Precious gifts

His Majesty’s birthday gifts to the people of Bhutan: a vibrant media and a strong judiciary for a successful democracy.

Birthday celebrations

Sombaykha Dungkhag

Sombaykha is the latest of our country’s 16 dungkhags. It was established barely two years ago to serve the two remote gewogs of Sombaykha and Gakiling. The offices of the dungkhag, which consists of three makeshift houses, are located in Sibthang along the banks of the Amochu.

Last Sunday, on 21 February, farmers from Gakiling and Sombaykha, descended on their dungkhag to celebrate His Majesty the King’s birth anniversary.

This week’s banner features the dungkhag office. More photographs of the festivities are in the gallery.

Gifted Sonam

Working gifts

Working gifts

Ever so often, a reader will leave a comment that is much more powerful and important than the original entry. I am delighted every time that happens.

Someone called “Invisible” left such a comment to my last entry, “Farmhouse lunch.” The comment is insightful, thought provoking, and inspiring. So, if you haven’t already read Invisible’s response about SMEs and jobs for the “invisible people”, I encourage you to do so.

“If you ‘genuinely’ believed in Aum Sonam, enjoyed her lunch, and saw a business potential in it…” advised Invisible, “…let it give you inspiration, reason, and energy to drive SMEs in Bhutan.”

I am inspired. And it’s not just because of Aum Sonam’s lunch. It’s also because I believe in the potential of her idea to make homemade soap. Yes, you heard me right, soap.

You see, Aum Sonam and her fellow-farmers produce potato chips that they sell in Mongar and Bumthang. The chips sold well, but she was unhappy that they had to literally throw away the cooking oil after it has been used several times. And, it was not just potato chips: frying banana chips, tsip and khabsay also eventually produced cooking oil that they could not reuse.

So when Aum Sonam learnt that fat was the main ingredient in soap, she quickly decided to recycle the used cooking oils. She now collects all the used oil and produces soap from her farmhouse. Her soap is simple. But it is produces a rich lather that is effective at removing dirt from clothes.

A few months ago, a visitor chanced upon Aum Sonam’s farmhouse. He listened to her. And, he liked her idea, her spirit and her energy. So he purchased her entire stock, and encouraged her to expand her business to include herbal soap and creams that would find a ready market in our own hotels and resorts.

A month later the same visitor returned to her farmhouse. Aum Sonam eagerly told him about the progress that she had made, and about all the new possibilities that she had learnt since they last met. And, she confided that her biggest challenge was to produce soap that had a consistent shape and size. She’d tried everything, from tin cans to sawed-off mineral water bottles, and still she was not happy with the shape of her soap.

So imagine her surprise, when the visitor handed her a gift: a set of wooden soap molds that could produce several sizes of classic bar-shaped soap. She had only seen them – longingly – in pictures, and had wondered if she would ever own one. She was truly overjoyed.

That visitor was His Majesty the King.

Royal address

Law makers

Law makers

ROYAL ADDRESS AT THE CONCLUDING CEREMONY OF THE 3rd SESSION OF THE PARLIAMENT, 30 JULY 2007

On the occasion of the concluding ceremony of the 3rd session of Parliament, I congratulate the elected government of the Druk Phuensum Tshokpa on the completion of one year and four months in office. In these early days of a new political system while bearing great responsibilities you have, despite the limited resources, successfully carried out the difficult duties of government in service of the Tsawasum.

The Opposition, though comprised of only two members, has through diligence and commitment, fulfilled the important duties of the Opposition party enshrined in the Constitution.

The members of the National Council, in the interest of the country’s future, have shouldered their profound duties with accomplishment. I must express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the government and the members of parliament. It is with complete trust and faith that I look upon you to serve the People and Country. In doing so you have my wholehearted support.

We must also acknowledge that in preparation for democracy we had entrusted immense responsibilities on our civil servants and judiciary as well as on constitutional bodies such as the Royal Audit Authority, Anti-corruption Commission and Election Commission, which they have fulfilled in the service of the nation. Henceforth, for a vibrant and successful democracy, we must continue to support and strengthen these institutions.

Media – newspapers, television, radio and the Internet – must play a very important role. I appreciate that while some of the media agencies are young and lack adequate resources they have strived to perform their duties with complete commitment. Hereafter, media will be vital in keeping people well informed and in encouraging debate and participation – key to a vibrant democracy. Therefore, I have decided that through the exercise of my Royal Prerogative of Kidu, to strengthen media agencies so that they may carry out their duties, without fear or favour, in the interest of democracy.

Today, whenever there is time, I travel across the country to the villages. It is when I sit in the houses of my people, eat our meals together and discuss the lives and aspirations of each family, that I am most content. And while I am there I try, in small ways, to help them with their most pressing problems. Nothing is as rewarding as knowing that I have made their lives a little more comfortable, a little more secure and happier.

There is no substitute for being able to see the problems of the people personally. For when I carry out my duties, I shall remember the faces of the people whom I must serve and I will know the ways in which I can serve them best.

It is also while I am in the villages that I come across so many people serving the country in such important ways, but who are rarely recognized and acknowledged. There is the civil servant, teacher, health worker and local government staff working in remote places and serving their country well. Our development projects are supported by the hard work of the daily-wage worker and those in the national work force. There is the small entrepreneur or the farmer working hard to feed his or her family. Such people are the backbone of our nation.

I have said before that the future is what we make of it. What work we do with our two hands today, and the sacrifices we make will shape the future of our nation. To each and every loyal, hardworking and law-abiding citizen I offer my deepest gratitude.

Now, I always say that when we work together we must be frank and forthright. Today, everywhere people are concerned about the disagreements between important institutions of government. I want to tell my people that when such disagreements arise, there is no need to worry. It means that the members of these institutions have embraced their duties wholeheartedly. However, we must be careful not to defer problems but resolve them as soon as they arise.

It is not the disagreements that our people should be concerned about; it is the manner in which they are resolved. Frankly, these disagreements have given us a great opportunity to set the right precedent for future politicians, governments and people. If the institutions in question can sit together, keeping national interest above all else, and resolve their problems, it will be an auspicious sign that democracy has a great future in Bhutan.

As King I have the sacred duty to look beyond the next one or two, or even five or ten years. It is my duty to serve the People such that, for generation after generation, era upon era our nation becomes stronger, more prosperous and happier. Therefore, from where I stand, I do not see different players such as the National Assembly, National Council, Cabinet or Bureaucracy.

What do I see? I see our small landlocked country. I see our small Bhutanese family. Then I see this immense world in which we have the challenge and responsibility to stand on our own feet and build a nation into which our future generations will always feel proud, secure and happy to be born.

This is what I see. I truly believe that we have a special, unique and strong nation because of our People – the jewel of Bhutan. Throughout history our people have always worked as One Nation with One Vision. So, today, it is my hope that you will uphold this unity of spirit and purpose and resolve all disagreements in the interest of our People and Country, now and in the future.

Tashi Delek

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.

Committed vision

“My duty is to worry every single day about our people and country. And to voice these worries frankly so that we do not get carried away, get caught unawares, or become complacent” commanded His Majesty the King to the teacher graduates during their convocation on 17th February (read full text). His Majesty then articulated his concerns about our education system with the clarity, earnestness and sense of urgency that comes from “worrying every single day”.

Our education system has recently come under increasing fire. Yet seemingly little is being done. So His Majesty’s counsel is timely. No doubt, the government will take it seriously. What follows are experts from His Majesty’s address …

Does our education system reflect our changing opportunities and challenges? Contemplate this question.

Our hopes and aspirations as a nation must be reflected in what is taught to our future generations in the classroom.

We must ensure that … young little hands grow to become strong and worthy of carrying our nation to greater heights.

It is the duty of parents, policy makers and the government to put the right tools in their hands – the right books, the right curriculum, the right direction.

We must first ask ourselves … what is the Vision for Bhutan? Then we must build an education system that nurtures people with the right skills, knowledge and training to fulfill this Vision. The sooner we realize this, the better.

Our nation’s vision can only be fulfilled if the scope of our dreams and aspirations are matched by the reality of our commitment to nurturing our future citizens.

If our Vision for the nation is not contained in the pages of the books that our young children hold, in the words of our teachers … and in the education policies of our governments, then let it be said – we have no Vision.

While we pile dream upon dream like floors on a skyscraper, the foundation needs to be strengthened.

Mathematics is one of our main weaknesses. We have similar weaknesses in Science and amazingly, even English.

A nation’s future will mirror the quality of her youth – a nation cannot fool herself into thinking of a bright future when she has not invested wisely in her children.

It is not enough to provide free education – we must provide education of such quality that it will guarantee a distinguished place for our youth anywhere in the world.

Do not … let the light of education ever go out.

Jewel of books


Twenty months ago the Tarayana Foundation invited Bhutanese to compose poems celebrating His Majesty the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Of the more than two hundred entries, 25 poems were selected and compiled into the book “Jewel of Men”. These poems express the deep feelings – of love, affection and reverence – that all Bhutanese hold for our beloved monarch.

“Jewel of Men” was launched yesterday by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, in a warm ceremony commemorating our Fourth King. Present were HRH Ashi Sonam Dechen Wangchuck, who delivered an eloquent welcome, and HRH Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, who gave us a poignant documentary about his relationship with his father and his monarch.

“This book of poems”, Her Majesty revealed to an audience full of emotion, “I hold dear to my heart, for it is a reflection of the sentiments of love and gratitude to His Majesty, who has given this country so much, in particular, a King in His Image, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck”

I thank Her Majesty and Tarayana for voicing my innermost feelings on the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, a giant among men, a king without equal, a jewel.