Where is the opposition party?

PC: Business Bhutan

Article 18 of the Constitution requires the opposition party to “… play a constructive role to ensure that the Government and the ruling party function in accordance with the provisions of this constitution, provide good governance and strive to promote the national interest and fulfil the aspirations of the people.”

But … where is the opposition? Yes, I see them attending ceremonies and photo ops with the prime minister and the government. That’s good. It promotes harmony. But just promoting harmony is not enough. In fact, if there’s harmony, but without a sound opposition, we risk undermining the institutional checks and balances between the ruling and opposition parties. In other words, the two parties could go in cahoots to put personal and party interests ahead of the national interest.

So where is the opposition party? I really don’t know. Except, that is, for the Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji. He was in his constituency recently. And he opposed. Unfortunately, he opposed the previous government, not the current one!

Business Bhutan reported that “After touring the length and breadth of his constituency, and spending hours with the local people” MP Ugyen Dorji concluded that he is “disappointed with work done by last government”, and that gewogs in his constituency have “fallen into regression in the last five years”. (I’ve reproduced the entire article at the end of this post for your reading pleasure.)

I’m not going to bore MP Ugyen Dorji by recounting everything we did in his constituency in the last five years. He would already know all that. So let me highlight just a few of the work that was done … to help me understand why he is so disappointed.

Perhaps the honorable MP does not approve of the gewog center roads that we blacktopped. He would know that we blacktopped GC roads to Orong (12.3 km), Gomdar (12 km) and Wangphu (12.5 km) reducing the cost and time of travel while enhancing comfort in his constituency.

Or perhaps he does not agree that the two central schools we opened in his constituency, one each in Orong and Gomdar, are appreciated by his constituents.

Maybe he’s disappointed that Jigme Namgyel Polytechnic in Dewathang was upgraded to an engineering degree awarding college.

Staying with Dewathang, he may be upset that a brand new 40-bedded hospital was constructed there in spite of the fact that Samdrup Jongkhar already has a district hospital. And he may not approve of the fact that 6 medical evacuations were carried out from his constituency by helicopter.

Or could it be that he does not like his constituents doing business? After all, REDC provided subsidized loans for 120 projects totaling more than Nu 15 million. If that is the case – if he does not support rural businesses – then he would be really upset because we opened gewog banks in all four of his gewogs.

Perhaps it’s electricity. All households in his constituency receive 100 units of free electricity each month. This is the case in all gewogs throughout the country, but for some reason he may take exception to it. Similarly, again for some reason best known to himself, he may feel that doubling the rural life insurance was a bad idea.

Maybe the MP does not approve of the construction of the Southern East-West Highway that we had begun quietly, but in earnest. In particular, the road connecting Langchenphug in Jumotshangkha and Samrang is under construction from both sides. And a road to connect Chokorling in Nganglam to Dewathang is also under construction.

Perhaps the honorable MP did not like Gewog Development Grants which provided Nu 10 million to each of his five gewogs. This enabled the local governments to implement a wide range of development work which they considered important but were outside the scope of the 11th Plan. I know that the GDG scheme would offend him as during his tenure as an MP in the ruling party, he enjoyed using the Constituency Development Grant, a much smaller scheme, but one that gave MPs full control of the funds.

But who knows? Maybe he does not like to see industrial growth in Samdrup Jongkhar. After all we spent Nu 100 million for developing the Motanga Industrial Park, and he may be alarmed that 30 industrial plots have already been allotted. Added to that, he would have seen that a ­lot of ground work has been done on the Nyera-Amari hydropower project.

And who knows? It could be just that he does not like to see Samdrup Jongkhar thromde develop. After all, he would know that Nu 640 million was budgeted in the 11th Plan compared to just Nu 351 million in the 10th Plan. This would basically mean that, between the 10th and 11th Plans, development activities were almost doubled in Samdrup Jongkhar town.

Then there’s agriculture. But since MP Ugyen Dorji knows his constituency so well, let’s leave something for him to write about.

  • So perhaps he could tell us the numbers of power tillers that were distributed in his constituency. He would know that even though power tillers were introduced in the country 35 years ago, some of his gewogs did not have a single power tiller till we distributed a power tiller each to every chiwog.
  • Perhaps he could tell us about the new farm roads that were constructed including ongoing work like the road connecting Orong to Dewathang.
  • Perhaps he would care to mention where farm shops were established, and clarify if they enable his constituents to purchase essential products at fair prices.
  • And perhaps he could tell us how many kilometres of electric fencing were installed in how many of his villages, and if they help farmers protect their crops.

The next time MP Ugyen Dorji visits his constituency, I suggest that he reduce the number of his parties and increase the quality of his observation. That would make a much better strategy to serve his constituents. That would also prepare him to be a constructive opposition to the government, and not make us ask “Where is the opposition party?”