Ministers question media’s intention of raising the issue in the FM’s presence

Update: The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has taken more time than necessary in prosecuting the Lhakhang Karpo case, where foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, then the Haa dzongda, was alleged for abuse of function and authority, according to Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

“I have made it very clear to them that they have taken more time than necessary,” he said, yesterday at the meet the press session. The OAG had to hold on to the case as the Parliament was in session.

However, last week the OAG had informed the Prime Minister that they have all the papers. But Lyonchhoen had told them to clarify with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) if the OAG, as the government’s prosecutor, was the correct body to prosecute the case. “We asked ACC whether they should be the right agency. ACC has confirmed that OAG could go ahead,” he said. The government feared conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, asked if the foreign minister would be suspended from the post if the case was forwarded to the Haa district court, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said he would decide only when the case is filed. “There is no need to preempt,” Lyonchhoen said. “We’ll do our job.”

But Lyonchhoen made it clear that the reporter asking the question in the presence of the foreign minister was not appreciated. “I’m proud that you can ask the question in the presence of the foreign minister himself, perhaps not the most dignified way to do it,” he said.

“It’s an important question but remember the person who is involved is here. The foreign minister is here and you’re asking the question as if he is not here, that’s something you may want to think about,” the Prime Minister said about the question.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji questioned the reporter, the intention behind asking the question in the meet the press session.  Expressing concerns, he said, “Even if it was my security guard, I’ll not ask such a question in front of him as a respect to the individual.”

“If there are two people, one who did a good job and another who did a bad job, how can you ask the person who did a bad job in front of the other person. How can you ask this?”

The minister made known the question was not welcomed. “Such values you won’t learn from colleges or universities, but from parents. So if you learn such values then it would be nice,” he said.

The question was raised keeping in view the ACC Act, which states that, “A public servant who is charged with an offence shall be suspended with effect from the charge until pending the outcome of any appeal.”

Suspension is a temporary measure and doesn’t create a vacancy of post until such time the individual suspended is found guilty by the court in keeping with the due process of law.

In an earlier article on Lhakhang Karpo case, Kuensel said that the foreign minister would not be suspended as the case dates back to his former position and not while he was the minister.

But ACC clarified that once the case is registered in a court, they would write to the competent authority, in this case, the Prime minister’s Office, to suspend the accused.

The case was supposed to be registered at the Haa district court on January 8.

By Tshering Palden