Bhutan Today has quoted MP Ugyen Wangdi, the National Assembly’s legislative committee chairman, of accusing the opposition leader of trying to “hoodwink the people of Bhutan” and taking “the people of Bhutan for a ride”. He was referring to my continuing protests over the government’s unlawful tax increases.
Obviously, Dasho Ugyen is entitled to his views. And, yes, I’ll defend his right to express them. But I’m surprised at his views. After all, he’s the very MP who tabled the motion in Parliament to amend the provisions of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000 that he considered to be inconsistent with the Constitution.
Here’s his Notice of Motion:
Amendment of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2000.
As per Part I, Chapter 3, Section 4.2 of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act of the Kingdom which was passed by the then National Assembly of Bhutan, the Royal Government is given the power to approve the fixation of the rates of Sales Tax and any revision thereof, and the range of commodities and services under the Sales Tax Schedule. On the other hand, Article 14, (1) of the Constitution states that taxes, fees and other forms of levies shall not be imposed or altered except by law. As such, any change in sales tax and customs duty needs to be done in concurrence with the Parliament.
In accordance with Article 1(10) of the Constitution, the undersigned would like to propose to the House that the relevant agency shall be directed to make necessary amendments to the Sales Tax, Customs an Excise Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2000 and submit it to the National Assembly for amendment.
In his motion, Dasho Ugyen refers to Article 14, Section 1 of the Constitution and concludes that, “As such, any change in sales tax and customs duty needs to be done in concurrence with the Parliament.” And that’s exactly what I’ve been saying: only Parliament can raise taxes, not the government.
Dasho Ugyen also refers to Article 1, Section 10: “All laws in force in the territory of Bhutan at the time of adopting this Constitution shall continue until altered, repealed or amended by Parliament. However, the provisions of any law, whether made before or after the coming into force of this Constitution, which are inconsistent with this Constitution, shall be null and void.” Again, exactly what I’ve been saying: the provisions of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000 that gave the government the authority to raise taxes are now “null and void”.
So I really don’t understand why Dasho Ugyen is so upset that I’m continuing to challenge the tax increases imposed by the government.
Perhaps it’s because I did not, as he put it, raise my voice at all on this issue in the House when he tabled the motion. He’s correct: I did not take the floor then. But I did not speak for a very simple reason: I supported the motion. In fact, every member of the National Assembly supported the motion!