Cabinet: Removing former foreign minister, Rinzin Dorje from a ministerial position was for the greater good, according to the government.

The would-be foreign minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji yesterday said although the Haa district court acquitted the former minister that was not the end of the case. He said that the case could go up to the Supreme Court taking up substantial amount of time.

“We are worried about the foreign ministry which is a very important ministry, (after the appeal) which will be again left without a minister for a long time,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said.

The government also appointed a new secretary as the Royal Civil Service Commission sent the former on authorised absence.

He said that foreign policy has a lot of bearing on the sovereignty and security of the country.

There were other significant problems without a minister in office.

“One that we are not represented properly and adequately in the international, regional or even bilateral forums. Many of these summits and meetings specifically require the foreign minister to attend,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said.

“Like the SAARC foreign ministers’ meet no one can represent the minister in such meets.”

He said should something go wrong, without a minister it would be difficult to fix accountability. “Other staff may bear some responsibility but they could always ask whose fault is it when the government has not appointed a minister,” he said.

Most importantly, he said, the government could not afford to make any foreign policy mistakes, which would have long-term impact.

“It is very important that all these foreign policies are played right and that we don’t compromises when it comes to such policies,” he said.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said now that the case is in high court, it will do justice for the former minister too as he could fight his case without having to worry about the ministry from which he had taken leave of absence.

Keeping the foreign ministry without a minister was in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, which states there should be at least 10 ministers.

The Prime Minister has been officiating in absence of the minister. “But the problem is he is too overburdened and this additional portfolio may compromise his other functions which we can’t afford to do that as well,” home minister Damcho Dorji said.

During the previous government although there was an officiating foreign minister there was no foreign minister for almost three years, he said.

“We don’t know what implications it had on our foreign policy and what implications it had on our relations with other countries including China and India,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said. “We can’t gamble.”

After handing over the foreign ministry to the Prime Minister, former foreign minister Rinzin Dorje went on ‘authorised absence’ on January 23, after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) registered the lhakhang Karpo corruption case against the minister and seven others at the Haa district court.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay then said the government was not suspending the minister.

“The Cabinet decided to grant the minister authorised absence to prevent controversy and conflict of interest, seeing that the OAG will be prosecuting the case on behalf of the government,” Lyonchoen had said.

The Prime Minister said there was no provision in the Constitution or any law that states that a serving minister must either resign, be suspended or be granted authorised absence for the duration of the case.

Tshering Palden