The controversial figure in Bhutan-Australia relations and former deputy prime minister of Australia Tim Fisher has died on 22 August. For 34 years, he was Bhutan’s unofficial Ambassador-at-large. He began his love affair with Bhutan in 1985 in the Dornier Do 228 from Kolkata – when he was 39.
Tim reached Bhutan as part of his Asia visit as member of the Australian parliament. Four years after his Bhutan trip, at the age of 43, Tim became the leader of Australia’s National Party. His second visit to Bhutan was in 1998 when he had stepped down as party leader. King had then made transition of his powers to cabinet to which Fisher call ‘enlightened, democratic constitutional monarchy’.
The former platoon commander of Australian Army exploited a depleted National Party to seize leadership in 1990. His greatest Australian legacy was his support to gun control law in 1996 proposed by John Howard.
He then personally met with King Jigme Singye build personal relation. His personal relation with the King did not help foster Bhutan-Australia relations. He made attempts through Bhutan Australia Friendship Association which is now on dying days. In his lifetime, he visited Bhutan for 10 times.
In 2013 Tim was appointed as the special envoy of the Prime Minister of Australia to Bhutan. But he has been acclaimed as the unsung hero in Australia for his untiring effort to engage with Asia.
In his last trip to Bhutan, he was escorted to fourth king’s chamber when he spent an hour with the king and left card with message, “You are my greatest teacher.”
Fischer’s close links with the royal family blinded him of the gross human rights violations in southern Bhutan. He is co-author of a 368-page book ‘Bold Bhutan Beckons’ boost Bhutan’s positive image while ignoring the issues of ethnic cleansing and human rights violations.