Administrative action

The Samtse Dzongdag has been transferred to Haa. His transfer, which was decided by the home ministry, is meant to be an administrative action against him.

But Article 2, Section 19(q) of our constitution states that:

The Druk Gyalpo shall, by warrant under His hand and seal, appoint: … Dzongdags on the recommendation of the Prime Minister who shall obtain nominations from the Royal Civil Service Commission.

If it is the Druk Gyalpo who appoints dzongdags, then how is it that the home ministry has appointed a new dzongdag for Haa? And a new one for Samtse? Kuensel raised this point more than a year ago. And so did I.

I will ask the RCSC if due process was followed in the appointment of the two dzongdags.

And I will ask the RCSC if their rules permit the prime minister to issue “… directives to the home ministry, the judiciary and the police to take appropriate actions against the senior dzongkhag officials.”

Anonymous fear

Of the many reasons we may have to comment anonymously, fear of government reprisal is the worst.

Here’s how Kuensel introduced a contractor’s remarks recently:

An owner of an established construction company, who requested anonymity, fearing possible backlash from the government, said that …

The government must dispel such fears. The Constitution, after all, guarantees “…the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression” as a fundamental right.

Rejected

The third session of the Parliament did not pass two bills: the Local Government Bill and the Civil Service Bill. Both the bills are important. So, many people are concerned. And, more than a few people have asked me how the discussions will be continued.

One concerned reader, a Samdrups, was particularly worried about what I wrote in “Parliament rejects civil service bill” and commented: “You are talking as if you are in favour of referendum or making the bill dead!!! I am sure it will be very costly to have referendum and costlier to make these bills dead. The issues, i believe are not that enormous or complicated that it warrants calling for a referendum or requires changing it completely. Referendum should be the last option after exhausting all parliamentary devices! Looks like it is due to limited time to deliberate properly and thrash it out. So, it would be wise to conduct extraordinary session and pass it. I think there is a provision to appeal HM for advice and conduct special session and pass bsuch bills. And i think even the joint sitting/house resolved to conduct special session….now again don’t tell us it is unconstitutional!”

Samdrups’ comment raises three important questions: One, are the bills “dead”? Two, is a referendum a good idea? And three, can a special session re-discuss the bills?

Rejected bills: dead?

The Parliament did not pass the two bills. In other words, the Parliament rejected the two bills. Hence, technically, the bills are dead. Otherwise, the very purpose of voting on the bill would be defeated. In fact, Chapter 20, Section 193 of the National Assembly Act states that: “When a Bill has been passed or has been rejected during a session in any year, no Bill of the same substance may be introduced in the Assembly in that year except by leave of the Assembly.”

So, new bills on the local government or the civil service cannot be introduced in the National Assembly until a year has passed. Unless, that is, the National Assembly specifically allows it.

Referendum: good?

According to Article 34.2(a) of the Constitution, “The Druk Gyalpo may command a National Referendum if, in His opinion, a Bill, which is not passed in a joint sitting of Parliament, is of national importance.” So, even though the joint sitting of the Parliament rejected the two bills, His Majesty the King may command a referendum. Here, as in my earlier entry, I’m only quoting the provisions of the Constitution. It is not correct for me – and, indeed, for any of us – to comment on the appropriateness of such a referendum. That, by Constitution, is His Majesty’s royal prerogative.

Special session: constitutional?

Now, would I consider a special session to re-discuss the two rejected bills unconstitutional? Yes I would, if a special session were to be convened because the “… joint sitting/house resolved to conduct special session”.

But no, I would not consider it unconstitutional, if His Majesty the King were to command a special session to re-discuss the rejected bills. Why? Because Article 2.16(e) of the Constitution declares that “The Druk Gyalpo, in exercise of His Royal Prerogatives, may exercise powers relating to matters which are not provided for under this Constitution or other laws.”

Noble king

Bhutan's kings-2A year ago, on 21 July, during the first sitting of the Parliament after the signing of the Constitution, I proposed a motion to nominate His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for the Nobel Peace Prize. To recall the importance of that motion, I’m featuring a photograph of our beloved kings, taken during the signing of the Constitution, in the banner. And, I’m posting a rough translation of the statement I made in the Parliament last year.

On the 15th day of the 5th month of our calendar, His Majesty the King affixed his signature, in pure gold, to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan. That historic moment, which took place in the Grand Assembly Hall of the Trashichho Dzong amid the sacred representations of the Lord Buddha, was witnessed by the monks of the Zhung Dratshang; His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo; Their Majesties the Queen Mothers, members of the Royal Family; ministers, members of the Parliament; officers of the security forces, civil servants; and the thousands of people who had congregated from many dzongkhags.

By this royal action, His Majesty the King gifted the Constitution, and, with it, the complete powers of governance, to the people of Bhutan.

In 1907, one hundred years ago, our forefathers had voluntarily given up all powers of the government to our first king, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Since then, under the golden reigns of successive Wangchuck monarchs, the people of Bhutan have enjoyed unprecedented peace, prosperity and happiness.

Now, by introducing democracy, along with the Constitution, His Majesty the King has ensured that the sun of peace and happiness will never set on Bhutan and the Bhutanese people. This is a most precious gift. So, together with all our people, from all corners of our country, I respectfully submit my heartfelt gratitude and tashi delek to His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan is without equal. No where else in the world, and at no time in history, has a constitution such as ours been constructed. Similarly, no other monarchy in the world, at no time in history, has given their powers to their people. The devolution of absolute powers from the Golden Throne to the people is, indeed, unique to Bhutan. In addition, in no other country has democracy been introduced in an environment of complete peace and stability, for in practically every other country, the transition to democracy has invariably been accompanied by war and strife.

All this has been made possible in Bhutan because of our visionary monarch, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, a true Dharma King. His Majesty has transmitted his noble thoughts and deeds, through the Constitution, to the Bhutanese people. Peace, prosperity and happiness will, therefore, continue to favour Bhutan and her people.

We must also allow other peoples, in other countries, throughout the world, to learn about and to benefit from the unparalleled wisdom and compassion of our beloved monarch. For this, it will be fitting to present His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Prime Minister should, therefore, on behalf of all the Bhutanese people and members of the Parliament, submit a proposal nominating His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for the Nobel Peace Prize. I propose that the nomination, along with complete justifications, be sent to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, based in Norway, as soon as possible.

The construction of a constitution such as ours is, in itself, sufficient reason to be presented the award. But, in addition, His Majesty has, at the height of his popularity, devolved all powers of government, introduced democracy and abdicated from the throne . His Majesty has ensured peace, stability and the security for our country; developed the social wellbeing of our people; promoted our unique culture and heritage, and protected our pristine environment. This is why Bhutan, a small country, enjoys so much peace and happiness. And, this is why it is most appropriate to present His Majesty the Nobel Peace Prize.

But that is not all. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a King of Destiny, has given Bhutan and the world, Gross National Happiness. This timeless development philosophy is already gaining widespread acceptance and is guiding development in many parts of the world.

We, parliamentarians, recently celebrated the signing of the Constitution together. Similarly, I call upon all my fellow parliamentarians to collectively support this proposal to nominate our beloved monarch for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gift from the Golden Throne

Priceless

Priceless

One year ago, on 18th July 2008, His Majesty the King signed the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan. I am pleased to reproduce below, His Majesty the King’s address to the Nation on that historic day.

On this day of destiny, in the blessed land of Pelden Drukpa we, a fortunate People and King, hereby resolve to bring into effect the root and foundation – the very source – of all law in our nation.

On such an auspicious occasion, on behalf of the people I offer gratitude to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. During his reign His Majesty built a strong nation and secured the hopes and aspirations of the people through the process of democratization and the enlightened vision of Gross National Happiness. His Majesty has also laid a clear path for our future through this Constitution.

The significance of His Majesty’s unique achievements as leader has transcended the experiences of our country and been acknowledged by the world. In our own country, many generations into the future, the Constitution will continue to inspire our people as it stands testimony to a selfless and extraordinary leadership.

This Constitution is the most profound achievement of generations of endeavor and service. As it is granted to us today, we must remember that even more important than the wise and judicious use of the powers it confers, is the unconditional fulfillment of the responsibilities we must shoulder. Only in understanding our duties will the exercise of our powers be fruitful. If we can serve our nation with this knowledge and in this spirit, then an even brighter future awaits our country.

It is my fervent prayer that through this Constitution we will, with our body, speech and mind work with complete commitment and conviction as we strengthen the sovereignty and security of Bhutan; secure the blessings of liberty; ensure justice and peace and enhance the unity and happiness of all Bhutanese, now and always.

Lastly, this Constitution was placed before the people of the twenty dzongkhags by the King. Each word has earned its sacred place with the blessings of every citizen in our nation. This is the People’s Constitution.

And today, through this, my Hand and Seal, I affix on to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the hopes and prayers of my People.

Being blunt

One of them is confused

One of them is confused

The cartoon in the last issue of Bhutan Times showed Lyonpo Nanda Lal Rai announcing: “I’m going to be blunt. He (opposition leader) along with other MPs will get the CDG. But he’s creating all this noise to gain political mileage. If people are misinterpreting the Constitution from day one, they’re asking for trouble.”

I take issue with Lyonpo Nanda Lal on four counts. First, I cannot and will not accept the CDG if I continue to believe it to be unconstitutional. My understanding of our obligations to safeguard our Constitution will not allow me do so. In fact that’s what the first part of Tshering Tobgay’s placard says in the BT cartoon.

Second, challenging government policy is not “noise” and is not for “political mileage”. It is our duty. And especially so if government policies risk infringing on our constitution. We’ve raised our concerns through various media – the press, TV, this blog and officially with the government. More important, the National Council and the public have also raised similar concerns about the CDG. But, so far, our government has not offered any explanation as to why they feel that the CDG does not violate certain provisions of our Constitution. So to dismiss constructive criticism and genuine concern as “noise to gain political mileage” demonstrates the complete lack of understanding of the issues. Or it demonstrates outright arrogance. Both are not good for our democracy.

Third, if our government feels that “people are misinterpreting the Constitution” they should explain which provisions of the Constitution are being misinterpreted. This is their duty. Yet our government has not ventured any explanation on the constitutionality of the CDG. So simply charging people of misinterpreting the Constitution without offering any justification is wrong. Prove that the CDG is not unconstitutional and I will stand corrected. That, in essence, is what the second part of Tshering Tobgay’s placard says in the BT cartoon.

And finally, I have absolutely no idea what Lyonpo means when he treathens that “they’re asking for trouble”. We are not asking for trouble. But what we are asking for is an explanation from our government. What we are asking for is the democratic process. What we are asking for is our Constitution.

Financing parties

About a month ago Kuensel reported that DPT MPs had insisted that “… only state funding would save them from sinking under.”

And quoted Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyal as saying: “Given the experience of the party so far and the need to have a responsible and respectable political system in the country, it’s desirable to have state support, because the existence and functioning of spolitical parties have critical implications on the health of the state.”

I’m amazed that DPT politicians continue to expect state funding for their party. After all, the first session of the parliament had decided that state funding for political parties would be unconstitutional. And it had resolved that the state would not fund political parties. So I’m surprised to see that our politicians continue to expect state support.

In fact, I’m concerned that our politicians and that our government may be preparing to justify state funding for political parties all over again. If this is so – and the Kuensel article makes me believe that it is so – then our politicians may try to approve state funding even though they themselves resolved, less than a year ago, that such funding would be unconstitutional. And that is cause for serious concern.

About the constitution

Kuensel is correct for being concerned that the 12 “dzongdags’ transfer flouts BCSR rule”. The newspaper is also correct for being concerned that RCSC rules may have been broken. And correct for pointing out that our government is “not above the law.”

But, as serious as Kuensel’s concerns already are, we should be even more seriously concerned. Why? Because our cabinet’s offense is not limited to breaking BCSR and RCSC rules. Instead, our cabinet may have knowingly broken the provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Article 2, Section 19(q) of our constitution states that “The Druk Gyalpo shall, by warrant under His hand and seal, appoint: … Dzongdags on the recommendation of the Prime Minister who shall obtain nominations from the Royal Civil Service Commission.”

All 12 dzongdags who recently received transfers are qualified and experienced. And they probably make very good chief executives in the dzgonkhags. But, for democracy’s sake, respect the rule of law. Respect our constitution.

So the government should apologize for their transgressions; rescind the transfers of the 12 dzongdags; and follow due process to appoint the 12 dzongdags as enshrined in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Interpreting our Constitution

“WE, the people of Bhutan … do hereby ordain and adopt this Constitution for the Kingdom of Bhutan …” proclaims the preamble of our constitution.

And Article 1 declares that “This Constitution is the supreme law of the State.” And that “The Supreme Court shall be the guardian of this Constitution and the final authority on its interpretation”.

If legal interpretation of the Constitution was needed it should have been provided by the Royal Courts of Justice which includes the Supreme Court, the High Court, Dzongkhag Courts and Dungkhag Courts. The Supreme Court has the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution, but that does not mean that legal interpretation of the Constitution cannot be provided by other courts.

So I’m surprised that the National Assembly asked a foreign legal expert to interpret our Constitution (read Indian advocate interprets constitution). And even more surprised that the foreigner’s opinion, which is of no legal consequence, has been made public.

The constitution of our nation


Today, we celebrate our 101st National Day. Today will also mark the culmination of the year-long celebrations commemorating a century of peace, prosperity and happiness under our beloved monarchs.

As we conclude the historic celebrations of 100 years of monarchy, we have many reasons to be deeply thankful: a secure and sovereign homeland, a vibrant culture and religion, a largely pristine environment, free healthcare and education, a unique democracy, and a growing economy. Simply put, we live longer, better and happier lives.

And as we enter the next 100 years as a unified nation, we must uphold our two most important assets to ensure that we and future generations continue to enjoy peace, prosperity and happiness. The first asset is our monarchy. This important institution, which is the essence and very basis of our kingdom, must be protected, nurtured and cherished by all Bhutanese – in body, speech and mind – so that future generations can enjoy what we today take for granted.

The second is our Constitution. This sacred document, gifted to us from the Golden Throne, must be defended – rights enjoyed and duties fulfilled – by all Bhutanese, for all time.

……………………………………………….

Our Constitution came into effect on 18 July, 2008. 152 days have already passed since the historic signing of this sacred document, and it has still not been properly distributed. Forget farmers, none of the gups I’ve met have received a copy of the Constitution.