Recommends tightening security clearance procedures

Condemning the two recent incidents where a vice-principal was arrested for molesting and sexually assaulting nine girl students and an anesthesia technician for alleged rape of a patient attendant, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has asked the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to investigate, prosecute the case thoroughly and hand down the heaviest punishment. 

The prime minister has also asked OAG to relook into the security clearance guidelines. Lyonchhen added that no person who has been indicted for rape, sexual harassment and molestation, especially of a child or a minor, should be given security clearance for lifetime for any work.

“They should not be given the clearance whether they work with the government, corporation or private sectors that requires to come in contact with children,” Lyonchhen said. “They would receive clearance in accordance with the guidelines, but definitely not for work that comes in touch with children whether in school, hospital or ECCD.”

He said OAG should propose a lifetime ban of security clearance and tighten the clearance procedure as much as possible in addition to the sentences. 

The OAG would study and then submit the guidelines to the government and the cabinet. 

“In the court of law, we must argue to get the highest possible punishment to the accused,” Lyonchhen said. “I’ve also discussed this issue with the cabinet.”

The vice principal teaching at a private charity school in Bjemina, Thimphu was arrested on April 6 for allegedly molesting girls aged between 11 and15 years. He had allegedly attempted to rape a girl student last year. According to police records, the accused was convicted of illicit relationship with a minor in 2004 in Trashigang and has served a five-year term in prison.

The anesthesia technician was accused of raping a 28-year old patient attendant on April 5 at the national referral hospital after injecting her with Fentanyl.

The Prime Minister visited the school in Bjemina and met students, staff and the alleged rape victim. He said that he would assure full support to all the victims. 

The relevant authorities, Lyonchhen said, must not limit the investigation to these particular cases at hand, but should go beyond because the incident has occurred in a hospital and a school. 

“It is about the safety of our students that is at stake, which we cannot compromise. On the other hand, it is the reputation of our teachers where thousands of teachers are working day and night,” the prime minister said. “This is not good because it is just one or two teachers who undermine the reputation of all the teachers.”

He added teachers who are perpetrators must be held fully accountable to the fullest for students’, society’s and other teachers’ sake. 

The prime minister has also instructed NCWC to look into the need and possibility of hiring their own lawyers, who are expert on issues related to all forms of laws, policies and regulations on women and children in consultation with the OAG. 

“Right now police would investigate, the OAG would try their best to prosecute, and then may be the dzongkhag court would pass the judgment that may appear actually acceptable and nobody appeals,” Lyonchhen said. “But if NCWC, the women and victims feel that punishment is too light, then having their own lawyer would empower NCWC to be able to prosecute their own cases.”

The prime minister said they would also look into measures like stationing counsellors in all the schools, although it will take time to place trained ones. 

Meanwhile, the prime minister said they would wait for the police to complete the investigation of a recent case where a male school principal, a male teacher and a female sweeper of Sertena primary school in Haa were detained for allegedly throwing a newborn out of a hotel window on April 15 in Phuentsholing. 

“I’m following the case closely.”

Yangchen C Rinzin