Great expectations

Tomorrow, registered voters in Thimphu, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing will elect their respective thromde tshogdes or city councils.

As we discussed in my last post, the Thimphu city council – the new mayor in particular – will have to sort out the capital city’s water problems.

But the mayor and his council will also have to attend to many other competing priorities. Sewerage, solid waste, public transport, roads, traffic, housing, schools, fire, parks and income generation are some of the issues that should demand the city council’s immediate attention.

The thrompons of Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing will find that they too will have to address more or less the same issues.

But the biggest and most important responsibility of all four city councils will be to consolidate the powers and authority granted to them by the Constitution. Without these powers, the city councils will not be able to fulfill their Constitutional duties and obligations. And stand little chance of improving our cities.

The banner features the Thimphu City Corporation building, which will house the offices of its new mayor.

Wanted: free, frank and thorough discussions

Yenlag or not?

Yenlag or not?

Today, for the second time in less than one year, a joint sitting of the Parliament will discuss the Civil Service Bill. Parliament had discussed and rejected the Bill last year due to irreconcilable differences on some fundamental principles of the bill.

I hope that this time we, parliamentarians, can find a consensus to pass this very important legislation. But that will depend on our willingness and ability to engage in free, frank and thorough discussions on the differing interpretations of the Constitution’s provisions about the civil service.

That did not happen last year. There was very little debate on real issues like the independence of the judiciary and constitutional bodies. Hence the impasse. And hence a dead bill.

But we still haven’t learnt the lesson. That’s why the discussions last week on the proposed thromdes, especially when it came to interpreting the Constitution, were not free, frank or thorough. And that’s why the joint sitting eventually rejected the proposed list of yenlag thromdes.

The Constitution, on Local Governments, Article 22 Section 6 says that:

The Dzongkhag Tshogdu shall comprise:

(a)          The Gup and Mangmi as the two elected representatives from each Gewog;

(b)          One elected representative from that Dzongkhag Thromde; and

(c)           One elected representative from Dzongkhag Yenlag Thromdes.

One interpretation, favoured, by the opposition among others, is that a Dzongkhag Tshogdu cannot be complete if the representative of the yenlag thromde is not available. And to have that representative, a dzongkhag – every dzongkhag – must have at least one yenlag thromde.

Attempts to discuss this provision of the Constitution, which is also reproduced verbatim in the Local Government Act, were sidelined, leaving many parliamentarians confused and frustrated. Hence the impasse. And hence the rejection.

I hope we’ve learnt the lessons. And I hope that the second joint sitting on the Civil Service Bill succeeds today. That will depend on our willingness and ability to engage in free, frank and thorough discussions.

UPDATE: The Parliament endorsed the Civil Service Bill. All but two members, both from the NC, voted in favour of the Bill. One member voted against the Bill, one member abstained. The Parliament also endorsed the National Standards Bill, this one by 100%.