Spontaneous expression of thoughts and emotions in words.

A letter to the Prime Minister of Australia from a Bhutanese

Dear ScoMo (Hon’ble Prime Minister of Australia)

First of all let me share a brief history of how my country Bhutan handled the first case of COVID-19 positive case. He was an American tourist when he first visited the Jigme Dorji National Referral Hospital In Thimphu Bhutan and complained of all the symptoms that went well with COVID-19. He got tested for COVID-19 and was so found positive. What do you think would have happened next? Did Bhutan criminalise him and discriminate him from our society just like Australia did?

No!!! In fact, His Majesty The King of Bhutan came personally to see to it that our American Guest in Bhutan got all the possible care, help, and support that he was entitled for as a human being no matter whether he was an American tourist or a local Bhutanese wandering in the capital town.

I live in Perth, Western Australia but I always keep in touch with local news back home. The day I Iearnt that Bhutan had one positive case of COVID-19, it was also the day I learned that His Majesty was right there ensuring that that our American Guest was given all the love and care that he deserved as a human being. It was with so much of unconditional love and care that Bhutan could send him off so well to his home in America minus the COVID -19.

In Bhutan we take care of our guests more than inside people. Our Kings from the last 113 years have taught the Bhutanese to be selfless and that’s is how the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was born with the reign of His Majesty The Fourth King of Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. He is known as the Bodhisattva King of Bhutan. The King who took care of the American Guest is known as People’s King in Bhutan and he is none other than King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk. At a time like this Bhutanese should be actually celebrating a national occasion on behalf of the birth of our second Royal Child but Bhutan didn’t do so because the King was busy looking after the strategic plans for preventing the spread of COVID -19 amongst his people. Bhutan lost one of the joyous celebrations in the history of Bhutan yet we would be celebrating one of the best examples of selflessness and the quality of selfless leadership.

Dear ScoMo, when you announced very vehemently on 4th April 2020 that International Students should go back home, I heard many people say that it was not surprising of ScoMo for reasons I really don’t know but well I was so hurt and surprised that a prime minister of a country would give such a blatant statement in a press conference.

I am an international student here in Perth. Having done my Masters in Community Development for the last two years at Murdoch University, I have contributed near to AUD 60,000 as tuition fees and almost AUD 16000 as tax as a family. I have my children whose fees I have equally paid in double the amount as mine depending upon their courses. Mr. ScoMo, while you said that International students should have come prepared you should also realise that while they came prepared and paid their fees and taxes on time, they also had to depend on some causal and part-time jobs to sustain themselves during their course of living here in Australia. This was the sunny part that was shown to attract every single international student. I am a very example of this prospectus. I had the option to go anywhere in the world to study but I thought Australia provided one of the best options being a Multicultural society.

Now when the international students heard your address to the nation, everyone got dumb for one moment. Then they started to think and analyze and realized that you made one of the world’s most racist speeches of the century especially amidst such a crisis when people deserved all your love and care even though you didn’t have to show it but express it.

Dear Mr. ScoMo, international students contributed AUD 32 billion in 2018 into Australia’s economy as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. The then the Universities Australia Deputy Chief Executive Anne-Marie Lansdown said that international students brought vast benefits to Australians and the nation by contributing to the entire Australian economy, generating jobs, supporting wages, and lifting the living standards of Australians. A very powerful quote that Lansdown said was ‘Australians should be fiercely proud of this incredibly important industry. They should also be fiercely protective of it.’

But then where is the part about protecting international students when they need it the most? It is so disheartening to hear you say that they should make their way home when the weather was too bad while you didn’t mind them having here to make hay when the sun shone. According to the 2019 statistic, international students contributed AUD 34.9 billion a year for Australia, supporting more than 240,000 jobs across the country. The Chief of Universities then mentioned the important role that international students play in the economy of Australia.

Everyone aggress that it is so much more than contributing to the local economy by international students. They feel that international students contribute to local communities, society, global outlook, and the economy. More than anything else, Australians benefit from powerful personal, cultural, diplomatic, and trade ties. It was also heard quoting that when these international students return home they join the global network of alumni and those who stay prove to be the highly skilled graduates needed in the nations’ economy. As of recent updates, international students contribute to 130,000 skilled migrants to the workforce leading to AUD 8.7 billion GDP in Australia’s economy.

Now when the Australian economy is affected severely by the pandemic COVID-19, you are all up to protect your citizens and residents. You forgot that those international students who contributed to the larger chunk of your GDP now lost their jobs, are left homeless, and not in the position to pay their rents. Their positions in the wok place are given to their citizens and residents. And then there comes the announcement that international students should make their way home.

So Mr. ScoMo, on what humanitarian ground and the economic ground did you make your statement that international students should make their way home especially when you know that almost all the transit routes are locked down? I am just so curious to know whether you made just a casual remark or whether you really made that statement. Did you even realize the kind of panic you created amongst all the international students here in Australia and their family members back home across the world? The day was almost like a doomsday as if the entire international students got caught in the myriad of COVID-19. Personally, it didn’t affect me so much but by virtue of being a community leader, I had to bear the greatest brunt of the announcement. I have never answered so many calls in my entire 4 decades of life than I did on the doomsday of your announcement.

Most sincerely,

Karma Choden

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10 thoughts on “A letter to the Prime Minister of Australia from a Bhutanese

  1. Dorji dukpa on said:

    I support the statement given by the author and Further would like to share my view on the statement given by the Prime Minister of Australia.It is true that when we came here we said that we are adequate with our own financial but sorry to mention that the present situation like disease pandemic is world wide disease out break.
    Therefore,it is beyond individual risk and we are confident that Australia government will take care of his students who are paying adequate fees and tax for the nation.considering the fact on humanitarian ground,we the students must be given access to jobseeker benefits.

  2. Pema on said:

    Being a Bhutanese n international student in Canberra.I don’t really care about wat prime minister said but I m soo proud tat at least one of our Bhutanese came forward to write such letter on behalf of all international students frm various country.thank u n m so proud of u,whoever have wrote tis letter.👍👍👍

  3. Dorji Dukpa on said:

    I strongly support the statement made by author.

  4. Kinlay Pem on said:

    Dear Madam Karma Choden,
    I salute you for the most courageous expressions and facts stated above in your blog. I feel proud to be a fellow citizen and there is no truly a word to describe what you have mentioned on behalf of all the Bhutanese students living in Australia. First and foremost,
    I am a woman and then a mother, I have no children of mine currently studying there in Australia. However, like me there must be concerned members of our community who felt the same emotions of pride and appreciation on your letter. It is true that at such a critical times when we all humans should be supporting one another, people are acting are animalistic. I just hope and pray for all sentient beings to be uplifted and bestowed with comfortness and peace as soon as possible.

  5. Karma Dorji on said:

    Proud of you mam Karma, we are with you, thank you for representing our voice.

  6. Rabilal Pokhrel on said:

    It is really disheartening to hear such remarks from non other than the PM himself. My blind belief of Australia’s greatness has been greatly shaken.

  7. Jam Tsho on said:

    Thank you, author, for expressing your care and concern for many international students, their dependents and those on temporary resident visa (and other visa holders too). I wish Australian government could help all of us. But what we need to know is, things are getting worse due to COVID-19. Many business and company’s have shut down. Australian economy is going down, and as a result of it the country is going through very tough time. It is impossible to take care of everyone including those on different visa scheme. First of all, we need to be thankful that unlike many countries, Australia gave an option to work while studying. That have given us an opportunity to save and sustain. Secondly, as visa name states, primary objective of coming in Australia is to study. If our primary objective is being compromised, if our study is impacted, if our learning is hindered. We might have every right to claim compensation, extend our visa or post articles in media. But for now, argument is not on education quality, but we are asking financial support to all those non-citizen and non-PR living in Australia. That is too much of demand when we have our own country that we love immensely. I suggest you to return if financially unstable here. Right now they are providing financial support to their citizens under difficulties, and not because they have excess amount to give. Obviously, citizen and PR would be taken care first since most of them doesn’t have country to look up to. Also, I have a chinese university friend who pays fees, rents and only focuses on study. All her expenses are borne by her parents from China. Like her, many are there, and if suddenly Australian govt. start supporting everyone financially. Then, this covid 19 situation is like lottery for person like her. Basically, what I mean to say is that, we must be logical and sensible enough to expect what we deserve. And not expect freebies like we do back in our country from foreign country that doesnt belong to us.

    I am writing this comment from different perspective. But then, even I wish if we get some dollars for free even though not logical enough to expect 😛

    PS: If you are paying 16K as tax, be grateful that you earned a lot :P. No hard feelings.

    • Please read my last two sentences in my blog which says “Personally, it didn’t affect me so much but by virtue of being a community leader, I had to bear the greatest brunt of the announcement. I have never answered so many calls in my entire 4 decades of life than I did on the doomsday of your announcement.’

      Thank you for your feedback. Every individual has the right to look at it the way one wants. I did mine and shared my thoughts. I didn’t ask for any financial support here in my blog nor did I demand anything. I only asked PM to be a little humane in dealing with international students at a time like this instead of passing a racist remark . Thank you

  8. Parsu Sharma-Luital on said:

    While I appreciate and thank our Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo) for your excellent leadership on COVID-19, I utterly reject your decision on temporary visa holders.
    Please note that INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS DON’T WANT CHARITY but OPPORTUNITY for their 20 hours of work/week to continue to make over $34 billion contribution to Australian economy annually.

    Humanity has no Race, Caste, Creed, Colour, Wealth, Status and that bloody visa- should never judge human-being in crisis.

  9. susan osako on said:

    These international students are in Australia legally and are part of the legal landscape of the country. At any time, schools could again open. Tomorrow universal testing and vaccine like immune enhancers could make schools and economies start up again. It is unreasonable to just remove legal persons from a country. This is how Japanese camps in the USA began…or worse in Germany in WWII. Expelling people who are legally in a country during an international pandemic will only add to the panic and chaos and spread the virus further. Many of these students are delivering food to those who can’t get out….are volunteering risking their lives to provide front line services. We do have an obligation to them. We do have a shared obligation to the world. These people are not drains on the society, but are adding, even now many are out there saving lives with no compensation.

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