PDP General Secretary Sonam Jatso speaks to Business Bhutan reporter Dechen Dolkar on the case DNT filed against the party, PDP’s expectations from the next elections, candidates and much more.
1.The elections 2018 is approaching and as one of the strongest parties currently, what expectations does PDP have?
Answer: Of course, we all hope for the best. We know that our people will participate in every election responsibly—and as an elected party that is best prepared to serve our Tsawa Sum from day one.
We have worked hard and served our Tsawa Sum with utmost dedication, loyalty and integrity. And we will continue to serve in the same manner till the last day of our term in office. Today, if we look at the state of our nation, we are much better off than four and a half years ago. Our economy has recovered and is growing at an impressive pace. We all understand the importance of our economy. When it gets into trouble, it hurts us all. Our people and businesses now have access to Indian Rupees and loans—and have benefited and continue to benefit from the reduction in interest rates. We have lifted the ban on almost all imports. Our Economic Stimulus Plan brought in Rs. 5bn, which is a huge amount, and is benefiting many entrepreneurs, especially in the rural areas and among our unemployed youth. We have put special focus on rural development by blacktopping the Gewog roads, building farm roads and irrigation facilities, providing power tillers, electric and solar fencing, farm shops, Gewog banks, 100-unit free electricity, tax exemption to small shops and businesses in rural areas, an excavator and a backhoe to each Dzongkhag to maintain Gewog and farm roads, and so on. All these are having immediate and direct impact on our people in rural areas and farming villages. Through Waangtse Chirpel, we have empowered and continue to empower our local governments. Waangtse Chirpel together with the implementation of Annual Performance Agreement throughout the government has enabled us to complete almost all major projects of the 11th Five Year Plan (11 FYP), within the first four years. Two major initiatives: widening East-West Highway and establishment of Central Schools that are outside the 11FYP are benefiting all our people. In particular, the Central Schools are benefiting the common people in every remote corner of our nation. And the Helicopter service has saved many precious lives. We cannot put a value to human life. We have also improved our relationship with our neighbors including the state governments of West Bengal and Assam.
Tha Damtse is the most important value for all Bhutanese and we remain hopeful that our people will keep Tha Damtse with us and have us continue to serve beyond 2018.
2.How many candidates, confirmed and prospective, does the party have right now?
Answer: We have 33 MPs and 16 new candidates (including candidates to replace Hon’ble Speaker and Lyonpo Mingbo Dukpa who will not be contesting in the next elections) ready for 2018. We have most of the 16 new candidates confirmed except in a few constituencies in which we have more than one good aspiring candidate.
3.Will all the 33 present MPs come back in 2018?
Answer: It will all depend on their performance as serving MPs and the feedback and nomination the party receives from their respective constituencies. At the end of the term, there will be a proper assessment and consultation with all concerned. Accordingly, decisions will be made.
4.What is the status of the 14 empty seats for the PDP?
Answer: We have good candidates for all 14+2 constituencies. In a few constituencies, we actually have more than one good candidate. We are really excited about our new candidates. They are highly qualified with good track record and work experience—and they are also good people with great values and commitment to serve.
5.What major challenges does the party foresee and how would you go about it?
Answer: Four or five political parties are going to attack us. We will be their common target. In spite of our government’s impressive achievements, they may try to misinform the electorate, especially in rural areas and young minds. This is a concern for us as majority of our people still live in rural areas. We are also concerned about the growing number of unfair attacks and misinformation being spread by anonymous accounts in social media. This is going to get only worse as we get more closer to 2018 elections. We will try our best to clarify and call out those who spread such misinformation. We are also hopeful that the responsible citizens of our nation will not allow any party or candidate to win on the basis of such misinformation and mudslinging personal attacks.
On our part, we will go with a positive campaign without resorting to personal attacks, mudslinging, etc. We’ll talk about our government’s achievements and our hopes and aspirations to continue to serve the Tsawa Sum with complete loyalty, hard work and integrity.
6.What are PDP’s strengths?
Answer: We have many. First and foremost, we have served our Tsawa Sum with utmost dedication, hard work, loyalty and integrity. Our government has made impressive achievements. We have gone beyond what is in 11FYP and have made a positive impact in every Bhutanese citizen’s life. We have achieved almost all our 2013 election pledges and have won the trust of our people as the party that delivers on its promises.
Our other strength is the proven leadership of our party president, Dasho Tshering Tobgay. He has served and continues to serve our Tsawa Sum with complete loyalty, integrity, hard work and humility. Our leader has done all Bhutanese proud both within the country and abroad.
Our people may also find strength in our philosophy and the way we have governed during the last four years: with integrity, humility, fairness, and hard work—and above all, without dividing our people. We have been a government of all people and served without nepotism and favoritism.
People will also find strength in our team of our highly qualified, experienced and responsible candidates for 2018 elections. And once again we will have a great manifesto.
7.Do you see Bhutan-Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) as a strong contender now that Dasho Neten Zangmo has joined the party?
Answer: We are the first registered political party in Bhutan and we have learned from the past two elections. We don’t take any other contesting political party for granted. We will work hard to compete with any and all contesting political parties in 2018.
8.How is PDP government approaching the ongoing case filed by the DNT in the High Court?
Answer: We will let the due process of law take its own course. The Office of Attorney General is dealing with it. No provisions of Constitution have been violated and our intentions are very clear. We have complete faith in our judiciary and other institutions of checks and balance.
9.There are rumors that you will be contesting from Lhuntse in 2018? Similarly is PDP is looking for a new General Secretary (GS) as you will be a candidate?
Answer: Yes, I am exploring to contest from Gangzur-Minjey constituency (upper Kurtoed) including the Gewogs of Khoma and Kurtoed. Before making a final decision, I wish to consult and seek advice from as many people from my constituency and beyond as possible. Yes, we are looking for a new GS for the party.