Good Governance Committee reviewing nomination

Staff Reporter

The government’s decision to nominate Tenzin Lekphel as the Secretary General (SG) of BIMSTEC has now come under the radar of the National Council.

The Good Governance Committee of the National Council has written to the foreign ministry seeking clarification on the criteria set for nominating the candidate from Bhutan, if the post was advertised in a transparent manner and if other candidates were also considered.

The letter addressed to the foreign secretary stated that, “In the interest of promoting good governance and upholding the values of democracy, the National Council, as the House of review felt the need to review the issue.” The NC directed its Good Governance Committee to write to the foreign ministry.

The Committee is also seeking details on the credentials of the past SGs of BIMSTEC and SAARC Secretariats, as the two positions are filed with nominations from member countries on a rotation basis.

A foreign ministry official confirmed receiving the letter, but said that they had not responded as of last evening. They have however, completed processing the nomination based on government directives. The 21st session of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting on September 2 has accepted the nomination of the candidate. It was Bhutan’s turn to nominate.

Kuensel learnt that there are no written criteria or minutes circulated among member countries for the appointment of BIMSTEC’s secretary general. A former BIMSTEC official said that while there is no set criteria, the general understanding is that member countries presumed the nominating country has identified and nominated “the most prominent public figure or the senior most bureaucrat or diplomat who served in the foreign ministry.”

“Since the SG has to interact with ambassadors not only from the member countries but also from around the world, he or she should be highly qualified and should have served as secretary, ambassador or even as a minister,” he said.

On the credentials of former BIMSTEC secretary generals, the People Democratic Party (PDP) in a press release issued on September 7, urged the government to review the nomination of its candidate. PDP stated that both the former secretary generals served as ambassadors and were experienced diplomats prior to their appointment.

The first SG of BIMSTEC, from August 2014 to September 2017, Sumith Nakandala of Sri Lanka served as ambassador of Sri Lanka to Nepal from 2006, Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK from 2008, and ambassador of Sri Lanka to Iraq prior to his appointment.

The outgoing Secretary General, Shahidul Islam of Bangladesh, was the ambassador of Bangladesh to South Korea and France prior to his appointment as Secretary General. He has been appointed the next ambassador of Bangladesh to the United States.

“While Bhutan is not bound by practices of other countries in the nomination of our candidate for Secretary General of BIMSTEC, the nomination and appointment by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh of experienced diplomats and ambassadors as Secretary Generals of BIMSTEC speaks volumes on the importance attached to the role of the Secretary General,” PDP stated in its press release.

Meanwhile, Tenzin Lekphel is still an active member of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa as of yesterday. An official from the Election Commission of Bhutan confirmed that Tenzin Lekphel, one of the founding members of DNT had not resigned.