Talk about towns

Thimphu Thromde

Thimphu Thromde

Yesterday, the government proposed a motion in the National Assembly to endorse a list of thromdes (urban settlements). Thromdes, along with gewogs and dzongkhags, form our local governments. But the Local Government Bill, which describes different types of thromdes, has not yet fully completed its passage in Parliament as required by Article 13 of the constitution.

The bill was endorsed during a special joint sitting of the Parliament two months ago, and was submitted to His Majesty the King for His Assent. Till Royal Assent is granted, the LG Bill will remain just that – a bill. And that Assent is not automatic. Article 13 Section 10 of the Constitution states that: “Where the Druk Gyalpo does not grant Assent to the Bill, He shall return the Bill with amendments or objections to deliberate and vote on the Bill I a joint sitting.”

So a few of us suggested that it may not be correct to discuss the proposed list of thromdes until the LG Bill has been fully enacted. That could amount to taking His Majesty’s Assent for granted.

But the government’s proposed list of thromdes has other problems as well. First and foremost, the Dzongkhag thromdes are categorized as Class A or Class B. According to the LG Bill Cass A thromdes will each have a thromde tshogde (a town committee), which will comprise of elected representatives including an elected Thrompon. And, Class B thromdes will not have tshogdes. This distinction between the Dzongkhag thromdes may, in effect, violate the Constitution, which requires that “A Dzongkhag Thromde shall be divided into constituencies for the election of the members of the Thromde Tshogde”, and that “A Thromde Tshogde shall be heaTalk ded by a Thrompon, who is directly elected by the voters of the Dzongkhag Thromde”.

Many MPs have argued that most Dzongkhag thromdes (Gasa has been repeatedly used as an example) are too small to currently warrant a tshogde, and that such thromdes will be upgraded to Class A thromdes as and when the population in these thromdes increase to acceptable levels. I see it quite differently: give tshodges to the smaller Dzongkhag thromdes, and you empower them to attract businesses and people to their respective constituencies. Otherwise, the smaller Dzongkhag thromdes will never grow to levels that will allow them to be categorized as Class A.

The proposed list of Yenlag thromdes (satellite townships) also was not complete. Only eight thromdes were proposed in this category, and a few belonged to one dzongkhag. The Constitution, however, implies that each Dzongkhag will have at least one Yenlag Thromde.

In the end, the National Assembly resolved not to discuss the list of thromdes till Royal Assent is granted for the Local Government Bill.

Parliament endorses LG bill

All 67 MPs present at the extraordinary sitting of the Parliament voted “yes” to unanimously pass the Local Government Bill.  The Bill had been narrowly rejected by the Parliament during its third session about six weeks ago.

The extraordinary sitting of the Parliament was commanded by His Majesty the King as a special case to reconsider the Local Government Bill, the enactment of which was necessary to hold local government elections and to properly implement the Tenth Five Year Plan.

In my statement, after the Parliament cleared the Local Government Bill , I requested the government to render full support to the Election Commission of Bhutan so that they can conduct the local government elections properly. I also reminded the government that, with the passage of the Local Government Bill, the implementation of the Tenth Five Year Plan activities should begin in earnest.

And I appealed to the government to work towards upgrading Class B Thromdes to Class A Thromdes as soon as possible. The LG Bill classifies dzongkhag thromdes according to population, size and economic activity. And according to the Bill, only Class A Thromdes will have thromde tshogdes. Class B Thromdes will not, and will, in essence, function just like yenlag thromdes. The Constitution requires each dzongkhag to have a dzongkhag thromde, each of which would have a thromde tshogde. The elected thrompoen is the executive head of the thromde tshogde.