ABA convention Vs Unity Concerns

Published on Jul 08 2010 // Opinion
By Pashupati Timsina

Upon the request of TP Mishra, editor of BNS, I headed to the convention venue of Association of Bhutanese in America (ABA) on July 3 to report the event live.  As their first day convention didn’t hold much significance, we decided to report the program live from the next day. We had actually thought of updating the news from the convention venue, but this was not possible due to the lack of internet access.

This was the second time in the media history that the BNS tried a different way of disseminating fresh news—‘live blogging’. As discussed with the editor, I just reported the updates over phone while he took up the responsibility to upload them in the news portal i.e. www.bhutannewsservice.com. I could report the event live well, as per Editorial Board of BNS, it perhaps was exactly in a professional way; thanks to the team for guiding me more in an ethical and professional ways during the time of reporting.

When I reached the convention hall on the second day at 9:00 AM, I found some Board of Directors of ABA moving hence and forth, perhaps in an attempt to welcome any participants/guests. After having done registration, I entered the hall for the inspection of the setting, which was seen well decorated. Very few people were seen inside when I had stepped in. Interestingly, some of the Board Directors were blaming then ongoing World Cup Football between Argentina Vs. Germany for the delay of participants. Eventually the number of attendees increased to over half of the capacity of the hall by 10:25 AM numbering around 100.

Following the opening remark speech by DP Basnet, then Chairman of ABA, Hari Acharya, explained ABA’s aims, objectives, working structures, relations, history, concerns and its program in five places of Maryland. More significantly, the question-answer session that began at 12:30 PM is worth mentioning here. At least six people shot questions to the board of ABA, all most all of whom were hinting on ABA’s clear stance about growing wish for unification between ABA and Organization of Bhutanese in Communities in America (OBCA) 

A panel comprising then board of directors including Hari Acharya, Ganesh Subedi, D.P. Basnet and Birendra Dhakal answered most of the queries. ABA all the time expressed its core intension of having unification with other organizations, in particular OBCA. Words can perhaps be easily uttered but it’s the demand of the time that we live up united in practice. The panelists also expressed sadness on the formation of OBCA despite their open interest for the unification and amendment of the team. They accepted the weakness for their poor outreach, advocacy and strong communication with Bhutanese in America due to the lack of funds, human resources, among others.  

The voting procedure began at 2:47 PM. Soon after the formation of three-member election commission, Hari Acharya explained that the association was extending the executive members from 11 to 15 due to the increased number of population in USA. Out of existing 11 members, 9 members tenure was over; their vacated seats were to be filled. Remaining two members were elected from the last convention and their tenure was ongoing till the next convention. Again, newly set 11-members’ board had to nominate other four members to make the board seat complete. As the electronic and postal electoral process had been completed, live voting process was to go over. Finally, Acharya read the name of the final candidates for the election that included Dr. Purna Chhetri, Khageswor Mishra, Rabi Gurung, Puja Pradhan, Bishnu Pradhan, Jeevan Subba, Rajen Giri, Mukti Gurung and T.B. Bhandari.

The dais was then given to the candidate to give a brief speech. All most all speakers spoke in favor of unity of ABA and OBCA. Once they were done, Acharya distributed the voting ballots to only the members of ABA. According to their by-laws, the newly formed 11 members had to nominate four more candidates and again those 15 members’ directors had to elect Chairman and Executive directors from themselves on the same day, thus, closed door meeting was immediately held.

They reached to the conclusion that they would declare the name of four nominated members, Chairman and Executive director on the next day during the cultural program, but to no avail. When Kishor Pradhan proposed for the next convention in Pennsylvania, the convention for the day was nearer to the conclusion. Before the conclusion, Birendra Dhakal gave vote of thanks to all the organizing committee members, election commission members, Merceda of Refugee Family Service, Christ Community AME Church, and all the members and the audiences.

From the viewpoint of management, the convention hall was well-managed, but the hall couldn’t be filled by the audience. The organizer failed to meet the schedule to commence the program on slated time. Till lunch time, audience were cooperating the speaker, despite minor ins and outs. Lunch was well-managed with the Nepali dishes but there was no choice for those who do not wish to be served with rice. They had to convince with bottle of water or see the possibility to move to someone’s apartment or to nearby South Asian Markets.

Though the voting system was well-managed, the organizer clearly failed to meet their schedule of finding four nominated members, chairman and executive members. This was and still is an issue of public concern. Of course it is up to them to bring this to public light but since their claim is for a national organization of Bhutanese in USA, it is obvious that public can’t really wait to hear the names of those “undecided” positions in ABA. When they were open and quick to holding a well-organized election in the presence of public, there was no reliable reason that they adjourn the process of declaring the top-position-holding community leaders.

Unity concerns  
Bhutanese resettled in the USA have been found frustrated with the mushrooming growth of organizations and associations in the name of people and community. There were people in the convention expressing pessimistic opinion that they would be benefited both from ABA and OBCA. There were the worries on the fragmented community. Majority of the people, however, were wishing and voicing for “one national organization.”

ABA has very vague objective and plan which people hardy could perceive. At a time when Hari Acharya, the executive director, was explaining about the aims, objectives or mission of the association, still people were in confusion and ignorant to them. They were still seen asking one another about the goal of the association. The name of the association and the organizational structure of ABA seemed little disputed. Sometimes, it reflects that the ABA members are in the state of confusion whether to push organization as a general social organization or push it towards the community service. However, it is true that the there are experts and experienced senior people in the ABA. Their expertise is very helpful for the welfare of the community should it be transformed to practice.  

Not to take in other way round, I think the association was registered during the time when there was no influx of refugees to USA through resettlement program. It appears here that the senior Bhutanese had registered the association to suit as per their need and time, which made them trapped by the resettlement process. Many people also opine that preliminarily, ABA was less interested in the Bhutanese community service. If this gossip in swing is true, it is time for ABA to re-think and work according to demands raised from within the majority folks. 

As like in OBCA, almost all new generation faces have bagged winning-votes for the board of directors in ABA. People were optimistic that if the leadership is given to the younger generation and that the working strategy be guided by experts or seniors from within the community, it might establish a historical trend in long-run. We can make good outreach to needy folks with helping hands.  

Erudite people in and out of the convention hall were expressing their opinion that the current fragmentation of the community is just due to the reason of the conflict of few people with their personal matter. This is unfortunate. Personal vested interest should not be flashed publicly and should not hamper the entire community.

The community still is moving towards the political mobilization and more chaotic environment. The political activities may be strengthened and the wrong person may take a lead role, who instead of addressing the community problems, might further contribute to disunity. Many freshly resettled Bhutanese in America are facing various problems at the moment, for instance, clear majority of elder generation are more or less feeling frustrated with the complicated living in this new land.   

Bhutanese in America require an umbrella organization to speak their real problems and assist in their requirements. For both the organization, time has come to be cool, broadminded, dynamic and farsighted, before taking any decision or organizing any activities. At some point, unity now has no alternative. Thus, both OBCA and ABA members must coolly think about the prevailing situation in the communities. This is the need of the community and demand of the time. Bhutanese communities in America wish for unity of OBCA and ABA. Both organizations have to be serious. It is not that ABA or OBCA alone should compromise for “unity”. Both of these organizations have to compromise, if needed.  

(Executive Director of www.bhutaneseliterature.com, Timsina represented BNS for live reporting during the convention sessions)