The senator said that he had come to Bhutan with some reserved preconceptions which quickly disappeared once he came to know the people and the country. "I am struck with the amazing optimism your people exhibit and how everyone is moving together towards the nation building process,"he said. The senator commended the positive achievements of Bhutan within a short period of time. However the devolution of power and the institution building was only a half achieved goal of a democratic society. The other half constituted horizontal power sharing, implying the involvement of the people themselves. "The rightful inhabitants or the citizens of the country must have the rights that are protected by a constitution which I believe you are processing," he said. In the same line, he stressed the importance of establishing a supreme court that will uphold the right of the people to contest against the state. "I can see how well the civil servants, ministers and the parliamentarians work and I am confident that this will be achieved as part of the whole process,"he added.
Mr Gian-Reto Plattner said that it was critical and important for Bhutan to take careful and well chosen steps to pursue the goals it aspires to achieve. "It is a simple fact that if you oppose people, you collect opponents but if you include them, they help to build it,"he said. "Be careful not to create opponents of a nation out of fear of security,"he added.
Sharing his views on the "refugee and militant"problem, the senator said that armed rebels in the south could impede the development of the nation. He said that the refugee issue should be dealt with wisely and that some action must come out of it soon. On the militants he said he hoped that both the concerned parties found the wisdom to solve it through talks "because, in fighting, nobody is the winner and everybody loses".
Talking about Swiss-Bhutan friendship, the senator said that the two countries could together achieve a lot on a mutual level and understanding and learn from each other's experiences. As a gesture of goodwill, the senator donated Nu 85,000 each to the Tarayana foundation and the youth development fund (YDF). He also donated Nu 170,000 to the royal society for protection of nature (RSPN).
Born in 1939, Mr Gian-Reto Plattner is a renowned researcher in scientific study. Before he took up a political career in 1982, he was an associate professor in experimental physics at the university of Basel, Switzerland.
Mr Gian-Reto Plattner met the foreign minister of Bhutan, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk and the minister for work and human settlements, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji.
The Helvetas (Swiss association for international cooperation) has committed Nu 75 million for agriculture development in the east-central region and another Nu 30 million to further improve the quality of training at the natural resources training institute (NRTI) during the ninth plan. The east central project will support the implementation of selected renewable natural resources sectors (excluding forestry) of the Ninth Plan in the four dzongkhags of Bumthang, Trongsa, Zhemgang and Sarpang. Spread over a period of five years till June 2007, the project will focus on Document, communication, dissemination of RNR information, building human capacity through long and short term training in-country and abroad, and support local development initiatives. The fourth phase of assistance to NRTI, which will continue till 2006, will focus primarily on human resource development and provision of training facilities. The overall aim of the institute is to make NRTI a centre of excellence for rural development through high quality training and professional services in the RNR sector.
The two agreements were signed in Thimphu by the director general of the department of aid and debt management (DADM), aum Yanki T. Wangchuk on behalf of the royal government and the resident representative of the Helvetas coordination office, Mr. Dieter Zuercher.
The two foreign ministers seal the NIE agreement
Mr. Deiss, who is currently in Bhutan on a three-day visit, said that his visit gave him the opportunity for political dialogue with Bhutanese leaders on different issues which included the drafting of the constitution, national security, human rights, and other issues of interest to Switzerland.
Bhutan being one of the 17 focus countries for Swiss development assistance the Swiss government has allocated SFr 7.5 million in agricultural and forestry activities this year broadly aimed at poverty alleviation. Mr. Deiss and the Bhutanese foreign minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, signed an agreement through which the Swiss government will assist the expansion of the national institute of education in Samtse and Paro.
The Swiss contribution of SFr. 7.187 million (Nu. 212.016 m) and Nu. 12.2 from the government will be used to increase the enrolment capacity from 450 to 980 trainees after 2005, and expand the facilities at the two campuses. "We could see how well this institution is working in the education of teachers," said Mr. Deiss. "I think that is a central issue for every country. Education is the future of a country and we are very happy that we can participate in this project." The ninth plan will see an expenditure of Nu. 390.354 million on facilities in Paro and Samtse.
Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley described the first visit of a Swiss foreign minister to Bhutan as a demonstration of the growing relations between the two countries. "I would like to think that the reason that the delegation has found time to visit Bhutan has to do with a good level of satisfaction that they have found in the way in which our bilateral cooperation have been developing both in terms of the substance as well as in terms of the processes." Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley said that it was a policy of the government to interact very closely with Switzerland with which Bhutan shared a common perceptions on most issues. He welcomed Switzerland as the member of the United Nation since Switzerland was scheduled to join the UN during the coming session of the UN General Assembly this year.
Mr. Deiss, who is accompanied by Switzerland's ambassador to Bhutan, Mr. Walter B. Gyger and other senior officials, will receive an audience with His Majesty the King today. His Majesty and Their Majesties the Queens will also host a lunch for the foreign minister and his delegation.