Accuses government of handing out political favours 

Younten Tshedup 

People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in press releases yesterday, has asked the government to review its decision on the nomination of Tenzin Lekphel as candidate for the secretary general (SG) of BIMSTEC.

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) government recently nominated Tenzin Lekphel, one of the founders of the DNT party as the SG of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

PDP has questioned Tenzin Lekphel’s nomination based on two grounds.

Questioning his capability and experience, PDP in its press release stated that although Tenzin Lekphel, DNT’s two-time Bartsham-Shongphu candidate, has a Master of Science in Agriculture Development, he has not demonstrated experience in regional or international relations and diplomacy.

The press release stated that while the party (PDP) rejoices at the prospect of Bhutan leading the BIMSTEC with the appointment of the country’s first SG for the organisation, the party was ‘deeply concerned’ with the government’s nomination.

PDP stated that with the highest regard for regional organisations like SAARC and BIMSTEC, Bhutan in the past has had individuals with distinguished careers and experienced diplomats take up prominent positions in such organisations.

Also with other member states appointing former ambassadors and senior diplomats for the post of BIMSTEC SG, PDP stated that a vital position like that of SG of a regional organisation required a more experienced individual.

“We urge the DNT government to review its decision and nominate a candidate that would not only be in the best interests of the country but also appointed in a manner that does not favor nepotism over merit and experience.”

PDP stated that although BIMSTEC is an economic forum, political commitment is key to its success. “Therefore, appointing a secretary general with respectable rank and experience will be of paramount importance in order to fulfill the mandate of BIMSTEC and steer it through the increasingly uncertain times.”

It further stated that, “Despite its small size and economy, Bhutan has till date, rendered quality and exemplary leadership to regional and international organisations to which we are parties, and must continue to do so.”    

A political move? 

PDP has reasoned that the appointment of Tenzin Lekphel as the SG of BIMSTEC was politically driven.

The party stated that since the beginning of parliamentary governance in the country, there were concerns of the civil and public service system being flooded with political appointees. Thereby, rendering the civil service ineffective and irrelevant.

It also stated that the DNT government has appointed political nominees in the Prime Minister’s Office, with ‘lucrative remunerations and perks’.

“The appointment of non other than its co-founder and two time former Bartsham-Shongphu candidate as the SG of BIMSTEC not only imperils the once-in-twenty-one years opportunity that Bhutan gets to serve as SG of BIMSTEC, but also sends a wrong signal to the thousands of qualified civil servants that important posts will, henceforth be in the domain of political parties.”

According to the party, active connivance of such political favoritism and nepotism based on party affiliation instead of merit and experience by the Upper House and the Opposition compelled PDP to voice its concerns.

“While we know that DNT is rewarding Tenzin Lekphel for his years of service to the party, the position of SG of BIMSTEC is too critical to be handed out as a political favor,” the press release stated. “If this system of political appointees is allowed to be carried out without any checks and balances, many more such appointments will follow as rewards for political support, which is an unhealthy trend that Bhutan can ill-afford.”

PDP also stated that Bhutan has a highly qualified human resource pool with plenty of serving and retired bureaucrats including retired secretaries and ambassadors fitting the position of SG.

“Ultimately, what is important is the long term interests of the nation, and in this political party interests should be secondary. After all, the position of the SG is for Bhutan and not for a political party in the government.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that the government of the day has the authority to nominate individuals for any such appointments.

Moreover, Lyonpo said that all the member countries had agreed to the nomination and were happy to have an experienced individual as the country’s nomination.

Lyonpo had earlier said that the BIMSTEC secretariat would propose a meeting of foreign ministers to endorse the nomination formally.