Your opposition party

Part two of the speech I would have delivered to the 2009 graduates:

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Many people think that the opposition party is ineffective. That’s okay. After all, we are most probably the world’s smallest opposition. With only two members – Dasho Damcho and I – against the ruling party’s 45, we can easily be overwhelmed in the National Assembly. And we have been. Many times!

So I’ve had people tell me that we should accept the limitations, in numbers, of the opposition. And that we should relax. Not bang our two heads against an unyielding wall.

But other people think that the opposition is too effective. That we oppose too much. That we are against anything and everything our government says. That we are out to discredit them. And to bring them down. So they tell me not to oppose for the sake of opposing. Not to make Bhutanese politics adversarial. Not to make it divisive.

And yet other people think that the opposition party does not oppose enough. They tell me that the job of the opposition party is to oppose. And to oppose everything that the government says or does. That, they say, is the check and balance needed for an honest and vibrant democracy.

What do you, graduates, think? Are we ineffective? Do we oppose too much? Or too little? What do you think?

How you answer will, naturally, depend on how you think about the role of the opposition. Yes, the opposition’s responsibility is to constantly question the government. It is to criticize government policies and propose alternatives. It is to keep the public informed about how the government conducts its business. And it is to debate proposed legislation. Overall, it is to provide a check and balance to the government. And, to hold them accountable to the public.

But the opposition’s role is not just to oppose the government. The opposition party must also support and cooperate with it. It must do so if the government’s actions are good for the country and good for the people, whether or not they have immediate popular appeal.

Article 18 of our Constitution:

  1. 1. The Opposition Party shall play a constructive role to ensure that the Government and the ruling party function in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, provide good governance and strive to promote the national interest and fulfill the aspirations of the people.
  2. 2. The Opposition Party shall promote national integrity, unity and harmony, and co-operation among all sections of society.
  3. 3. The Opposition Party shall endeavour to promote and engage in constructive and responsible debate in Parliament while providing healthy and dignified opposition to the Government.
  4. 4. The Opposition Party shall not allow party interests to prevail over the national interest. Its aim must be to make the Government responsible, accountable and transparent.
  5. 5. The Opposition Party shall have the right to oppose the elected Government, to articulate alternative policy positions and to question the Government’s conduct of public business.
  6. 6. The Opposition Party shall aid and support the Government in times of external threat, natural calamities and such other national crises when the security and national interest of the country is at stake.

I’ve read Article 18 so many times that I now almost know it by heart. After all, I must be guided by it. And be faithful to it. But, as you can see, it is a lot of work. Work that is important and difficult. And especially so for a two-man team up against a very dominant ruling party.

Why the work is important is straightforward. If the opposition fails, we risk not having enough checks and balances in the government. Not having enough transparency. Not having enough accountability to the public. And, we risk defaulting on democracy’s foremost promise: good governance.

But why the work of the opposition is difficult is not so straightforward. Think about it. What the opposition basically does is complain. We consider it to be constructive criticism. And gentle suggestions. Still, it boils down to complaining. And it’s not easy to do that. Especially when our traditions do not encourage open criticism of authority and government.

Important. And difficult. But the work must be done.

People still ask me: Why did the PDP loose so badly? And they ask me: How are you preparing for the next elections? My answer is always this: We do not dwell in the past. And we do not dream of the future. We focus on the present. Our job as the opposition – our sacred responsibility – demands our complete attention and dedication right here, right now.

As the first opposition party, and one that is at a huge numerical disadvantage, I believe that we have three main tasks: First and foremost, to ensure that the rule of law prevails – that due process is respected and followed; that the Constitution is upheld, in letter and in spirit. Second, to insist that the ruling party fulfills their campaign promises. And third, to institutionalize the work of the opposition party.

Our democracy is young. Indeed, it’s not even been two years since the first elections. So during these early days, it is important – extremely important – to ensure that the foundations of our democracy are unshakable. The only way to guarantee that is by building the right institutions. In our context, five of them are particularly important. They are the civil service, the judiciary, the media, local government and civil society organizations. The opposition will work with the government and relevant agencies to strengthen these institutions.

I’ve talked about the opposition. And many of you would think that that is only natural. The opposition leader would talk about the opposition party. Yes, I talk about the opposition so that you will think about its roles and responsibilities, its challenges and priorities. But I also talk about the opposition, so that you ask yourselves: is the opposition doing their job? Are they fulfilling their constitutional duties? Are they effective?

It’s important to think about these questions, because the opposition – yes, even the opposition – is accountable to you, the people. When you have your answers, please share them with me. You can contact me by email at tsheringtobgay.blog@gmail.com. Or better still, drop by my office. Anytime. I look forward to hearing your views, especially if you conclude that the opposition is doing a terrible job.

I congratulate you for successfully completing your studies. And wish you the best of luck in your careers.

Thank you. And, Tashi Delek!

 

Facebook Comments:

Comments

  1. Rajesh Kafley says:

    Very nicely explained, appreciated very much la

  2. OL and the Oppossition Party is doing a great job so far. The OL especially, is a helluva Hercules against those Giants! If he continues to stick to the principle of righteousness above all things as he does now, I am sure he will make a great Prime Minister of Bhutan in the future.

  3. At the risk of causing ire among some of the readers, why do I feel that this speech is quite patronising and solicits support for the Opposition Party?

    However – I thoroughly believe that the Opposition party should have been involved in the graduate orientation.

    Cheers

  4. hon’ble lyonpo,
    who says that you and dasho damchu is not doing a good job despite the number… the job well done always deserves a pat at the back. so i for one would like to pat you guys for the all the concern shown to the general public and keeping us informed about what exactly is happening…..

  5. Honorable OL,
    First time commenting on your page; read and visited so often though. Opposition is indeed doing great and people who say it isn’t are mistaken. Keep going la. My wishes are with you and your party.

    Regards,
    GT

  6. How will you convince the masses?

  7. We have high hopes with the opposition party at times when we are let down by our current party…..

  8. sonam tobgay says:

    great going keep it up

  9. despite the number i think we have one of the best opposition party.
    I praise on your good job so far and wish you strength and luck to carry on the good work for our country.

    kudos!!

  10. sonam dorji says:

    As far as m concerned,oppostion is doing great job ,n want to urge ur party to oppose wel n win the electon in the future ,,,

  11. Tashi P. Ganzin says:

    with the constituency development grant (CGD) of Nu 10 million (2 million per yr for 5 yrs), there’s no chance of the opposition party or any party for that matter, coming to the power.

    this CGD in my opinion will work for first few years but after that the amount will be wasted in corruption. i feel this CGD should be discouraged.

    i have no grudge against the opposition party. Infact having witnessed the present government, i’d want to see the functioning of the opposition party given a chance. i hope to see other parties coming up too.

    with the presence of only 2 MPs in the parliament (NA) from the opposition party, they are not getting much say in the NA. who can blame them because majority always wins. But our opposition is doing a great job.

  12. Our oppositon party is doing a great job so far. And I wish they continue doing so for future of our nation at large.

  13. as far as i concerned our opposition leader n dasho has been doing good for the well being of people as well as for the country. i hope it will continue same work in future also la……

  14. yes,

    opposition leader is doing great work to mess up the things. u r destroying peace in bhutan by trying to oppose the gov unnecessarily. yes, sometimes, it seems to be constructive but most of the times i see u fighting for it just to benefit ur party in the future.

    bhutan doenst need opposition indeed, nc could also be the oppstion. even if the memebrs in na r frm one party, its not going to be a prob in bhutan, we need 2 /3 of the mps to pass the bills.if nc is political then we need to have opposition.

  15. Hon’ble Lyonpo

    How you rose from the crumbles of defeat to the quintessence of a vibrant opposition is a tale to emulate. To me you represent the Reluctant Hero. Keep doing the good things that you do. After all the general public is watching you as closely as they are the ruling government.

  16. Yes,
    I have been in the radious of you for good number years and i appreciate your values and principle of righteousness above all things that you have been doing till date, I am sure you will prove to be a better PM of Bhutan in the future.
    As oppositon party, you are really proving your leadership.
    Tashi Delek OL

Leave a Reply