Thanking our armed forces

Supreme Commander in Chief

The Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Body Guards, Royal Bhutan Police, and  militia and Desung volunteers celebrated Armed Forces Day yesterday. To commemorate the important day, I’m reproducing a translation of the motion of thanks that I proposed during the opening ceremony of the sixth session of Parliament about a year ago, on 19 November 2010.

Introduction

It has been almost three years since Bhutan became a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. Throughout this period, His Majesty the King has continuously favoured the first elected Parliament with counsel, guidance and unconditional support. As a result, neither misfortune nor hardship has been able to trouble the two Houses of Parliament or any of its 72 honourable members. And for that reason, we, the members of Parliament, have been able to fulfill our respective responsibilities, and work towards establishing a strong foundation for our democracy.

Earlier this year, during the inauguration of the fifth session of the Parliament, I had the opportunity to report to the Honourable Members that, from the day His Majesty the King ascended the Golden Throne, His Majesty has worked throughout the country, and worked tirelessly, for the benefit of the nation and the people. More specifically, I drew attention to the fact that the selfless service rendered by His Majesty were in accordance with the duties of the Druk Gyalpo as enshrined in the Constitution.

My report, however, was very brief. In fact, since I covered His Majesty’s accomplishments in a range of areas, I could not do justice to any one of them. So today, as I, on behalf of the Opposition Party, respectfully submit this Motion of Thanks, I propose to focus on just one aspect of His Majesty’s work.

To do this, I would like to draw the attention of our Honourable Members to Article 28 Section 1 of the Constitution which states that: “The Druk Gyalpo shall be the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the Militia”.

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Thanking His Majesty

Earlier today, His Majesty the King was received in a traditional chipdrel procession to the inaugural ceremony of the fifth session of the Parliament.

My statement, expressing the opposition party’s gratitude to His Majesty, is available here.

Giving thanks

MPs outside NA

This week’s banner features members of parliament, in front of the Gyalyog Tshokhang, preparing to receive His Majesty the King to the inaugural ceremony of the fourth session of the Parliament.

A quick translation of my statement thanking His Majesty the King follows:

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A series of natural disasters have ravaged our country during the past 20 months. Nature’s four elements have created calamities throughout our country, in every dzongkhag, causing immeasurable problems for our country and our people.

Recently, earthquakes, windstorms and fires have inflicted damage, and caused anxiety and hardship for the people living in the eastern part of our country. And, only the day before yesterday, fires destroyed many houses in Haa town and Samkhar, Trashigang.

Such calamities are common in some countries, but in Bhutan they are rare. And they have never occurred in such frequency, or with such force, causing unprecedented problems and hardship for our people.

So our people are surprised. And they are worried. Since all these calamities have occurred only after the first elections, some people have wondered if democracy is inauspicious for Bhutan.

Democracy may or may not be auspicious for us. But, what is certain is that His Majesty the King personally introduced democracy in our country specifically to protect the wellbeing of our people. Furthermore, His Majesty the King has repeatedly commanded that we, the people, must strengthen the foundations of democracy in our country.

So, regardless of whether the signs are auspicious or ominous; and regardless of the frequency and severity of natural calamities, all of us must work together, collectively, to make democracy successful and beneficial to our country, our people and the dharma. This important responsibility belongs to each and every one of us.

On behalf of the opposition party, I thank our civil servants, armed forces, Zhung Dratshang and religious organizations for providing immediate help and support to our people every time there is a natural calamity.

More importantly, I offer our eternal gratitude to His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Whenever natural calamities strike, His Majesty always rushes to personally help and comfort the people who are affected by them. And, in addition to awarding kidu grants to the victims of natural calamities, His Majesty provides moral support to build their confidence.

Recently, on the 3rd day of the 8th month, an earthquake – the strongest living memory – rocked our country. That earthquake completely destroyed not just houses, but entire villages upon villages in many parts of Eastern Bhutan. Many precious lives were also lost in the earthquake.

To make matters worse, aftershocks, windstorms, and fire spread even more damage, and caused our people living in the East – and people all over our country – a tremendous amount of worry and hardship … problems that His Majesty the King addressed personally.

In fact, this is what people told me when I toured parts of our country that were affected by the calamities: on the very day the earthquake struck, members of our armed forces were immediately at the scene – at His Majesty’s command – to help the people affected by the disaster. By the next day, the offices of the Gyalpoi Zimpoen had arrived, and were already distributing food, clothes and tarpaulin to the victims. Furthermore, at His Majesty’s command, the Prime Minister and Gyalpoi Zimpoen toured the affected areas and met the people.

The people found these interventions extremely helpful. Yet, His Majesty chose to visit the region and personally meet the people to give them moral support and a sense of confidence. Now, in addition to traveling the area on foot and personally seeing the affects of the disasters, His Majesty awarded cash grants, and kidu for timber and CGI. Furthermore, His Majesty commanded the armed forces to help the villagers rebuild their houses.

But that was not all: His Majesty visited their homes, cooked for them and talked with them. And, in order to comfort the people, His Majesty sang and danced with them, and slept in the houses of the poorest farmers.

As the earthquake had severely traumatized the rural students as well, His Majesty comforted them, played with them, told them stories, and built temporary classrooms for them.

The people affected by the natural disasters have said that, because of His Majesty’s personal concern, support and kidu, they actually consider themselves fortunate. They say that they now have the opportunity to build better homes for themselves. And, to build more vibrant communities.

Similarly, when fire raged through Haa, His Majesty, who was immediately at the scene of the destruction, granted support and kidu to the victims of the fire.

It is because of His Majesty’s all-important and selfless work, that, in the democratic era, our people look to our Monarch as our only support and ultimate insurance.

In order to fulfill this important mandate, however, we parliamentarians also have a responsibility. That responsibility is to establish the Relief Fund which, according to Article 14, Section 12 of the Constitution, the Druk Gyalpo can use for urgent and unforeseen humanitarian relief. But, instead of establishing the Relief Fund in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, we, parliamentarians, allocated Nu 20 million as a budget item for the fiscal year 2009-10. That was hardly enough, so the Gyalpoi Zimpoen’s office launched a separate Kidu Fund.

Led by the Dratshang, the royal family, members of the armed forces, civil servants, corporations, businesspeople, students, private citizens, international organizations and friendly countries have all made generous donations to the Kidu Fund. Still, in the interests of the future, it is extremely important that we, parliamentarians, establish the Relief Fund.

The fact that His Majesty the King is gracing the opening ceremony of the fourth session of the First Parliament, despite all other important engagements, is indicative of His Majesty’s support of the democratic process, in general, and of the Parliament, in particular.

On behalf of the opposition party, I once again, offer complete and heartfelt thanks to His Majesty the King.