An exclusive investigation by Tenzing Lamsang on how land in Gyelpozhing was allotted to powerful and influential people violating royal kashos and national laws. The beneficiaries included the prime minister, ministers, judges, senior bureaucrats, high officials and their relatives.
In 2001-02, when the current speaker, Jigme Tshultrim, was the Mongar Dzongda and the ex officio chairman of the Dzongkhag land allotment committee, land in Gyelpozhing town and nearby areas were illegally allotted to several influential people and their relatives including ministers, judges, dzongdas and senior Kurichu Project staff.
The land allotments were in violation of His Majesty the fourth King’s Kashos (decrees) on land allotment, Land Act 1979, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement circulars and letters not to allot plots, allotment criteria and established government procedures on allotment of land (read the other story).
The scenic town of Gyelpozhing which sprouted due to the 60MW Kurichu Hydropower Project is looked at as a potential trade hub for eastern Bhutan with the Nganglam-Gyelpozhing highway, Dungsam Cement Project, 1,800MW Kuri Gongri project being planned downstream. Land prices have also been increasing.
Apart from not following the established procedures on allotting plots in Gyelpozhing town proper, the speaker, as a Dzongda, had also acquired additional government land across the Kurichu river which was not part of the town plan area and gave away large chunks of it to the influential beneficiaries. In this case, both the acquisition and allotment of land were not in keeping with the rules.
Across the river, a 50 decimal plot was given to the current Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley who was then the Home Minister. A one acre plot was given to Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, the then finance minister. A 50 decimal plot was given to the then communication minister, Lyonpo Leki Dorji. The Ministry of Communications was later
renamed as the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement. These lands were allotted to them at a rate of Nu 5 per square feet or Nu 2,178 a decimal. Two members of the extended royal family were also allotted a plot each at the same rate.
In the commercial and residential area in proper Gyelpozhing town, land was also allotted to a host of influential people directly or to their spouses and other family members.
In the second allotment of commercial plots at Gyelpozhing, none of the influential beneficiaries had a business license at the time which was a must for all allotments. One beneficiary was the speaker’s son Kezang Tshultrim. The family members of the influential people were allotted plots in their names giving the address of the people in power. These include Pema Choden care of current Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, Pema Choden care of royal secretary Dasho Wangchen, and Chencho Tshering care of former MoWHS secretary Tshering Dorjee.
Similarly, in the allotment of residential land, it was given in the name of spouses and relatives of influential people. These are Sonam Norbu care of Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu the then finance secretary, Ugyen Jamyang care of Dr Jigme Singye, Sonam Tobgye care of Colonel Kado, Tshering Pelzom care of Mongar Drangpon, Jangchub Dema care of Lhuentse Drangpon, Dawa Zangmo care of Dr Nawang of Mongar Hospital, Sonam Lhaden care of Dzongda Karma who is the current director of Department of National properties, and Dasho Tsheten of Lhuentse.
The beneficiaries from the Kurichu project were Sonam Yangchen care of the Managing Director of the Kurichu project and Chimi Dema care of Namgay also from the project.
The actual town land had been acquired from a mix of unproductive farmers’ land and government land.
The allotment was made by a land allotment committee at the Dzongkhag level. With the Dzongda as the chairman and Dzongrab Toppo as vice chairman, other members included Land record officer, Tshewang Gyeltshen; district agricultural officer, Tandin; Mongar Gup Sonam Dorji; Saling Gup Kuenzang Thinley; Mongar Town Chimi Tshewang Rinzin; Gyelpozhing town Thueme Choidup; Mongar Municipal Committee member Dechen Singye; and District Engineer Pelden Norgay.
Despite several letters from the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement to the Dzongda asking him not to allot plots and not to register it violating the royal kasho and government procedures, the committee went ahead and registered the plots.
The land allotment to influential people in Gyelpozhing was part of a larger allotment done in two phases. In the first phase in 1999, 19 commercial plots were allotted to business people who had valid business licenses. Even in this case, procedures were not followed as the allotment and registration was done by the dzongkhag.
The land allotment to the influential people was done in June 1, 2001, under the guise of commemorating the June 2 coronation of His Majesty the fourth King.