Lahkmen Rymbui has become quite adept at rejecting calls for his resignation, having weathered several already since he took over the Home Department in February 2020.
Rymbui had replaced James PK Sangma, who had, during his tenure of just under two years, received sharp criticism for alleged illegal coal mining, which had led to the deaths of several miners while still making profits for those running the nefarious trade.
The coal troubles have not dissipated under Rymbui, with several more deaths from illegal mining activities under his watch. However, the most serious threat to this position as Home Minister must have been when police gunned down former militant Cheristerfield Thangkhiew in August last year.
Rymbui has continued to maintain a stiff upper lip throughout all these, adopting the same refrain, which can be paraphrased as – “I didn’t do it”. It should be remembered that in 2014 then Home Minister Roshan Warjri took moral responsibility for a breakdown in law and order and resigned. Moral responsibility, however, does not seem to figure in Rymbui’s vocabulary.
The outrage seen in the police department’s use of tear gas on protesting teachers yesterday has been near total but today he calmly rejected the idea of quitting by saying, “I will not resign because whatever happened was not because of what I am doing. Why should I resign?”
Interestingly, Rymbui is also tied to the matter of the former contractual teachers because he is Education Minister as well. Critics have not only condemned the government for the use of tear gas on the teachers but also for not trying to find a solution to their demands, namely to be reinstated.
Rymbui defended the Education Department, saying that it is working tirelessly to try and find ways and means to resolve the issues at hand.
However, with a number of embarrassing issues under his watch, and with his party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) trying to position itself as the party of responsible government ahead of next year’s state elections, it is perhaps not surprising that his own party colleagues are demanding Rymbui’s resignation.
Asked if he has been made the sacrificial lamb, he said, “I am not the sacrificial lamb. We are working here collectively as a government to solve the issues concerning the state. We work together to solve what we can and whatever issues we cannot solve, we are very blunt in saying we cannot do it.”