Inaugural session

speaking up

speaking up

I’m posting the speech I delivered in Parliament today. I’d proposed a vote of thanks for His Majesty the King’s gracious presence during the inaugural ceremony of the third session of the Parliament.

The original speech was delivered in Dzongkha. And I spoke from points I had prepared earlier. But I’ve tried my best to translate what I presented into English as accurately as possible.

The photograph shows Tshering Tobgay addressing the National Assembly’s second session in January 2009

Vote of Thanks to His Majesty the King

Welcome His Majesty the King

On this most auspicious day, I, on behalf of the opposition party and with the deepest of respect, offer my heart felt gratitude to Your Majesty, for gracing today’s inaugural ceremony and opening the third session of the First Parliament of Bhutan.

The fact that Your Majesty has put aside all other important work of the State and chosen to attend the inaugural ceremony in person, is a real indication of Your Majesty’s support to Bhutan’s Parliament and, in particular, to the democratic process.

Thank our deities

It has been more than a year since democracy was introduced in the Kingdom of Bhutan. During this period, no untoward harm or misfortune has befallen on our two beloved monarchs, our country, and our people. This is because we continue to enjoy the benedictions of the triple gem, the support of our protecting deities, the combined good fortune of the Bhutanese people, and, most importantly, the supreme powers of our beloved monarchs.

State of democracy

Barely 15 months have passed since democracy was introduced in our country. And already many people, Bhutanese and foreigners, are amazed at how democracy was introduced – gifted from the Golden Throne to the people of Bhutan. And many people sincerely believe that democracy has got off to a good start and that it has already become a vibrant system of governance in Bhutan.

Our people acknowledge that the successes of democracy in Bhutan are solely because of His Majesty the King’s hard work and good results.

We must also accept, however, that not all the people are satisfied with the performance of democracy, our new form of government. This is mainly because the hopes and aspirations that our people have of democracy have still not been realized. And, to a large extent, they are correct.

So, it is our sacred responsibility to fulfill their dreams. But, in order to do so all of us must think and act as one, and work together. When I say “us” I mean the National Council and the National Assembly, the ruling party and the opposition party, civil servants and the private sector, and all other people. Only if we work together will we be able to achieve His Majesty’s vision of a robust and vibrant democracy that will deliver the hopes and aspirations of the people.

His Majesty’s work

Now, when we consider His Majesty the King’s work, all of us know very well that, even before the Coronation, His Majesty had worked tirelessly to ensure that the foundation of democracy was well secured so that, although the people didn’t want democracy, the transition from absolute monarchy to democratic constitutional monarchy would eventually be made smoothly and effortlessly.

And after the historic coronation of the Fifth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty the King has spared no effort to work with even greater force to serve the country and people of Bhutan. So, it is not possible to recount all of His Majesty’s good work today.

But, from among all his work, if I were to report about one, just as an example, we may be better able to understand His Majesty’s complete dedication to his country and his people.

It is no secret that most of our people live in villages, many of which are located in remote corners of our country that have not been visited by officers or civil servants. His Majesty has journeyed to these far-flung places. He traveled by day and night, for many weeks, in the scorching sun and soaking rain, and among leeches and insects. And no matter how tired he may have become, His Majesty insisted on visiting every village personally and, in it, dwelling place, with or without a roof.

He met his people in their villages, in their lands, and in their homes. He listened to their problems. And he personally solved their problems, right there and then.

We all know that the biggest problem our farmers face is the issue of land. Many farmers have “excess land”, land that they have not been able to pay for. Some have too little land. And many do not have any land at all – these are sharecroppers who for generations have slaved on other people’s fields.

In Lhuntse, in one dzongkhag alone, His Majesty the King granted various types of land kidu to a total of almost 5,000 families.  Similarly, His Majesty awarded many kidus to the people of Mongar. And, during the natural calamity caused by flash floods in various parts of the country, His Majesty rushed to see the devastation personally. And he met the victims and granted them kidu.

Monarchy in democratic Bhutan

Before the advent of democracy, our monarchy played a crucial role in the development of our country. And every successive monarch worked exclusively for the wellbeing of the country and the people.

Now, our beloved kings have deliberately given their powers to the people, and started a democratic form of government.  Yet the institution of monarchy, and His Majesty the King, must play an even more important role now to ensure the success of democracy, and the continued stability, peace and prosperity of our country and people.

Responsibility of parliamentarians

We, however, must also do our share of work. In order to enjoy benefits of a healthy democracy we must all work together. That includes parliamentarians, civil servants, private sector, farmers, the youth and all other citizens.

But, if we look at the situation today, many people feel that democracy has not given them what they want. And what do our people want from democracy? Our farmers want their hopes and aspirations fulfilled; our business community wants a much more stronger private sector that can contribute to a growing economy; our youth want quality education and job opportunities; and, overall, our people want GNH. GNH not just in words or on on paper, but real GNH that translates to improvements in their lives.

So, to fulfill the expectations of our people and of democracy, we parliamentarians must accept the biggest responsibility. The National Council and National Assembly, the ruling party and the opposition party, all of us have a collective responsibility to ensure that democracy succeeds.

As far as the opposition party is concerned, we will engage our body, speech and mind to serve the tsa-wa-sum, and we offer our pledge to do so here, in the incomparable great hall of the Parliament of Bhutan.

Conclusion

In conclusion, on behalf of the opposition party, I offer my sincere gratitude to Your Majesty the King for inaugurating the third session of the Parliament, and for making our democracy strong. Tashi delek!