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Dasho Dr Sonam Kinga counter-charges DPT

Dasho Dr. Sonam Kinga submitted his counter-charges against complaint lodged by Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) with Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) yesterday after remaining silent for some time on his August 31 post on Facebook about the 2008 elections and summary of his forthcoming book ‘Political Contests as Moral Battles’.

DPT had lodged a complaint against Dasho Dr. Sonam Kinga with ECB titled ‘Derogatory post by Dasho Dr. Sonam Kinga during the election period after repeated notification from ECB’. The complaint states that the post violates the election notification and regulation and it contains story with presumable intention to demonize the party.

In his 15 pages submission, Dasho mentions that the post does not violate the repeated election notification as it was made before the notification in the media which the media arbitrator has not taken this factor into consideration when submitting its finding and conclusions to the Chief Election Commissioner.

He mentioned that the post is a summary of the book and has been made based on concrete evidences, developments and information available in publicly accessibly spaces or modes. He argued that the post does not discuss anything that is new or unknown to Bhutanese people. The information, analysis and perspectives have been online and should be of no surprise to anyone.

“Hence, to deem the post as defaming or demonizing is unwarranted. In fact, the demonization of the DPT began years ago by itself and subsequently by people in social media when the video clip of its 19 July 2013 went viral,” Dasho wrote in his submission.

Dasho mentioned that DPT’s complaint violates his fundamental right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression, which is enforceable in a court of law. “This is at the heart of a vibrant democracy. Unless restrained by Sections a-f of Article 7.22 of the Constitution, the exercise of this right cannot be confined or limited to certain seasons or events,” Dasho wrote.

Contrary to DPT’s allegation that his post on Facebook is a hate message, he mentions: “I reveal in my book as well as the summary DPT’s hate message and blatant disregard for the cherished institution of the Monarchy and the person of His Majesty the King. To write in order to expose treason, disregard of Monarchy and challenging royal prerogatives is not only upholding my fundamental right to act in aid of law, it is prioritizing the symbol of unity over partisan politics. The media arbitrator overlooked this very important point.”

DPT complained how his post reduced its electoral chances. The evidence it provided in the hearing are less substantive, more assumptive and apprehensive. As ECB sponsored debates, permit candidates and parties to press arguments, defend track records and criticize positions or policies, they do so to maximize their chances and minimize other chances. This is at the heart of healthy electoral politics. “Similar discourse permeates all levels of society, and hence needs to be appreciated and encouraged, not suffocated and snuffed!” states Dasho.

He wrote that his post has no political objective and it should be welcomed rather than criticized for contributing to a discourse that will result in the assessing of political choices and making decisions.

He mentioned that an opinion on the same subject matter during election has been expressed before him by former DPT member contesting as PDP candidate. He questioned that the party has conveniently not seen those news story and statements made on the same subject during the same election time. “Leveling its complaint against me selectively raises questions of ulterior motives,” he stated.

Towards the end of his submission Dasho Dr. Sonam Kinga said that DPT’s complaint is meaningless in the context of admission of guilt by senior DPT leaders in public forums as responses to his Facebook post, and in the light of existing information on the issues discussed which are all over the internet, newspapers and publications, and, hence, he requests ECB to dismiss the case.

He said that his Wechat messages that translates orally the text on Facebook has been compelled by DPT’s premature recourse to news media.

He also mentioned that he has withheld talking to the media by believing the case is sub-judice with ECB. After news report by BBS and Kuensel, many friends, well-wishers and family members called and texted him (even as he typed this submission in ECB’s office) as to what he has done. They don’t read English, and hence he had to explain what he wrote on it.

However, General Secretary of DPT Sangay Phurba said, “I don’t know what was submitted by Dasho Dr. Sonam Kinga but our stand is very clear and we believe that he has violated section 4.4 of the Election Social Media Rules and Regulations. The content had a derogative remark about the party because of which a complaint was lodged with ECB. Despite the fact that it is not allowed to do such thing he violated the rule. His remarks have disturbed the electoral chances of DPT. The decision is in the hands of dispute settlement committee of ECB.”

“We will go by the decision of ECB and we were also briefed that if either of the party is not happy with the verdict then we can appeal to the commission within two days,” he said.

Dr. Chador Wangdi, the media arbitrator said the case is with the ECB and he has nothing to comment.

Election commission’s spokesperson and head of the election department Sonam Tobgyal did not respond to Bhutan Bhutan’s efforts to contact him.

Chencho Dema  from Thimphu