dasho Sonam Kinga chose a wrong time, the election period, to make such claims.
Lily Wangchuk said the party does not feel the need to justify against the former NC Chairperson’s post and that there is not much truth in what he has written. “We are clear in our conscience. Our loyalty and devotion towards the throne remain unquestioned,” she said, adding that no one could claim the monopoly of the loyalty to the throne.
The former NC Chairperson’s claims, she said, was a one-person perception targeted to the party as a whole and that it was an attempt to misinform the people.
She said that it was the responsibility of every Bhutanese to uphold unity and solidarity, which she said was country’s strength.
“Such posts would create political divisions and social disharmony in the country, especially at this election time. People should be allowed to vote freely without fear,” Lily Wangchuk said.
Election commission’s spokesperson and head of the election department Sonam Tobgyal said the commission’s dispute settlement body would review the complaint as per the established procedures and reach a logical conclusion.
The commission he said will hold hearings and inform the public of the dispute settlement body’s decision.
Sonam Tobgyal also said that since the election period began, the commission has not reported any social media posts to Facebook.
Media arbitrator Dr Chador Wangdi said they have received DPT’s complaint and will forward it to the commission’s dispute settlement body. With only four people in the headquarters of the media arbitrator’s office, he said, the office does not have the capacity and time to take up this case.
On September 1, the office of the media arbitrator issued a public notification on the use of social media during election period. The notification requests all to use the social media responsibly and refrain from posting or making derogatory remarks against any political party/ candidate and liking or sharing any of such posts of other users.
“If you do so, you may land up in trouble as Social Media Monitors both at the National and Dzongkhag levels are monitoring all forms of Social Media for such posts.”
Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa President Lotay Tshering said Dasho Sonam Kinga was the chairman of the National Council and a leader.
“I’m sure he’ll have a good reason for doing what he is doing because he is a very sensible man who is learned and an intellectual. The post he made will have no impact on DNT, positively or negatively,” the president said. “What he wrote was an abstract of his book. I’m eager to read from page one to the last and reread it. I’m going to read it three times. I’m waiting for this book to be published in the hope that this book would contain a lot of inside information, which we all are lacking.”
People’s Democratic Party’s media team said, “The case is with the ECB. We are confident that the ECB would review the case and take a decision. Until then, we would not comment on the issue.”
Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s presidents were unreachable for comments.