Investigation: Foreign minister Damcho Dorji, responding to a media report that accused him of altering a judgment on a choeten vandalism case, where a convict, who was given life imprisonment was later changed to 10 years imprisonment, said he takes responsibility for the oversight and takes accountability.

Lyonpo, however, said that his conscience is clear.

Delving into the details of the case, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the incident happened in 2002, after he was transferred from Gelephu to Mongar, where he stayed for a year and decided about 700 cases.

He also claimed that he did not spend all the entire year in Mongar, as he was also involved in drafting the Constitution and working on the Penal Code, which was under process since 2000. “So every once in a while, I had to come to Thimphu to either work on the Constitution or Penal Code. So my stay there was limited.”

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that he was made to recollect that in 2002, there was a choeten vandalism case and the judgment was life imprisonment.

He explained that the procedure by law is that courts have to wait for 10 working days to give time to appeal and only after it is confirmed that the person is not appealing, the bench clerk will prepare a form to the police saying that the person is convicted and therefore has to be imprisoned.

“I have to sign it and I have to sign more than 100 papers everyday, reason being that we have to sign summon orders for 20 dzongkhags and 12 dungkhags. It so happened that when we sent this letter to police, instead of life imprisonment, it was sent for 10 years,” the foreign minister said. “I signed it and I take responsibility for that oversight.  I should have read the letter word to word. I take accountability for the oversight.”

But he also said that what concerns him is that in that anonymous letter sent to Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and some people, it also says he was bribed by someone called Ugyen Tshering, who is a contractor. “I don’t know who he is. I don’t know from where he appeared,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said. “I hope ACC will get to the root of who that Ugyen Tshering is and whether he bribed me.”

He also said that as far as he is concerned, his conscience is clear and that he had not taken bribes from anyone. “I know there is a malicious intention. I know people who are behind it. But I will not reveal the names as of now.”

The foreign minister also said that the government will deal with any form of corruption seriously and if he is found guilty, he is ready to face any type of penalty.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said Lyonpo Damcho Dorji has opened up for investigation. “When Lyonpo Rinzin Dorji was accused and when the dzongkhag court verdict was against him, we immediately stripped off his kabney. When the Dagapela-Dalbari road came under the ACC’s radar, we withdrew the contract and re-tendered it.”

The Prime Minister pointed out that a Kuensel editorial said that top decision makers are corrupt, and that Kuensel’s article on Tsirang MP Novin Darlami is ridiculous. Lyonchoen said such editorials fuel perceptions that may not be true. Referring to Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, Lyonchoen said that even though the foreign minister is clean, people will still say that because he is a top decision maker and forget about the merits of the case, and the same would apply for MP Novin Darlami. “That loss in confidence can take place.”

Lyonchoen also said that if the Kuensel editorial is true, it merits investigations and the government will conduct these investigations. “But for that matter, Kuensel is not in politics. It is not your job. You don’t have to please people, trying to show that you are with the poor and oppressed. We will fight against top corrupt people and all. We are there to do that.”

Tashi Dema