Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan
Restricted for Private Circulation Only
MAY- AUGUST 2008
Indian Prime Minister addresses the Bhutanese Parliament
Dr. Man Mohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India addressed the joint session of Bhutan’s recently formed Parliament on May 17, 2008. The Indian Prime Minister was the first head of State to visit Bhutan after the ‘historic elections’ that was held this year. He was in Bhutan for a three-day State visit from 16th May to 18th May, 2008. He assured ‘wholehearted support’ to Bhutan.
Bhutanese democracy sympathizers lament that Bhutanese leaders in exile and their supporters were outwitted by the fourth King in roping in India, the world’s largest democracy, in legitimizing his exclusive Constitution.
Exiled Bhutanese political leaders were up against the exclusive and elitist democracy layout in the Constitution doctored by King since its first public release in 26th March, 2005. The Constitution legitimizes his unlimited powers under ‘Royal prerogatives’, at the same enabling him to execute his anti-democratic and anti-people policies. In addition, he is beyond the reach of the judiciary. Bhutanese people inside and outside the country submitted their suggestions to that it is in the interest of the institution of Monarchy to place the Royal family within the purview of the law, and that this should be incorporated in the draft Constitution. But, King was unrelenting.
The Indian Prime Minister congratulated Bhutan’s democratic transition and extended every kind of assistance. He announced aid packages worth 100-billion rupees and declared that India will begin the construction of the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan, connecting Hashimara and Phuentsholing. He also announced that a Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarship will be instituted to encourage students from Bhutan to study in leading Indian universities and institutions. In the area of hydropower development, India will work with Bhutan to develop two new mega hydropower projects, Punatsangchhu-II and Mangdechhu within next five years. In addition, Indian papers reported that sum of Rs 28.7 billon is set aside as a gift for Bhutan.
Prior to the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Bhutan, the Druk National Congress submitted a memorandum to Dr. Man Mohan Singh welcoming his visit to Bhutan and urging him to advise the Bhutanese Kings on inclusive democracy, and to resolve all outstanding political problems plaguing Bhutan.
Fourth King-Politics and In-laws
The fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the throne at a tender age of 17 when his father, the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, passed away in 1972, despite the stipulation that the coming age for a Crown Prince was 21 years old. In his address to the National Assembly in 1972, he promised to continue his father’s legacy. But, soon after a year, contravening his father’s decree, he issued a decree that ministers will no longer have to face a vote of confidence in the National Assembly. Thereafter, the ministers had only him to please and neglected the welfare of the general public. Some ministers went on to occupy their posts for more than 20 years, and late Dawa Tshering held the post of the Foreign Minister for 26 years, a world record.
Prior to his marriage, I had met him on numerous occasions and observed that he was devoted to the well being of the Bhutanese people. I was proud then to serve under him. Post marriage, I observed his attention were else where. His decisions featured heavy signatures of his father-in-law and wives. His in-laws abused power. They snatched poor farmers’ fertile lands and even got land eviction decrees signed by him. They grabbed lands in Haa, Punakha, Wangdi Phodrang, Zhemgang and Nganglam. Lucrative businesses were all given to them. The sole extraction and distribution of sand, stone and silt in Bhutan was given to his father-in-law, Ugyen Dorji. Industrial projects applied to the Government by other businessmen which were rejected by the Government for various reasons were reissued to them. People suffered under the naked abuse of power by his in-laws.
The Lhotshampas problem could have been nipped in bud had King met the public directly instead of relying heavily on Rizal and Home Ministry’s (Dago Tshering) reports. As a result of King’s poor judgment, the political upheaval continued and triggered the mass exodus of Lhotsampas in the early 90’s. Several political parties and human rights organizations were formed to press for the return of the Bhutanese refugees. In 1991, I was arrested under fabricated political charges, imprisoned and tortured. Unable to substantiate the charges made against me, I was released. On hearing of the plot to eliminate me I fled to Nepal and sought refuge.
Several attempts were made to lure me back to Bhutan. In 1992 my brother Pema Wandgi, the Chief District Officer of Haa, died under strange circumstances and I was offered amnesty to come to Bhutan to attend his funeral. I refused the offer. In 1994, the Police Chief (who was also my brother-in-law) was sent to meet me and ask me to come back. The condition I placed for my return was straightforward - total democracy for the Bhutanese people under Constitutional Monarchy and protection of human rights under the law. I received no reply from the Royal Government and I refused to return. The Police Chief was imprisoned for failing his mission.
The Religion persecution ensued in 1990s. Nyingmapa practitioners were persecuted and many Nyingmapa learning centers were either sealed or converted to Kargyupa learning centers. The Government continued its politics of terror to control political unrest. I formed the Druk National Congress in 1994 to spearhead the establishment of democracy, human rights and people’s rule in Bhutan. In 1997, during a routine visit to Delhi to meet with Indian Leaders, I was arrested by the Indian Government on the behest of the Royal Bhutanese Government who sought to have me kidnapped to Bhutan. Timely action by Indian supporters, friends and the Indian Courts prevented the attempt. Extradition proceedings have come a long way with the charges against me having been changed several times and now with almost no legal or political basis remaining for extradition, the case is just lingering on without direction.
The Druk National Congress relentlessly continued its campaign for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan. Its programs brought the Bhutanese people inside Bhutan together to work towards achieving this, and its lobbying outside Bhutan brought in many supporters for the Bhutanese political movement - individuals organizations and governments.
Finding support for totalitarian rule slowly diminishing both inside and outside Bhutan, in 1998, the King instituted a new cabinet of ministers with a rotational Prime Minister.
Again in October, 2004, During the King’s eight day working visit to India. His principal secretary, Dasho Pema Wangchen met me at my residence at Delhi with message that I should return Bhutan. My conditions for return were the same – democracy under constitutional monarchy and human rights. But again, I received no response. And DNC’s political movement continued.
On the 26th of March, 2005, the King declared the release of Bhutan’s first Draft Constitution. DNC welcomed this and had submitted the suggestions to seek improvements in the Constitution.
The King along with the Crown Prince toured Bhutan to inform the people about the Constitution. But unfortunately, there was never any public discussion. In same year, the King also informed the nation that the Draft Constitution would be adopted in 2008. But in 2006, he abdicated the throne, contravening his doctored Constitutional provision where the King will have to resign at 65. His premature resignation at 51 years brings out several plausible answers. The most significant being his unpopular, coldhearted and uncompassionate and family-centric policies that had sullied his image, rendering it incompatible with Bhutan’s democratic era. It was his own making. The Crown Prince had a clean image without any apparent incumbency baggage. Handing over the reins to a new Monarch would reinstate the King’s image and also enable him to rule from behind without having to face up with the complications of governance. DNC had great expectation from new Monarch.
However, reports coming in from Thimphu do not give a positive indication for Bhutan’s political future. Even after the historic “general elections” where the Bhutanese people rejected the candidacy of the fourth King’s brother-in-law, and brought in an alternative choice of people’s representatives into the government, and the signing of the Constitution on 18th July, 2008, the political situation is not very different from what it was before the process began. The past legacy of a government representing a monarch over and above the people remains intact. The Prime Minister is not vested with adequate powers that will allow him to function as the people’s representative without undue interference from “above”. In addition, there is no indication whatsoever to release the political prisoners. The Monarch or Monarchs will continue to function as Prime Ministers and not as a nominal Head of State. Things can go terribly wrong when the people are undermined, particularly when the leash of democracy has already been lengthened.
Contrary to what most would like to believe, the movement for the establishment of legal democracy in Bhutan is still not over. But with such situations globally getting more and more complicated to resolve as time goes by, time is not an affordable luxury, and the movement for the establishment of social democracy will now have to move ahead side by side until the goals are achieved.
Indian political parties lack policy on Bhutan: Indian leaders
India must change its security-centric policy gainst Bhutan and adopt a pragmatic policy reflecting the changing times according to a host of Indian leaders. It was stated in the meeting on “Challenges before Bhutan Today”, that was organized by the South Asia Forum for People’s Initiatives (SAFPI) at Jawaharlal Nehru University on 6th May 2008. Prof. Anand Kumar, the Chairman of SAFPI, chaired the meeting and urged delegation to pay particular attention on Indian’s role in Bhutanese issues. With the institutional changes taking place within Bhutan, he urged Bhutanese democratic forces to struggle harder than before to grant genuine democratic rights to the Bhutanese people.
During the meeting, a backgrounder on the recent political transition in Bhutan prepared by the Druk National Congress was distributed. The report outlined that the democratic process is exclusive and elitist.
A majority of the speakers pointed out that India’s security-centric policy against its neighboring nation must evolve with changing times. Anand Swroop Verma, journalist and former President of Bhutan Solidarity Group said that Indian political leaders and the establishment doesn’t have a proper policy on Bhutan. Let alone the policies, many are ignorant of Bhutan’s geographical location. He warned that India’s continuing negligence of Bhutan’s political and refugee issues will have an adverse effect on Bhutan-India relations in future.
Refugee leaders voiced their demand for the dignified repatriation of Bhutanese refugees. Even the exclusive democratic changes within Bhutan are the byproduct the relentless campaign for the establishment of democracy and human rights in Bhutan by Bhutanese political forces in exile. It is therefore every Bhutanese’s right to be able to taste the fruits of democracy. The conspicuous absence of Bhutanese exiled parties and their leaders in the recent democratic process inside Bhutan sums-up the true intention of the democratic process in Bhutan.
Prof. Anand Kumar, School of Social Science, JNU and Chairman, SAFPI: He informed the delegates that particular attention must be paid to the question of India’s role in Bhutanese issues. Bhutanese democratic forces have enormous challenges against the King’s privileged powers. Bhutan at present faces the daunting challenge of working to convert the ‘elitist and exclusive democracy’ into a truly inclusive democracy.
The International Community must assist the honorable and dignified repatriation of Bhutanese refugees.
Anand Swroop Verma, former President, Bhutan Solidarity: India doesn’t have a policy on Bhutan that reflects the changing times. He lamented that Indian political parties too lack a policy on Bhutan. He holds the view that South Block continues to follow British India’s policy of containing China.
He questioned whether the Government of India, the Government of Bhutan and the US are particularly waiting for Bhutanese youth in refugee camps, which constitute about 40% of the refugee population, to take up arms against the Bhutanese Government so that they could use the ‘terrorist’ tag against the democracy movement and crush it?
Ravi Nair, Executive Director, SAHRDC: Indian’s foreign policy is China and Pakistan centric. He said that he doesn’t believe that economic factors plays a role in Indian’s policy towards Bhutan. In a nutshell, security concern is the major decider for Indian mandarins. Americans shared the same concerns to India regarding China’s emerging superiority in world.
Insurgency in Bhutan must be discouraged at the present scenario at any costs: after 2001, the situation has changed in Bhutan, and the Bhutanese army are no more the Royal family’s’ orchard guards and servants. Under the pretext of dealing with India’s north eastern insurgents, they have been well trained and armed by India in dealing with anti-insurgency activities. Besides, the King has also raised the militia to protect his vested interest. There will be huge causalities on the dissident sides if they opt for an armed movement. Rather, the political parties and NGOs of Bhutan must fight the political establishment head-on. At the present moment, Refugee issues need to be put in the background and the leaders and parties must engage in a political struggle.
Anil Choudhary, President, INSAF: He is optimistic that the people of Bhutan will get political space to protest or demand their rights in view of the adoption of a written Constitution in Bhutan. This space can also be used by Indian friends to worked concurrently with Bhutanese friends.
If China-fear continues to haunt Indian’s policy makers, then he sees no help for Bhutanese political activists and the people of Bhutan from the Indian establishment. There is an immediate need to change the security-centric policy towards Bhutan and for that, the Indian intellectual and civil society must apprise the Government of India of prevailing changes.
Sudhindra Bhadoria, General Secretary, South Asian Forum for People’s Initiative: A change has come in Bhutan. The Bhutanese are in a better position today than before to demand their rights. Even Indian friends are now better off than earlier in dealing with Bhutanese authorities. He proposed that the next meeting of ‘Challenges before Bhutan Today’ must be held in Thimphu, Bhutan. He assured help in facilitating Bhutanese’s entry into the Delhi political arena.
He also vowed to extend all support to new Bhutan.
K.C.Taygi, General Secretary, JD(U): The backgrounder on Bhutan must be sent to all political parties in India and meetings must be held amongst different political parties so that all political parties can have a better understanding on Bhutanese issues. All parties must meet India’s Foreign Minister. Indian leaders can also submit a petition with a charter of demands to UN offices on the refugees’ behalf.
S.B.Subba, Chairman, HUROB: How can India help Bhutanese refugees? The situation in the camps has become worse due to the US rehabilitation offer. The pro and against groups are fighting each other.
The refugee community welcomed the verification of Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese. The JVT terms and conditions set in 2001 are now unacceptable. He feels that India continues to have major role in resolving the refugee impasse.
K.B.Kharka, Refugee Representative: He stressed that a majority of the refugees still hope to return to Bhutan. Resettlement is optional and people are opting for the same. India must pave way for repatriation. The people demanding democracy are not included in the “democratic processes” unfolding in Bhutan. The people must be repatriated to Bhutan to taste the fruit of democracy which is essentially the results of their long struggle. Government of Bhutan must hold a dialogue with dissident’s leaders to solve the impeding refugee crisis. He urged India’s civil society, human rights activists, and social workers to pressurize their government and request MPs to raise their voice on behalf of the Bhutanese people.
Strengthening mutual friendship
Bhutan–India friendship and economic cooperation was central when Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley paid his maiden visit to India after assuming the role of Prime Minister, after his party the Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa, won the one-sided general elections this year. He was on a four-day visit, from the 13th to 17th July, 2008, accompanied by Foreign Minister, Ugyen Tshering, Economic Affairs Minister Khandu Wangchuck, and Finance Minister Wangdi Norbu and other 37 delegates.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister held talks with the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh on a wide array of bilateral, regional and global issues and discussed further expansion of economic ties and cooperation, particularly in the hydropower sector. Apart from getting a commitment of Nu. 162 billion for Bhutan’s 10th Plan tied to hydropower projects, the Indian government agreed to provide a standby credit facility of Nu. 4 billion to ensure the stability of Bhutan’s currency reserves.
During his four-day stay, he met President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Opposition Leader LK Advani, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister extended invitations to the President and the Prime Minister of India to join in the celebrations of the Coronation of the Fifth King.
Observers have pointed out that the friendship between Bhutan and India revolves largely around its governments. Peoples’ level friendship is neglected or avoided. Prior to the Bhutanese Prime Minister’s visit to India, on the 8th July, the President of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, Shri Satya Prakash Malaviya wrote a letter to Jigme Thinley, Bhutanese Prime Minister welcoming his visit to India and requested his audience for a delegation of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society to call him during his stay in Delhi. The request was unanswered.
King’s Constitution adopted
On 18th July, 2008, Bhutan formally adopted the Constitution with a lavish signing ceremony. The Gold lettered Constitution text was signed by the fifth King, the representatives of National Assembly, and the members of the National Council in the presence of the ex-King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and his wives, and government officials. It was taken to Parliament and placed on the Golden Throne.
The fifth King in his Royal address said, “This is the People’s Constitution”. Dr. Man Mohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India while addressing the joint session of the Bhutanese Parliament on 18th May, 2008 and congratulating the achievements of fourth King said, “ He (the fourth King) is the architect of Bhutan’s constitution and polity”. Interestingly, everyone has been saying all through that it is a “King’s Constitution” meant to perpetuate his family rule.
The Constitution has thirty five articles. A two-party system is envisaged. Religious people/personalities are denied the right to vote. The King and the members of his family are entitled to annuities from State. The legislative, executive and judiciary powers are vested with King under Royal prerogatives. In addition, he can exercise powers relating to matters which are not provided for under this constitution or other laws, conveniently placing himself beyond the reached of Constitution. Can the people adopt for themselves such a Constitution?
Bhutan must translate agreement into reality: Upendra Yadav
31st August, 2008: South Asian Forum for People’s Initiative hosted a luncheon in honour of Nepalese Foreign Minister, Shri Upendra Yadav who was in Delhi to attend the BIMSTEC meeting. The Bhutanese delegation led by Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President, Druk National Congress met the Nepalese Foreign Minister and urged him to assist the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees. Mr. S.B. Subba, Chairman, Human Right Organization of Bhutan ( HUROB) was one of the four-member delegation.
Shri Upendra Yadav informed the delegation that he had a lengthy discussion with his Bhutanese counterpart, Ugyen Tshering at the sideline of the BIMSTEC meeting on Saturday. He has urged his Bhutanese counterparts to translate past agreement into reality. Bhutanese Foreign Minister had promised to finalize matters in their next meeting.
Prominent Indian leaders present during the luncheon were Sharad Yadav, Janta Dal (United) leader, DP Tripathi, General Secretary (NCP), Ravi Shankar Prasad, General Secretary (BJP), Prof. Anand Kumar, Chairman (SAFPI), Sudhindra Bhadoria (General Secretary, SAFPI), Dr. Parmanand, Anand Swroop Verma.
DNC sends facilitation to Nepalese Prime Minister
The Druk National Congress extended its felicitation to Shri Prachanda on being elected to office as the Prime Minister of Nepal. The letter was submitted on 24th August, 2008. DNC congratulated him and his party for rendering their utmost service to bring peace, happiness and prosperity to the Nepalese people.
DNC also urged him to extend continuous support to the Bhutanese refugees.
Two political parties’ common interest - State funding
Druk Phuentsum Tshogpa’s (DPT) government and People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) opposition in unison tried to get state funding for their respective parties. Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley’s announced the proposal to fund the activities of the parties and that each party would get a sum of Nu 20 to Nu 25 millions annually. The proposal was however, struck down after a strong rebuke from the members of the National Council and with Election Commission of Bhutan terming it as ‘unconstitutional”. Despite suffering a jolt and humiliation in National Council and Bhutanese print media, the DPT government has not wholly scrapped the proposal, and stated that it will be reintroduced in the winter session of the Parliament.
Jigme Thinley argues that political parties in Bhutan cannot sustain themselves without State funding. In the run up to the elections, both parties’ expenditure has outstrips the income and has an outstanding overdraft of Nu 20 million or more. Interestingly, both the president of both parties had mortgaged their respective properties as collateral to avail of Nu 20 million as loans each from the Bhutan of Bank, to finance their electioneering.
Mr. R.K Dorji, President, DNC says “No doubt, the King constituted the DPT and the PDP and even nominated a majority of the MP and cabinet ministers. Therefore, it was coming but it wasn’t expect so soon.”
DNC celebrates its fourteenth Foundation Day
On the 16th June, 2008, Druk National Congress celebrated its fourteenth Founding day with Indian friends. A dinner was hosted by Indian friends to mark the special occasion. Druk National Congress was established on 16th June 1994, in exile to launch the movement for the establishment of democracy and human rights in Bhutan.
Satya Parakash Malaviya, President of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society says, ‘I experienced mixed feelings when I witnessed the democratic transition in Bhutan. I’m happy that your (Bhutanese democrats) struggle for democracy and human rights has borne fruit. I’m equally sad that none of you were included in this historic process in Bhutan”.
R.K. Dorji, President, DNC said that both DNC and IBFS have great challenges ahead to strengthen the people to people relation between the two countries. He informed Indian friends that the “New Bhutan’ needs assistance from Indian friends and urged them to contribute towards building excellent Indo-Bhutan friendship that puts the people at the heart of its friendship foundation. He thanked Indian friends for their unwavering support and assistance.
Coronation date for Fifth King announced
Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck will be crowned as the Fifth Druk Gyalpo on 6th November, 2008. It will be extended to 7 and 8th November.
His Majesty was born to Tshering Yangdon and the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck on 21st February, 1980. He completed his formal education in Bhutan and completed the higher studies from England. He was appointed as the Tongsa Penlop in 2004. He assumed the Monarch’s responsibility on 9th December, 2006 when his father, the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, abdicated the throne. He officially became the first Constitutional Monarch on 18th July, 2008 when he signed the Constitution along with Members of Parliament.
Mr. Hari Bhattarai, 44, Bhutanese refugee living for last 17 years in Nepal says, “I would have loved to participate in the Coronation celebrations of the Fifth King at Changlimethang, Thimphu provided His Majesty repatriates me before November, 2008. I was barely 10 years old when I celebrated the Coronation of the Fourth King on 2nd June, 1974 along with my parents at Thimphu, Bhutan”
4,000 Bhutanese refugees already resettled
Over 3,600 Bhutanese refugees are already resettled in western countries according to International Organization for Migration (IOM), the agency which deals with the resettlement processing. The refugees have been resettled in United States, Denmark, Australia, Netherlands, Canada and Norway.
Many refugees are processing their applications for third country resettlement after seeing no breakthrough in the Bhutan Nepal bilateral talks. But those who are seeking third country resettlement are expressing their intention to return to Bhutan in future.
Open Letter to Members of Parliament, Bhutan
30th April, 2008
First of all, please accept my sincere congratulations on your electoral success.
The relentless campaign by pro-democracy forces, demanding the establishment of democracy and human rights in Bhutan, has finally yielded results. But non-the-less, the steps taken are still exclusive and essentially anti-people in nature.
Your electorate has bestowed upon you their trust, and the responsibility of acting on their behalf in protecting their interests and working for their betterment. Democratic elections is not a race to decide the victors and the vanquished, it is a competition to serve the people.
It has also fallen upon your shoulders to adopt a new Constitution for Bhutan next month. Fate has presented you with the opportunity to remedy any remaining undemocratic and anti-people provisions in the draft Constitution. Because of this important task on your hands, which has significant ramifications for the future of our country, I want your undivided attention, and urge you to give utmost consideration while deciding on the constitutional provisions while adopting the Constitution.
Kindly give thought to the following points :
1. As is the norm in all democratic countries, the Constitution must provide for the instituting of a National Human Rights Commission to regularly monitor the human rights situation, and to scrutinize and document human rights abuses, and to also provide redressal to victims of human rights abuses, irrespective of whether the State or any non-State machinery is responsible.
2. For proper representation and to allow for the freedom of political choice, the strength of Parliament must be increased from existing 47 to 75. More constituencies, in proportion to population, must be delimited, so that representation is proportional and adequate, and so that the needs of the electorate can be effectively addressed. In this context, it will be also pertinent to reserve three seats for representatives from the Central Monastic Body/Drukpa Kargyu bodies, two seats for representatives from Nyingmapa associations and one seat for a representative from Hindu associations. This is important, because each respective culture, and its heritage, including the interests and rights of their members, must be accorded equal opportunity in raising their concerns in the highest peoples’ decision making body, so that their interests are also safeguarded and preserved.
3. Voting rights of monks and gomchens must be restored. They too are citizens of Bhutan and have a right to decide on the fate and administration of the country. Depriving them of their voting rights has categorically rendered them third–class citizens in their own country. In a democracy, even criminals have a right to vote, so excluding any Bhutanese of suitable age from exercising his or her right to vote, is unfair, biased and undemocratic.
4. The stipulation of eligibility to stand for election is outrageous and anti-people. Vide the Election Act Section 173 (d) and 174 (d), i.e. a candidate must “possess a formal university degree” to be eligible, means that only the elite and exclusive are eligible to participate in the democratic process. In a nation where we have given the highest respect and accordance to our national language and culture, and have also take pride in this being the supreme sign of our identity, we contradictorily undermine and insult these very values that we have accepted, by excluding graduates from traditional educational institutions, who essentially go through the same qualificationary processes as other western-type institutions. This is nothing less then equivalent to burning our national dress in favour of the western suit. Even normally, in widely-accepted democratic norms around the world, every citizen of the electorate’s choice, has an inalienable right to vie through elections for an elected post, irrespective of race, sex, language, religion or educational qualifications or background. The will of the people should be the only stipulation. It is the electorate who is vested with the power to accept or reject his candidature. Articles such as Article 23(4)(b)], “terminated from Public service”, Article 23(4)(c)], “is convicted for any criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment”, Article 23(4)(d)], “is in arrears of taxes to the Government…” are those which are of concern. Because it is every citizen’s inalienable and inviolable right to nominate competent candidates to stand for elected posts, amongst those whom they feel can work in their interests, the right to nominate candidates to stand for elected positions must be recognized. These preposterous stipulations must be removed and right of every individual citizen must be restored.
5. Bhutanese citizens who were engaged in the democratic struggle are termed as ‘Ngolops’ and have been barred from participating in the democratic process. Even their kith and kin have been denied the right to participate in the democratic process. Their only “crime” being their steadfast campaign demanding for democratic and human rights – the fruits of which will now be reaped by the Bhutanese population. Their sacrifices in getting Bhutan to this point gives them the right to be allowed to participate in the democratic process.
6. The role of the Opposition is over-circumscribed (Article 18), and leaves political parties vulnerable to questionable dissolution (Article 15(11)). Article 10(22), which entails that the concurrence of not less than two-thirds of the total numbers of members of each House respectively, can remove the right of immunity of a member, affords enormous powers to a ruling party to oppress or persecute a weak opposition. Such a scenario is best demonstrated in the make up of the present National Assembly, in which the Ruling Party has 45 seats out of the total of 47, with the Opposition Party holding on to only two seats. Such provisions must be removed.
7. A multiparty system is a common characteristic of a democratic setup, and provides the required variety of choices and competency to the general public in regard to policies and issues, and therefore must also be instituted in Bhutan. The recently concluded elections under a two-party system does not qualify as truly democratic, because the fundamental criteria of democracy has not been met. Observe the two-party electoral process in the US and the run-up procedures to the final elections - a lot of effort and money goes in to selecting the people’s choices of the final nominees. In Bhutan’s case, a two-party arrangement, unless executed in completeness, has and will end up being just a perceived “democracy”, and will actually be unable to offer a truly democratic choice to the people. A multi-party democracy is what can address the needs of the Bhutanese people.
8. The draft Constitution has misguidedly granted enormous powers to the Monarchy. Under such a Constitution, a vibrant and functioning parliamentary democracy will be impossible to achieve. Residuary legislative powers is vested in the Monarch (Article 2(16)(e)). Article 20(7) provides undue powers to the Monarch to sack a Prime Minister or his Cabinet. The Monarch’s legislative powers are extensive, including independent powers to send messages (Article 10(8)), convene extraordinary sessions (Article 10(12)), to nominate eminent persons constituting 20% of the Upper House (Article 11(1)(b)), to block Bills even if passed by both Legislatures (Article 13(10)&(11)).
Moreover, Article 2 prohibits the Parliament from amending the Monarch’s Constitutional powers, and essentially means that a Monarch’s powers are beyond the purview of the Parliament and the people.
It is a gross misconception that keeping the Monarchy above the Constitution and the Law protects the Monarchy. On the contrary, such provisions actually prevent the Parliament and the people from protecting the Monarch, when necessary. God forbid, if an untoward incident were to occur, where a member of the Royal Family thus “protected” under the Constitution, commits a murderous act against another such Royal Family member or even the Monarch, the Parliament or the Judiciary would be powerless to take any action on its own. There is no guarantee that in future all “protected” Royal Family members will be appropriately well-behaved, and could possibly turn out to be a potential threat to a ruling Monarch or his heir(consider the Royal massacre in Nepal, where the Government had no choice but to declare Crown Prince Dipendra the King even after having murdered his father, the King. The Monarch and his family were above the law and when the onslaught came from within, there was nothing the Parliament or the people could do. Even if the massacre had been perpetrated by another ‘protected’ Royalty, there would have been little the Parliament or the people could have done). Thus, vesting ultimate powers with accountability to the Parliament will be a deterrent to any future errant member of the Royal Family from even contemplating such ideas, for fear of appropriate action by the Parliament and the Law. Consider this very carefully for the future well-being and safety of the Monarch and the Monarchy. It is the people who decide on the system of governance of their choice, whether it be a Constitutional Monarchy or otherwise, and having opted for a Constitutional Monarchy, it is the same people who will ultimately protect the system and the Monarchy.
Your conscience is but your own. Follow your conscience while adopting the Constitution. The hopes of the Nation, the Bhutanese people, and the excluded sections of society rests on you.
Copy of Letter
Dated: 31st July, 2008
With great respect and humility, I submit Druk National Congress’s appreciation for the adoption of the Constitution and also congratulate Your Majesty on becoming the first Constitutional Monarch of Bhutan.
While our Kingdom is embarking on a new vibrant journey, there are matters that still need attention to ensure an equitable democracy for our people.
The denial of religion and cultural freedom had led to a religio-politico imbroglio in our beloved country. It seems a partial solution has been achieved by guaranteeing the freedom of religion and cultural rights under the Constitution.
However, the genuine intent and resolve of a new democratic Bhutan should be the released of all political prisoners at once. It is also our fervent prayer that unless the political differences and political crisis in our country is redress, including with exiled political leaders, then long-term peace, stability, economic prosperity, and happiness of all Bhutanese would not be achieved.
We are all firmly committed to strengthen the sovereignty and security of our beloved nation, therefore, we pledge full support to Your Majesty and also commit ourselves to work together to resolve all outstanding problems.
We are confident that Your Majesty will take the initiative by coming forward to a dialogue towards reconciliation and resolutions.
Copy Of letter
Dated: 31st July, 2008
Four months has lapsed since the formation of a "democratic government” in Bhutan. Yet there is complete silence on various pending issues, in particular the release of political prisoners and the Bhutanese refugee impasse.
We had placed great hope and expectation on the new administration under your leadership. Besides, we assumed that you would personally take special duty in resolving all outstanding political issues that has been plaguing our country.
We express our disappointment at this indifference.
Your Excellency, we want to remind you that it would be a fatal assumption on your part to conclude that the sort of "democracy" instituted within Bhutan has or will automatically solve all outstanding political issues by itself. Unless the all democrat political leaders and representative, including those in exile are not integrated in the Bhutanese polity, then the peace, stable and secure Bhutan in its stride towards new era would remain a mere myth.
The responsibility to resolve these matters lies with Your Excellency's office. It is our fervent wish that this become a priority in your current course of action for Bhutan.
We await your positive action for the well-being and happiness of Bhutanese citizens.