Younten Tshedup 

The government has lawfully nominated Tenzin Lekphel as BIMSTEC secretary general in the best interests of the country, according to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

Lyonchhen said that given the roles and responsibilities of the BIMSTEC secretary general that included promoting business and commerce in the region and maintaining good relations among member countries, Tenzin Lekphel, was the ideal candidate for the post.

According to the Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the establishment of the permanent secretariat, the secretary general of the organisation shall be nominated by a member country on the principle of alphabetical rotation.

Lyonchhen said,  “When the opportunity was presented to us, Tenzin Lekphel was our first choice. However, we could have nominated anyone. But personally, my first choice was Tenzin Lekphel and I have nothing to hide here.”

He said that there could be other better nominations but given his political experience, interests and the rapport with the government, the former two-time Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) Bartsham-Shongphu candidate from Trashigang made the ideal candidate for the position.

The government was criticised for nominating a registered party member, who also is one of the founders of the party, for the position.

To this, Lyonchhen said that the Tenzin Lekphel’s curriculum vitae (CV) submitted to the BIMSTEC member countries clearly outlined his political career since 2008 including highlights as the DNT’s founding father and secretary general, the party’s strategist and as an advisor to the government.

“99 percent of his CV is on politics because that (SG) is a political post. If we consider this, we’ll not have a better candidate than Tenzin Lekphel.”

Lyonchhen said that there could have been more educated and capable candidates than Tenzin Lekphel, but given the strength of the CV especially for that position, he was the ideal candidate for Bhutan as well as for all the BIMSTEC member countries.

He said that nowhere in the Election Commission’s guidelines reflected  that the nomination of Tenzin Lekphel, a registered political party member, for the post of BIMSTEC SG, was wrong.

Tenzin Lakphel, according to Lyonchhen, contributed not only to the DNT party but more so to the strengthening of the entire democratic process in the country for more than a decade. “Nominating him for this post was the least the government could do.”

“After everything he has done and still continues to do for the democratic process in the country, when there was a job vacancy that the government had full right to make the nomination, I personally thought there was no harm in nominating him.”

Lyonchhen said that despite not making through the elections personally, on two successive occasions, Tenzin Lekphel continues to support and constantly guide the government even today.

With all the rights he has, Lyonchhen said that if he could not help a person like Tenzin Lekphel, he would be the most unhappy person.

Responding to the criticism on the lack of transparency, Lyonchhen said that there is nothing that the government was hiding or could have possibly hidden from the public.

He said that people were also accusing the government of unfair practices and not conducting an open competition of the position.

“If there was a requirement for an open competition, it must be done. However, since there was no requirement, we didn’t do it. And it was I who decided on this.”

Lyonchhen said that if the procedure was deemed unlawful, he would not have done it in the first place.

The National Council in a recent letter stated that the House of Review was of the view that the nomination could possibly contravene sections 54, 58 and 63 of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan 2011 (ACAB).

Sections 54, 58 and 63 of the ACC Act pertain to active trading in influence, commission amounting to an abuse of functions and failure to declare a conflict of interest.

The NC has requested the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to validate any contravention of the provisions and sections of the Act. The government is yet to hear from the commission.

“If the ACC finds anything wrong, we’ll not argue. If I’m mistaken, I’ll not justify myself further. If I’ve breached any of the existing laws of the country by nominating Tenzin Lekphel, I would personally take the responsibility and beg pardon from the citizens.”

Meanwhile, seven of the eight-member countries (including Bhutan) have endorsed Tenzin Lekphel’s nomination.