Taking people for a ride

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“All laws in force in the territory of Bhutan at the time of adopting this Constitution shall continue until altered, repealed or amended by Parliament.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!


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  1. Ho’ble OL,
    I think the reason why MP Ugyen Wangdi is making noise is because, in few words, it was like “dom-jab thew-da pata bay” on your part. You did not make noise in the Sacred Hall where you were supposed to but here on your blog you seem to be gathering the public support by making it a big issue. There is definitely a reason but the timing makes it a little too obious.

  2. Honourable Dogcho Gothrip Lyonpo, sorry for the typo error above.

  3. i think OL has done a great job in pointing out the procedural lapses in revising the tax!..In my opinion, even Government conceded their mistake which is clearly demonstrated by proposing to amend the earlier act. But with regard to taking the issue to supreme court, i have little reservation…i am quite confident that supreme court will possibly agree with u and probably court will direct government to either revert the tax revision or propose to amend the act to make it more clear….Reverting the decision at this juncture will be hell lot of work to the revenue and custom officials and ultimately it will be again implemented in the next session as gov. has majority in the parliament!……

  4. Honorable OL,
    How can you support the motion if you do not support the issue? If you found that the issue on the table was not Constitutional, how can you support the motion for it? Please now,don’t talk like a politician. We people want to see you as a statesman, not a politician!!
    Please explain.
    Thank you.

  5. The motion was put forward to make the unconstitutional as Constitutional so thats the very reason why OL supported the motion.I am atleast happy that the MPs keeping aside their differences concentrate on the issues rather than supporting their own party…again there are a lot of reasons why they have done so, I am aware of that…not everyone is a cabinet member.

    This is a question specifically for the Opposition. I am quite surprised that you guys have not raised your voice on the passing of the Budget, whether it should be a Bill or not. As of now I am sure your thorough with the Constitution and also sure what it states.

  6. My only wish is that: let all these arguments between NC & NA, Opposition & Govt be taken to supreme court at the earliest who is the last and final intrepretor. We will then have no arguments once the verdict is passed, and our respects from hearts and souls, bones and flesh, will go forever with the verdict favoured. It is really enough arguing everywhere on the issues like tax revising, CDG, approval of annual budget and so on…Lets now hear only from Supreme court.

  7. This is OL’s personal blog, he can run it like he wants, none of you have business telling him how to run his blog. If it is some government website, sure you can.
    Critic, times have changed, our government blocked live media coverage of the National Assembly, so I am grateful to OL for keeping us up to date.
    In this modern age, everyone uses, blogs, facebooks, and twitters, why not use it like OL does.

  8. truth, what do you mean when you say that the OL can run his blog any which way he wants to, as an opposition leader when the OL brings out issues concerning every bhutanese, he has to be responsible for everything he says, which he definitely seem to be.

  9. ” the proof of pudding is in eatind”
    It seems both are having thier own justifications. its true that coin will have always two sides.
    We are very curiously waiting for resolutions from the judges of supreme court.

  10. Hon’ble OL,
    After the BBS news on the plight of Khuruthang institute of electrical engineering due to flooding (see http://www.bbs.com.bt/Living%20under%20constant%20threat.html), I’ve heard people talk about how you were involved in the selection of the site so as to strategically locate it as a flood shield for Damchen resort. I do not quite believe this is true but I’m curious. In any case, I just can’t understand on what basis the site was chosen whoever selected it, not that I have any expertise in it but it really seems like common sense.
    Apologies for posting something that does not directly respond to the topic, but I thought may be people are/were being ‘taken for a ride’ in this case too.

  11. Hon’ble OL has not done any research about the waiving off a contractor’s ten percent liquidity damage for a Nu 53M Gyalpoizhing – Nanglam highway project by the Minister of Works and Human Settlement.

  12. Sanja, that cannot be true – if damchen was to benefit from the VTI being located nearby, how is it that Damchen already has river protection and the VTI does not?

  13. Linda Wangmo says

    Please do not waste time on our OLs blog…. our dear OL is busy Bicycling and bicycling is every thing to him. It is now very clear that he will have no time for his blog and he would have no time to say what the government does….

  14. everthing is on it’s way

  15. dear ol, where do you lost. not updating ur website site. i lkie ue site. there is no postong form 5th august. come and share wat is happenin la

  16. Sir,

    I think you should formally file a case against FM and not just sent a letter. Since you have publicly said that, i think its your responsibility to take this case formally to the court and then may be appeal to the SUPREME COURT.

  17. Truth, I fail to understand why you are always trying to make noise over the issue of live broadcast of NA proceedings by the BBS. What % of people in Bhutan own a TV and of them how many are free to watch. Most of the people who can make a difference are civil servants and majority will be busy working in their fields, being least bothered of what is happening in the NA hall. Of course some die hard people like you and who are relatives of the politicians will watch. Some others will leave the office jobs and go to watch their preferred politician like many go to watch the archery match in Changlingmethang. But what is the benefit from all this? How much will BBS charge the govt. for this service? How much extra time will be spent by the MPs in trying to show their oratory skills using all kinds of cliches and what would be the extra cost? How about the security issues – do you think that the world should know about it? Be aware that BBS can be viewed in many countries outside Bhutan. So the point is there are more cons than pros on the live broad cast. Do not try to find the “end in an egg”. Be content with what is done because the Bhutanese have elected them. Bestow trust and confidence in them and wait for your turn after another three years with patience. I am not for any MP but I do not grumble just for the sake of doing so. I try to look at issues from different angles rather than being biased with just one view.

  18. jobwelldone says

    I just want to say that our honourable OL has lived upto his name despite being outnumbered by ruling government’s MPs in the parliament.

    Job well done!

  19. if the tax revision is unconstitutional then the fault lies on the government.if it is not then one should ask question to yourself.son will see the load carried by his father very light and food cooked by his mother very delicious but when he take their position he knows the reality. i think our government had not revised without investigation.our government is not betraying anybody.they do every thing for the people. when i say this,i am not blaming our OL but i respect him.he does his job according to the law. thank you for that your honourable.i am very sad to see that tiny kingdom’s MPs are blaming eachother.

  20. TO all the above guest who made hue and cry with our opposition leader for his stand against the unconstitutional tax revision by the government.THINK………….if the OL,keeps quite after a huge tax revision,i think WE would be the looser,you as the supporter of government cannot escape from paying tax to the revenue section.The FINANCE MINISTER in his report on tax revision says”the tax revision is approved by the lhengye zhungtshog to meet the increasing current expenditure”.Did we ever suffer a financial crisis, before DPT came as a ruling govt. and ever asked them to increase the intrnal revenue to meet the internal expenditure.who forced them to spend huge amount and promise to raise the salary,knowing that the country has limited source of generating income.
    if the lhengye zhungtshog can amend the tax revision,than my question to every one is,will the future ruling govt be satisfied with the current revised tax?
    every ruling govt.would want to raise tax to meet their promise.TSHOGPOEN RINPOCHHE!What do you say about that,is it unconstitutional or simply approve as it is your party.

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