Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bhutan - Copyright registry established

For the first time, people can register their work with the copyright registry established under the Intellectual Property Division (IPD). It is a voluntary deposit and registration system where the right holders of the copyright and related rights works get to establish prima facie proof of authorship or ownership of their work. Those who want to register can apply to the IPD beginning next month.

The Director of IPD, Sonam Wangchuk, said that people can still enjoy the copyright even without registering or depositing the work with the IPD. “The purpose of this is, firstly, to provide the owners of the copyright with the prima facie evidence to show that they are the owners of the work. Secondly, to have a kind of repository of works with the division so that public can search and look into what are the literary and artistic works that is being created”.

The IPD will publish the notification in its website about the work to be registered. If there is no objection within one month, the copyright holder will be issued a certificate of registration. But it doesn’t guarantee against infringement. And this is the problem many copyrights owners are facing these days.

According to the General Secretary of the Motion Picture Association of Bhutan, Sherub Gyeltshen, the biggest violation that is happening is on the films. He added that pirated movies are readily available in the market.

The extent of copyright violation is huge. There are over 200 pirated Bhutanese films seized in the past from Wangduephodrang. The General Secretary said the judiciary, police and the Department of Revenue and Customs are the three enforcement agencies. But, he said, nothing has been achieved even when there is Copyright Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2001.

“We do not again expect special checking purely for pirated films and songs. While you do search tobacco, drugs and other illegal stuff why can’t you even do a small favour by even checking, seizing illegal CDs and DVDs that have been bought,” said the General Secretary.

And it is worse when the songs and movies are shared on computers and mobile phones. The impact is clear. A walk into the market and one will see less or no people buying Bhutanese films and songs.

An award winning music composer, Yeshi, shares the same sentiment. “In the past there were many music albums because it was profitable. But now not many people are producing music albums. And movie makers also do not release albums,” he said.

The Act says any infringement of a right protected under this Act, if committed willfully, or by gross negligence, and for profit-making purposes, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to one year or by a fine of up to Nu. 10,00,000 or by both.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Bhutan - India’s 63rd Republic Day

The Indian Community gathered at the Indian embassy in Thimphu to celebrate India’s 63rd Republic day, today.

The Gyalpoi Zimpoen,Dasho Penjore, and other senior government officials were also present at the celebration. The celebrations began with the hoisting of Indian national flag.

The Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma read out the President of India’s address to the gathering. In her address, the President said that India should set example before the democratic world of progress and growth.

“We seek to build bridges of co-operation and friendship with all the countries of the world. We constructively engage with international community to find responses to global challenges. The role and stature of India has been growing and our nation has been scaling up to the ladder of the comity of nations,” reads the message.

The Republic Day of India commemorates the date on which the Constitution of India came into force.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bhutan - What lies beneath…

The way the Parliament resolved the much debated election amendment bill on January 19 was significant in the sense the speaker, for the first time, used his sole authority to decide how to go about with a bill.

Also for the first time, the joint committee who studied the disputed portions to draw recommendations for the Parliament to vote on could not come up with one.

Deprived of recommendations, the speaker decided to do without voting and announced the original election Act stand, meant the state funding for political parties, proposed in the bill, flopped.

But was the speaker’s decision, many asked, to withhold the voting process and revert to the former Act the only option the Parliament was left with?

When the session took off, assembly’s legislative committee chairperson, Ugyen Wangdi, who introduced the bill in the 6th session, suggested on withdrawing it.

But this option was shot down when the speaker clarified that this could be done only in individual houses of the Parliament and not in a joint session.

Without any recommendation, an alternative the joint committee comprising members from both assembly and council had considered the night before the joint sitting, was to vote on the draft bill.

In it featured the proposal to fund state funding for opposition and ruling parties with government deciding the amount in consultation with election commission.

But this did not happen and rather, the legislative chairperson proposed withdrawing the bill.

While one could only guess what led to the change in course, after clamouring so much for state funding, it is even more intriguing to learn why voting was not opted. It’s not like there wasn’t enough support.

Of the 69 members present that day, 46 “yes” votes was all that was required to pass the bill by a two-third majority.

Excluding the speaker and the foreign minister, there were 43 DPT members who were all ayes for state funding. Of the two opposition members, going by the past deliberations, at least one would have voted in for state funding.

That garnered 44 “yes” votes. Of the 25 council members, at least two had already made known their interest to support state funding. That took the vote to 46, meaning the required majority was achieved.

Even if the gathering was short of a vote to attain the two-third majority, considering both the opposition members voted “no”, the legislative rules of procedure allowed the speaker to cast the deciding vote.

That way, the passage of bill was possible.

Even otherwise, the bill was fated to die. In the course of deliberation, assembly members, including the prime minister, divulged on their position to have state funding for not just the ruling and the opposition parties, but for others as well.

Since the amendment bill assembly members proposed did not have that, the formula to come out with an inclusive bill in future was to let the current bill die. That required assembly members to vote against their own bill.

Declaring a bill “dead” invited much criticism in some countries since it was seen as Parliament’s inability to do its job. But chances of this happening was rare as the bills, unlike in Bhutan, could be tossed between the two houses countless times. What was even more rare was the frequent joint sitting of the houses.

Here, the law mandated the houses to sit together and decide on the bill once it was deliberated in the two houses and differences prevailed.

State funding, for one, saw endless debates in the two houses over more than three years.

The issue drew media’s attention when council members, in the first session, highlighted its unconstitutionality as finance minister presented to the house the 2008-09 budget and appropriation bill.

In the same session, council submitted to the assembly the discrepancies they detected.

Interestingly, in the assembly, following a detailed deliberation, members deemed it unconstitutional and resolved “that the political parties would not be provided with state funding”.

The issue resurfaced in the third session when the prime minister, in his first annual report on the state of the nation, highlighted on political parties “struggling to stay afloat”.

“Our parties need financial support and that is not available from our people who are few in number and short in cash,” the report stated.

In the 6th session, the assembly put up the election Act for amendment and inserted a clause on state funding. After exhaustively deliberating on it, with one member after another speaking in its favour, the bill was endorsed with 36 “yes” and two “no” votes.

In the 7th session, the council rejected the amendments and reached the joint session this year.

Meanwhile, the logic to return with more inclusive bill in future is welcomed by many, especially those with intentions to form new political parties and deem state support important.

A write-up offering options to fund political parties, circulated among Parliament members before the January 6 joint sitting, states: “provision of equal fund to all the registered political parties becomes baseless or unconstitutional when they do not have any representation in the Parliament”.

Alternatives like offering slightly higher amount to the ruling and opposition compared to other political parties was also laid down on the paper.

Considering elements such as these, perhaps the speaker’s decision to neatly wrap up the matter this time was the safest.

It provides a good opportunity for members of both houses to take a step back, re-look the issue and return with fresh perspectives.

By Kesang Dema

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Bhutan - One too many?

Bhutan will soon have 11 newspapers. The latest entrant in the market “The Bhutanese” will be launched on February 21.

The paper’s CEO and owner, Tenzin Lamsang, a journalist by profession, says they are aware of the competition and the market scenario.

“We know the risk we are taking. We know what the returns will be. Yes, we know the market situation. We are aware but we know we can do it successfully by focusing on quality.”

He may well be. There are already 10 newspapers and given the Kingdom’s population size and the limited advertisement money, financial sustainability is a big concern.

The Ministry of Information and Communications says it will go on approving as many applications as long they fulfill the criteria under the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act.

The Secretary of the Information and Communications Ministry, Dasho Kinley Dorji, says they cannot stop any good proposal from entering the market.

“The Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act allows people who meet the criteria to start media (houses). What is happening is, it is bit scrambled, that is why the ministry has come up with guidelines.”

90 percent of the advertisement revenue comes from the government. How that money should be shared is being debated.

Many in the Bhutanese media argue that the money should not be given on rotation among the existing media houses or depending on their business contacts. It should be decided by the reach and the readership.

“The government should have a very good advertisement policy, not divide it among the newspapers on rotation basis,” said Mindu Dorji, an editor with Bhutan Observer.

Others however do not agree. They argue that such a move will result in the demise of some of the newspapers. And that it is not fair to ask new newspapers to compete with older, better established ones.

For now, all the media houses are struggling. Some are venturing out into other businesses to survive.

Bharat Subba, an employee with Bhutan Today, said “it is difficult to sustain ourselves on the add money alone. We are trying to diversify our businesses.”

“Today, there are ten of us and all of us are actually looking for the same advertisement in the market,” said Chencho Tshering, the Managing Director of Kuensel.

Looking at the developments, where and who gets the advertisement needs to be decided and decided fast.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bhutan - Another stabbing in Thimphu

A 19-year-old man was stabbed by a group of boys at Olakha in Thimphu last night. The incident took place at the Central Plaza around at around 11:50 pm.

According to the medical report, the knife has pierced an inch into the victim’s ribs, damaging his lung. Doctors say this has caused internal bleeding. Meanwhile, the victim is in the hospital and in a stable condition.

In a statement to the police, the victim’s friends said a group of eight to nine boys came out of a flat and started bothering them.

When the victim and his friends tried escaping from the scene after one of their friends was battered, the suspect came after them, and stabbed the victim with a knife.

Lieutenant Thinley Yoezer Tangbi said the suspects have been identified and the police are looking out for them.

He added, all the suspects are repeated crime offenders.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Bhutan - Buddha’s relic displayed in Thailand

The tooth relic of Lord Buddha, which was taken from Bhutan,is being displayed to thousands of worshippers comprising of local residents and tourists in the northern province of Chiang Mai, Thailand. A procession was held to receive the relic from the Chiang Mai Airport to the temple.

Officials from the National Office of Buddhism brought the relic by air to Chiang Mai to be put on display at the main hall of Phra Sing Worawihan Temple.

The relic will be on display in Chiang Mai until January 19. After that, it will be taken to the southern province of Songkhla and the northeastern province of Khon Kaen before being taken to Bangkok.

The relic will be returned to Bhutan on February 20.

Reports say that Bhutan has lent Thailand the relic as part of the celebrations of the 84th birth anniversary of His Majesty the King of Thailand last month. The relic was earlier displayed in Bangkok during the Royal birthday celebrations.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Bhutan - His Majesty the King graced the Opening Ceremony of 8th Session of Parliament today

4 January 2012, Thimphu: His Majesty the King graced the Opening Ceremony of 8th Session of Parliament today. His Majesty was accompanied by Her Majesty Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck.

The members of the parliament took the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty the King, as per the Constitution.
Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley, the Chairperson of the National Council, Namgye Penjore and the Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay offered gratitude to His Majesty the King for His selfless service to the nation and the people. They also offered felicitations and expressed happiness on the Royal Marriage of His Majesty the King to Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, on behalf of the members of the parliament.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Bhutan - National Council to discuss electric fencing

The National Council will be debating the use of electric fencing to protect crops from wild animals during the current parliamentary session.

Electric fencing has proven to be an effective deterrent against wild animals but its use is not allowed by the Bhutan Electricity Authority Act.

The National Council says allowing farmers to use electric fencing will help solve the longstanding issue of human-wildlife conflict.

Every year farmers lose a substantial amount of their harvest to wild animals. They spend sleepless nights guarding their crops from marauding wild elephants, wild boars, monkeys and deer.

In some places, farmers are also leaving their fields fallow, unable to fight off the wild animals.

If the Bhutan Electricity Act is amended and the use of electric fence legalised, the national council says human wildlife conflict will be resolved to a large extent.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Bhutan - Made in Bhutan

You need to make a call urgently but your mobile phone is dead. You don’t have the time to plug in the charger and wait for the battery to be charged. You are a man on the move. You have places to go and work to do. Don’t worry; you can buy a yathra solar bag.

The yathra solar bag is the latest innovation of Vishma Rai, the man behind the award winning pedal powered washing machine.

Fitted with a small solar panel on the cover, the bag can be used to charge your mobile phone, laptop or your iPod while you are going about your business.

The solar panel is connected with a wire to a small lithium battery. The battery stores the energy produced by the solar panel and this is used to charge the electronic gadgets.

Notwithstanding its price tag of Nu.3500, the yathra bag is popular with tourists as well as Bhutanese. Similar bags made from other material are slightly cheaper at Nu.2500.

“The market is good,” said a smiling Vishma Rai.

His company, Green Computing, is struggling to keep up with the growing demand. The main constraint is the material from which the bag is made.

“We can’t get enough yathra. Once, I got an order for around 500 bags from the agriculture ministry and I went to Bumthang to get around 200 rolls of yathra. But we couldn’t get enough yathra.”

The yathra solar bag was launched in the market about three months ago