Druk National Congress - Political Organisation of Bhutan
PRESS RELEASE / ARTICLE/ SPEECH
What is card in with Bhutan election 2018
Bhutan will go for National Assembly election in a few months.
The National Council election was completed on April 20 this year. The newly elected members of council has already assumed office. However, the excitement of partisanship, controversy, rivalry among people of different political parties is only visible in National Assembly election as the National council is apolitical by law. National Assembly on the other hand is a powerful house as it forms the government and directly represents the people. The National Assembly election of 2013 was alleged to have been rigged in favour of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the then opposition party, and this makes the forthcoming election even interesting.
In the 2013, there were allegations of postal ballot tempering, bribery, involvement of His Majesty Secretariat, intervention by the interim government, manipulation of armed forces and student votes and local government officials’ involvement in political campaign. The bigger influence of 2013 election was the Indian Government withdrawal of four subsidies, on LPG, kerosene oil, Chukha power tariff and the excise duty refund. This Indian action had a telling impact on Bhutan election. During campaign trail, discussions on foreign policy in regard to China and Bhutan-India friendship were in full heated centrestage. The then Prime Minister Mr. Jigme Y Thinley had met Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao on June 21, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The subsequent extensive coverage on the meet of the two state heads by Indian media during Bhutanese elections, further aggravated the situation and caused polarization. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) bagged 32 seats in primary elections and stunningly a month later, lost to the PDP that had won only 12 seats in primary elections.
Four political parties vying for election
Just as in the 2013 elections, four political parties will go for primary elections.
1.)The Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) did not manage to garner 10 percent of total electorate votes in 2013 and therefore meant the lack of state funding in this election. The DCT wisely dissolved the party in 2018. The then disqualified party, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party(BKP) is now allowed to participate the election with other parties like DPT, PDP and Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT).
All political parties have similar ideology. All parties want to promote Gross National Happiness and welfare of the people. Thus, all parties have resorted into building cult like figures around party presidents to garner votes. The DPT victory of 2008 election was attributed to Jigme Y Thinley’s charismatic leadership that rivalled the monarch himself. The DNT in 2013 election lost its credibility when the president, vice–president and senior leaders en-mass joined the PDP for General election has revamped itself by electing, Dr. Lotey Tshering as a president of the Party. Dr. Lotey Tshering had lost the 2013 election in the primary round. In 2017 at the National Day celebrations, the King awarded Druk Thuksey (Heart Son of Bhutan), highest civilian award to Dr. Lotey Tshering validating him as a Pelden Dukpa (a true nationalist). Can a Dr. Lotey sway the public of a party image that had failed to keep hold of its leadership and alleged as an extended hand of PDP?
2)The BKP on the other hand is taking a cue from DNT. Mr. Sonam Tobgay, former president of the party has roped in as president, Dasho Neten Zangmo, also a recipient of Druk Thuksey and former Chief of Anti- Corruption Commission bringing with her the image of incorruptibility of the party. As did DNT in 2013, by appointing Aum Dorji Choden, 1st female president of a political party in order to woo woman voters who are in the majority in Bhutan. Mr. Sonam Tobgay himself is known to be an ambitious man who is willing to change to the winning party if his party proves ineligible to participate in the general election. He harbors hopes on becoming Minister for Trade and Industry. In addition, the Chief political advisor to BKP is a former Mongar Dzongdag Mr. Lhakpa Dorji. On October 23, 1997, Mr. Lhakpa Dorji , the then Monger Dzongda, shot dead Gomchen Karma from Dramtse in cold blood at Mongar Kori la during peaceful demonstration spearheaded by Druk National Congress. He is denied Security Clearance Certificate and thereby ineligible to participate in elections. If a known murderer is the Chief Political advisor to BKP, people should judge where the party’s principles and ethos lie.
4)The DPT, opposition party, also lost some of its credibility in the aftermath of the previous election. The DPT were so distraught at the loss that it even threatened to dissolve the party and recalled its 15 winning candidates from the National Assembly lest their presence gives credence to the winning Party. Moreover, the first elected Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley resigned from the National assembly seat and as DPT president. This ungracious behavior on the part of Jigme Y Thinley, left the country’s opposition party bereft of strong leadership. However, DPT government (2008-2013) tenure fulfilled many of their party pledges in socio-economic activities that immensely benefited the general public. Will this sway the public in their favour?
The Final say
What will this year’s National Assembly election debate around? Domestic issue and other socio-economic issues pledged in their respective party manifesto? Will India and China foreign policy debate figure once again? This time around as well, Doklam stand off and BBIN issues are there for the taking. Besides solely concentrating on their party’s manifesto, will the parties share the burden on matters of national security and national interest with the King? The successive election debate has not mentioned whatsoever on Bhutanese refugee issue. Will the fate of 6500 remaining Bhutanese refugees in Nepal lies with the new government?
Bhutan and India celebrates 2018 as golden jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between the two neighbours. The Indian Prime Minister’s willingness to visit Bhutan later this year to mark this epic year between the two countries but only after the formation of the new government. India has sent clear a message across all political parties in the country that India will support whosoever comes to power. India does not want the repeat of 2013. The PDP had projected itself as pro-India party then. India will not risk breeding anti-India sentiments in Bhutan by siding with any political parties in Bhutan. India wants to show she enjoys excellent cordial relationship with all Bhutanese political parties. Interestingly, this year general election debate is conducted under ECB template. The BBS anchor will not be allowed to question the candidates directly.
Social media will have significant bearing on the outcome of elections. Wechat, Facebook and Twitter has penetrated into Bhutanese society more than in 2013. In fact, Wechat has penetrated deeper into rural than in urban. The simple hold and talk feature has made it very easy for illiterate rural people. However the layman has no inkling to authenticate the shared information, news or videos. Fake information and news about candidates or parties will definitely feature in these mediums.
This article first appeared at this link : https://www.bhutannewsnetwork.com/2018/07/what-is-card-with-bhutan-election-2019/
Date: 15th July, 2013
Following is the text of Mr. Kesang Lhendup, President of Druk National Congress’s Felicitation message to Mr. Tshering Tobgay, President of People’s Democratic Party.
“On behalf of the Druk National Congress, please accept our sincere congratulations on the success of the People’s Democratic Party, as well as your own, in the recent general elections.
We are confident that Your Excellency will leave no stone unturned to implement the promises pledged in the PDP’s election manifesto and serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum with utmost dedication. At the same time, We are hopeful that the lingering Bhutanese refugee issue, which our country has been plagued since 1990s would be resolved, and the democracy further strengthened in our beloved country.
We await your positive action for the well-being and happiness of Bhutanese citizens”
REAL GAME OF DEMOCRACY BEGINS NOW
The Government of Bhutan successfully conducted elections to the local governments on 27th June, 2011. A total of 2,185 candidates contested and 1,104 candidates were elected to the offices of Gups, Mangmis, Tshogpas, Thromde Thuemis. Overall voter turn-out was recorded at 56%.
There is an imbalanced distribution of Gewogs in Dzongkhags in proportion to their size and population. The Druk National Congress is apprehensive that development activities in larger Dzongkhags could be handicapped, particularly after the Local Government elections of 26th June, if funds are allocated to Dzongkhags based merely on the number of Gewogs under it.
The Druk National Congress urges the Government to rectify this policy so that no political crisis arises as a consequence in future.
Reason behind the formation of
the new alliance
I was arrested in 1997 by the Government of India at the behest of Royal Government of Bhutan in Delhi. I was imprisoned for 14 months at Tihar jail. On 12 June, 1998, I was released on bail by the Delhi High Court. However, my bail conditions required that I had to report local police station twice a week and I couldn’t go out of Delhi. My arrest itself was against the Indian law. I was booked for not posessing valid travel documents. In fact, at the time of my arrest, I had a valid travel document issued to me by the Government of Nepal. In addition, the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949 doesn’t require Bhutanese citizens to have visa or travel permit to travel to India.
Despite politically fabricated and motivated charges against me, the extradition proceedings dragged on. The positive side to all the misery that I was subjected to was the assurance of the Indian democratic spirit and the rights of individual finally prevail when the Government of India dropped the extraditions case against me on April 21, 2010.
After the end to a torturous judicial journey of 13 years, the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, an organisation promoting friendly ties between the people of Bhutan and India, wrote a letter to the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. It was mentioned that, ”In view of Bhutan instituting a democratic system of Government, it is logical that the Royal Government of Bhutan allow Mr. R.K. Dorji and those of his party members who are presently in exile, into the country without any preconditions. They must be allowed to participate in the democratic process of Bhutan so that they can contribute towards the building of a healthy democratic order in Bhutan. We believe that the Government of India will also most certainly facilitate and assist the reconciliation process”. A copy of letter was sent to the Prime Ministers of India and Bhutan. Besides, I also wrote a letter to the King presenting the need for both of us to work towards reconciliation and including me and my party into the polity of Bhutan. No reply was received.
The purpose of my visit to Nepal
After dropping the false, fabricated charges against me, the Government of Bhutan is now trying to treat me like an animal, which has been released and left to the elements, after years of confinement. I am no animal. I am a human being. I have the rights of human being. And this indifference of the Bhutanese government is not acceptable. I have been imprisoned for struggling for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan. I will continue to strive for democratic rights and justice as is enshrined in the Constitution of the Bhutan. Since travelling might be required often, I went to Nepal to renew my travel documents.
In Kathmandu, Nepal, I met Mr. Teknath Rizal, the noted human rights campaigner of Bhutan and Chairman of People Forum for Human Rights in Bhutan, Mr. Balaram Poudel, President of the Bhutan Peoples’ Party and Dr. D.N.S. Dhakal, Acting Chief Executive of the Bhutan National Democratic Party. During course of discussion, they stressed on the need for a new alliance amongst us for pursuing national reconciliation, inclusive democracy and the repatriation of exiled Bhutanese to our country. Incidentally, all these are long-standing organisations have a great deal of working experience. On 22 August, 2010, we agreed to work together. I agreed to upgrade existing Druk National Congress (DNC) party office at Kathmandu, Nepal, which hereafter will also coordinate all the activities of the Bhutanese in the exile. This office is in addition to the existing DNC contact office and Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society’s office at New Delhi, India. We unanimously agreed to work on following basic points. i.e.:
The alliance entrusted me to lead the unified democratic movement. Our activities will be peaceful. All we want is constitutional rights which are granted to us by the Constitution of Bhutan, promulgated in 2008. We will keep the Government of Nepal informed and also seek their assistance and support in our initiatives. A delegation of the alliance will also meet the Government of India sometime in December to seek assistance to facilitate our repatriation and safeguard our democratic rights in Bhutan. We will urge the Government of India to assist us because the Government of India is the largest donor to Bhutan, and Bhutan and India also enjoy excellent friendly relations. India in fact has the responsibility to facilitate our repatriation and reconciliation so that its friendly neighbouring country, Bhutan, is not plunge into instability and unrest. The delegation will meet the International Community to garner our support and to pressure the Government of Bhutan to accede to our demands.
This alliance is unlike as before and is beyond the realm of refugee camps politics. The follower of Bhutanese refugee’s issues would note that there are some 52 organisations in the Bhutanese refugee camps alone. What confounds one more is that individuals of one organisation would also be holding seats in more than three other organisations as well. In spite of such confusion, I would welcome any organisation which might feel they were left behind by the alliance. However, merely declaring interest to join the alliance won’t do. Those interested to join must demonstrate their commitment and ability to contribute to the alliance before joining.
The alliance wants to make certain other matters clear. First, to our Bhutanese brethren inside Bhutan, we want to bring caution to the misinformation by some with vested interests to interpret our work as negative. Our work is to strengthen the sovereignty, democracy, independence and peace in Bhutan, not the contrary. We want to reiterate the respect we have for the institution of Monarchy. We however, want democratic rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan. Every Bhutanese must recognise the fundamental truth that democracy is the right of the public and not just the right of a single individual. Democracy is for everyone - students, teachers, civil servants, the army, farmers, businessmen and others, and also for the King himself! In short, every citizen needs democracy in their life to lead their life in honour and dignity. We know that democracy in the real sense is absent in Bhutan. Therefore the time has come for us to seek our democratic rights granted under the Constitution.
We want to reassure our friendly neighbour India, that we will always value our excellent friendly bonds existing between us. We are optimistic that the Government of India will hold talks with the Government of Bhutan to enable us to return to Bhutan and lead the life of democracy loving citizens in Bhutan. We are also optimist that the United National Organisation, democracy loving citizens and the democratic countries of the world will support our truthful initiatives and inalienable rights.
December 25, 2009
In addition, on 21st December 2009, the Delhi High Court, modifying the restrictions placed on Mr. Dorji’s movements, has granted him freedom of movement, allowing him to travel anywhere outside Delhi.
The next date for hearing in the Delhi High Court on the petition seeking quashing of the extradition proceedings against Mr. Dorji, has been fixed for 7th April, 2010.
Address by Shri Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President, Druk National Congress, at the Conference on “Bhutan Today - Challenges of Participatory Democracy”, organized by the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society. The conference was held on 23rd October, 2009 at New Delhi.
Ku Zu Zangpo La.
I extend my gratitude to the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society for providing me this opportunity to address this august gathering.
When the Druk National Congress was established in June of 1994, we vowed to bring about a positive change in Bhutan - establish Parliamentary Democracy, secure and guarantee for all our citizens, irrespective of their race, tribe, caste, religion, sex, or ideological conviction, fundamental rights, including the right to equality, freedom and justice, and declare Bhutan a multiethnic, multilingual, indivisible, independent and democratic, Buddhist Monarchical Kingdom.
15 years ago, democracy for the Bhutanese seemed a faraway, almost illusionary light at the end of the tunnel, but now it is finally within our grasp. All our collective efforts have now precipitated a foundation for a promising future for all Bhutanese.
I would like to congratulate and thank everyone - the Bhutanese people both inside and outside Bhutan, and in exile, all our friends, particularly the Indo Bhutan Friendship Society, the people of India and Nepal and their representatives in their Governments through the years, and organisations, governments and individuals world-wide, who have accompanied us, lent their support, and have all been a part of our momentous journey towards democracy.
While our efforts in precipitating positive change in Bhutan is well recognized, there are also those who want to make people believe that we, particularly the Bhutanese still in exile, do not have Bhutan’s best interests at heart when we demand legitimate rights for the Bhutanese people and work to democratize Bhutan. To those misguided persons, I want to say that we, the Bhutanese in exile, are sons and daughters of the same soil as you, and have no less love for our country than you show. Today you are on the verge of reaping the fruits of the democracy we fought to establish for all the Bhutanese people - and that includes for you. There is another ill-intended rumour that I want to clear - throughout this journey, the DNC categorically demanded and worked to establish democracy in Bhutan in which executive powers would rest with a democratically elected government under Constitutional Monarchy. It has never sought the abolition of the Monarchy.
Prior to last year, Bhutan was ruled by autocratic regime. There was then, no such thing as fundamental rights and the protection of the same in law. As a consequence thereof, a large number of Bhutanese were exiled, and apart from the privileged few, the people throughout the land were suppressed, in some form or the other.
Over a hundred years ago, the people transferred executive powers to the Monarchy for safe-keeping. Now, given the need of the hour, this arrangement needed to be overhauled. The time had come to return executive powers back to the Bhutanese people.
Our relentless pressure and diplomacy, coupled by the pressure and diplomatic efforts from India and the international community, finally compelled the fourth King to initiate democratic changes. The Regime had kept insisting all through that Bhutan was very “democratic”, but it had to finally relent, and by holding elections and promulgating the Constitution, thereby admit that they had been wrong all along, and that we were right, and that genuine democracy was the only right way forward.
We have lauded Bhutan’s move towards democracy, but if nothing is done to put it into practice, things will not only be no different from the past for the Bhutanese; in fact the consequences can be considerably worse for Bhutan and its Monarchy. After having instituted democracy (whatever its form) and promulgated a Constitution, maintaining a previous status quo or a roll back can be disastrous, as history has shown. Apart from a piece of paper and a few theatrics, nothing has actually changed as far as working earnestly towards a genuine democracy is concerned.
The symptoms cry out loud. More than a year has passed since the promulgation of Constitution. But fundamental democratic and human rights enshrined in Constitution are absent and far from being brought to practice. “Democracy” has finally come to Bhutan, but political prisoners - the very ones who sacrificed everything they had in order to bring this democratic arrangement to pass, continue to languish in jail. This is hypocrisy enough, and is to be condemned in no uncertain terms.
Jigme Thinley, the Prime Minister, while stating that democracy is not yet instituted in Bhutan, also now says that the Bhutanese democratic process had started three decades ago. He continues to stress that the King gave the people democracy. If so, why are democratic rights still curtailed? The indicator of a democracy really working, is the delegation of the governance authority from the bottom upwards, not the other way around.
Jigme Thinley is a highly learned and experienced man, but obviously lacks democratic insight. The shackles of over three decades of service as a bureaucratic official under the previous environment are evident. Instead of shouldering his responsibilities of leading a democratically elected government to work in the interest of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people, he has been more busy working hand-in-glove with the ex-King (as he did in the past), to eyewash the international community from the real issues. Besides, he is a sweet-talker, talking his way into foxing international visitors - and this being the sole foreign policy priority, it’s a skill the entire bureaucracy has now mastered quite well.
Rather than addressing the numerous pressing issues, largely concerning bringing democracy to the people, wherein lies the most appropriate solutions to all problems, and also to the effective and just management of the Nation, Jigme Thinley is engaged in promoting the fourth King’s misconstrued, flawed, delusionary and romantic concept of Gross National Happiness (which has unwittingly also bowled over many in the international arena). The Bhutanese, being closer to Bhutan’s reality, are a wiser lot when it comes to giving this Gross National Happiness concept credence, except of course the few privileged ones who do know, but are bound by unwilling loyalties into actively advertising this illusion as real. The three generations of family members of the Wangchuck dynasty are themselves not all happy, leave aside the less privileged lot.
Another serious issue has recently come to the fore. We have heard that Bhutanese territory has shrunk massively from the figures that stood for over a 140 years. The Government’s explanation is flimsy. DNC’s stand on any loss of territory is non-negotiable. The Bhutanese people have a right to know the actual facts of how Bhutanese territory has been suddenly reduced thus.
We have written several letters to the present Bhutanese Government to immediately release all political prisoners languishing in Bhutanese jails, address the continued denial of human rights and the establishment of an independent judiciary. So far, there is no indication that anything is being done to address these issues we have raised. We will be writing to Indian Parliamentarians apprising them of these issues. It is our joint responsibility to speak out against injustice where ever it exists in our society and government. We have till now refrained from making some specific issues overtly public, hoping that the Bhutanese Government would respond appropriately, but as the situation gets graver, and in order to prevent any messy consequences thereof, we are compelled to bring these up now, so that solutions can be expedited from wider quarters.
I want to impress upon the Government of India and the International Community that they give serious thought to affecting a speedy resolution to the continuation of denial of democratic rights in Bhutan. This has a far-reaching impact on the stability of not only Bhutan but also the region.
I want to lay particularly emphasis on the additional responsibility that rests with India in this matter. India provides huge funds to Bhutan for various programmes. How much of this goes actually into people-centric programmes and how much goes into royal coffers if a matter of debate. Non-the less, this puts additional responsibility on the Government of India to ensure that it play a much larger role in bringing about positive change in Bhutan in the mutual long-term interest of the peoples of both countries.
Apart from urging the Government of Bhutan to take appropriate corrective measures, the present level of engagement needs to be widened to now involve the general public from engaging countries, by exposing them through exchanges, to all aspects of each others’ society, culture, economy and governance mechanisms, thereby gain a better understanding of each other, and to build on this trust to affect positive changes in each others’ surroundings.
A peaceful, stable and prosperous nation is an asset, benefiting not just its neighbours, but the world. But we must understand that peace cannot be forced - it is a by-product of fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment. It is thus imperative that, while much has been achieved, all our partners must continue to, and others need to join in with us to work together, to continuously usher in social, political and economical improvements in Bhutan and in our mutual and collective surroundings.
Ka Din Che.
Dated : 8th August 2009
Over a year has now gone by since our first Parliamentary elections, the promulgation of our Constitution and the formation of a "democratic government” in Bhutan.
We placed great hope and expectation on the new administration under your leadership to take special duty in initiating efforts towards a resolution of all outstanding political and other issues. Yet, despite repeated calls for due attention to be given, there is complete silence on various pending issues. We express our disappointment at this indifference.
Your Excellency, we want to remind you that it would be a tragic 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, or that maintaining a quiet status quo on the fundamentals of past policies under the veil of democracy will be the solution to Bhutan’s problems. The last few decades of experience has proved the contrary, and has shown that the only way out for us is to move judiciously forward in the true spirit of democracy.
With elections over and the Constitution promulgated, legal democracy has come to Bhutan, but the “hangover” of the past is still around. We are at a stage where democracy is still only symbolic because of the absence of appropriate institutions, processes and practices that should be in harmony with a participative, vibrant and meaningful democracy. Due to the continuity of policies and restrictions of the pre-2008 era in Bhutan, political prisoners continue to languish in Bhutanese jails and democratic political parties are still forced remain in exile and out of the political process, and ironically all of them have been instrumental in initiating and precipitating the current democratic changes in Bhutan.
The onus falls on the present democratically elected Government to immediately undo these wrongs of the past, particularly in view of the new political developments. The opinion and the sentiments of the electorate must be respected, and the elected representatives must understand that they are now accountable to the people and not(as in the past) to a top-end cartel. The quicker this realization sets in, the quicker will Bhutan reap the benefits of democracy and stability.
A peaceful, stable and prosperous nation is an asset, benefiting not just its citizens, but also its neighbours and the world. But we must understand that peace cannot be forced - it is a by-product of fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment.
The responsibility to resolve these matters lies with Your Excellency's office. It is our fervent demand that this becomes a priority in your current course of action for Bhutan. The first step in this direction could be making Bhutan’s new democratic Constitution a basis for policy making and the socio-political process.
Among the many issues that need attention, at the onset, we urge Your Excellency’s Government to :
1. Withdraw cases and sentences against all Bhutanese prisoners who are facing or have been convicted of political offences, offences of political nature and charges made with a view to punish them for political offences, and release them immediately;
We expect that a democratically elected Government and elected people’s Representatives will not squander away or undermine the trust bestowed on them by the electorate. If issues are not taken up and addressed in time, the five years allotted to the government by the electorate can turn out to be surprisingly short in order to win their trust in future.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
Letters with the same content was also addressed to ;-
DRUK NATIONAL CONGRESS URGES FOR PRIORITISATION OF DEMOCRATIC REFORMS
7th July 2009
Over a year and a half has gone by since Bhutan became “democratic”, but there is little to evidence Bhutan’s democratic credentials, and a lot is still left wanting.
The Government’s prioritization of democratic reforms is at most embarrassingly inadequate. It is carrying on with business as usual, with, apart from the holding of elections and a new elected Parliament, nothing to really differentiate its functioning from the governments of the past. If the essential ingredients and basis of democracy is not put into place, democratic governance will always remain a far off mirage. And this will be to no one’s advantage, and will in the end bring instability.
ADDRESS OF RONGTHONG KUNLEY DORJI
Today, on the 15th foundation day of the Druk National Congress, I congratulate and thank the Bhutanese people - the Bhutanese public spread across the villages and towns of Bhutan, Bhutanese exilees working from across the globe, all DNC party members, individuals in the Royal Government, the Army and the Police, and His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, our 4th Monarch, for his farsightedness and understanding – each and every member of Bhutanese society. On this occasion, I also thank all our friends who have accompanied us and lent their support on our journey towards democracy. I would like to particularly thank the people of India and Nepal and their representatives in their Governments through the years, and organisations, governments and individuals world-wide, who have all been a part of our momentous journey.
When the Druk National Congress was established in June of 1994, we vowed to bring about a positive change in Bhutan – to establish Parliamentary Democracy, to secure and guarantee for all our citizens, fundamental rights, including the right to equality, freedom and justice, irrespective of their race, tribe, caste, religion, sex, or ideological conviction, and to declare Bhutan a multiethnic, multilingual, indivisible, independent and democratic, Buddhist Monarchical Kingdom.
The DNC stood firm in its conviction that democratic governance is the only solution to all the problems that Bhutan faces, and is also the only means to ensure that the process of improving the well-being of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people, continues into the future, and that it is this well-being that will ensure not only the stability of Bhutan but also the institution of Monarchy.
15 years ago, while democracy for the Bhutanese seemed a faraway, almost illusionary light at the end of the tunnel, it is finally in our grasp. All our collective efforts have now precipitated a foundation for a promising future for all Bhutanese.
But our work is far from over. While we have succeeded in achieving a legal democracy we must now work to instil a democratic tradition, without which all this effort and achievement will just remain in piece of paper and in a set of bland procedures.
Democracy is not a machine that runs by itself once the proper principles and procedures are inserted. A healthy democracy depends a lot on the development of a democratic culture, which is shaped by its citizens who pursue their interests, exercise their rights and take responsibility for their own lives, and for the society at large.
An essential component of good governance and the adoption of beneficial policies, is peoples’ participation, wherefrom emanates policy decisions that are an outcome of continuous contribution of unfiltered information coming in from the widest possible spectrum of individual citizens, analysis thereof, and responses drawn therefrom. (It is for this reason that, while the Druk National Congress has been, and is still critical of many policies of the Royal Government of Bhutan, it has been with the sole motive to bridge information inflow gaps, draw policy improvements, and facilitate improvement in the lives of the Bhutanese people). People need to take their own decisions, particularly at the local level, and strong local governments are essential for a healthy democracy. If such an infrastructure and channel does not exist, the fallouts are, inadequacies in planning, formulating and implementing policies and responses. And such inadequacies invariably evolve into the creation of a system that ends up serving the interests of a select few, at the merciless expense of the common citizen. While at the very top of the ladder, there is often abject ignorance of ground level realities and a delusionary sense of security. While this is invariably true for authoritarian systems of governance, it is also very true for democracies without a democratic tradition.
This is why it is so important to develop a democratic culture. A democratic society needs the commitment of its citizens who accept the inevitability of disagreement, as well as the necessity for tolerance. It is important to recognise that many disagreements in a democratic society are not between “rights” and “wrongs”, but between different interpretations of democratic rights and social priorities. And individuals, groups and governments must be willing, at a minimum, to tolerate each other’s differences, recognising that the other side may have valid rights and a legitimate point of view, and come together to address issues in the spirit of democracy.
Our legal system and our laws must also be quickly adapted and amended as necessary, to our newly acquired democracy and people’s sovereignty. In a democracy, no one is above the law, which is, after all, the creation of the people. The state must have the power to maintain order and punish criminal acts, but the rules and procedures by which a state enforces its laws, must be public and explicit, not secret, arbitrary, or subject to political manipulation by the State. Whether rich or poor, ethnic majority or religious minority, political ally of the state or opponent, all must be entitled to equal protection before the law.
With regard to the Constitution, while we will continue to seek necessary amendments through the Parliamentary process, we lay strong emphasis on the need to bring about immediate crucial amendments to Article 2, 7 and 15.
Amendments to Article 2 should be by a 2/3rds majority vote of the Parliament and not by a national referendum, so as not to precipitate a constitutional crisis (such as that which transpired in Nepal in the aftermath of the Royal massacre incident). Further, the Parliament is the highest body that is representative of the people’s opinion and has rightful authority to legislate on behalf of the people. While the current provision is an improvement from the previous draft Constitution, in which it was an unamendable provision, it is still inadequate to effectively protect the Monarch. Vesting the Parliament with powers it can immediately exercise if an untoward situation arises will be the only effective deterrent.
The exercise of Article 2, Sections 16(a), (c), (d) and (e) should be by recommendation by appropriate Parliamentary Committee/s or alternatively by recommendation by any other authorised committee/s formed for the purpose. Article 2, Section 16(b) should be deleted as it undermines and overrules all provisions and procedures of the Constitution and Bhutan’s laws.
Any amendment to Article 7 (Fundamental Rights) should be by referendum.
Article 15 needs amendment to allow for a multiparty Parliamentary system of government. The current provision does not allow for regional parties mandated to work in their own geographic or social areas to participate in governance, and in Bhutan, which not divided into smaller federally administered units, a 2-party parliamentary system does not efficiently address regional issues nor allows for a voice in the central government (parties normally take a collective stand on issues). Strong regions make up a strong nation and regions must be adequately empowered to be represented in the Parliament without having to tag up with a larger parties with possibly other priorities. Further a 2-tiered electoral process is drains twice the resources of a multiparty electoral process, with no real benefit in Bhutan’s case.
The Druk National Congress did not apply for registration in the 2008 elections for two reasons. One, the Party did not approve of the electoral process and did not want to be officially associated or endorse the process as being truly democratic. Two, given the current reality and the stand of the Royal Government, with undoubted chances of its registration application being refused on some ground or the other, it saw no relevance in taking the issue forward. Rather the Party chose to be actively involved in bringing the candidatures of the current national and regional leadership to the fore and in affecting the electoral outcome. Its success can be evidenced from the electoral results where the people effectively rejected the party that was deemed by the electorate to be closer to the Monarchy and the “old” system, than the other. But the DNC will be working to create the grounds for it to participate in the next general elections.
Democracy has finally come to Bhutan, but political prisoners continue to languish in jail. We demand the immediate release of all Bhutanese prisoners who are facing or have been convicted of political offences, offences of political nature and charges that were initiated which a view to punish for them for political offences. The onus falls on the present Government to immediately undo these wrongs of the past.
Lastly, a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation is an asset, benefiting not just its neighbours, but the world. But we must understand that peace cannot be forced - it is a by-product of fulfilment, satisfaction, contentment. It is thus imperative that, while much has been achieved, all our partners must continue to, and more need to join in to participate in working together, to continuously usher in social, political and economical improvements in Bhutan and in our mutual and collective surroundings.
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.
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.
21st May, 2008,New Delhi, India
Censure of discussions on the Draft Constitution in the first session of Parliament by the Chief Justice
To debate or not to debate the Draft Constitution in the first ever joint session of the Bhutanese Parliament was what vexed the minds of the new Parliamentarians prior to the start of the session, because the Chief Justice, Sonam Tobgay, declared that the Constitution was drafted by a 39-member committee, comprising two venerable Lopons, the National Assembly Speaker, 20 “elected” members, and representatives of the Royal Advisory Council, the Judiciary and the Government. He further stated that the Draft Constitution was already taken to the people of the twenty districts by both the 4th and the 5th Kings and no question arose of any alteration, and that it should thus be adopted as it is. The fact is that there was never any discussion on Draft Constitution. Everyone is aware that the tour of the 4th and the 5th Kings throughout Bhutan was rather opinion stating exercise than a discussion. They merely informed the people about the Draft Constitution and the public simply listened. Period.
The Draft Constitution was a “Draft” because it was not finalized and not approved by a legitimate body. The Parliamentarians have a responsibility to thoroughly and seriously discuss and examine each of its provisions to determine their appropriateness, even if it takes time. The present joint session of Parliament must address its shortcomings. Some of the shortcomings were highlighted in our open letter addressed to the new members of Parliament and submitted on the 30th of April, 2008. If these shortcomings are not addressed at this present opportune time, consequential problems are bound to affect the people, the Government, the State, and the Monarchy in future. Constitution is sacred and most important document. Because of this massive significance, a discussion on Draft Constitution with Bhutanese experts, Intellectuals and villager is must to receive and accommodate their feedbacks.
Exclusion from voting because of professional classification
Chief Justice states that the religious personalities are above politics. If so, then why is the King, a political entity, empowered to control the religious personalities and their establishments? This is a blatant act by the King to deprive monks and Gomchens of their fundamental voting rights, thus reducing them to second-class citizens. Bhutan is their country too, and everyone in a democratic, free society is entitled to determine who should represent their interests in running their country for them and how.
The Chief Justice tries to draw a parallel between Buddha’s renunciation and the 4th King’s “abdication”. While Buddha renounced his throne, the King is on the course to controlling the religious personalities and their establishments, while at the same time holding on to a “Constitutional” Monarchy with enormous prerogatives powers. Such a comparison is totally incompatible and loaded with vested interests.
In addition, many assume that ‘democracy’ is the gift granted by the 4th King to the Bhutanese people. If it is so, then why is the regime finding it so difficult to establish a genuine form of democracy? Why does an extra-constitutional power continue to be vested with the King? Is this democracy really for the people, or is it a stage-show to consolidate more power under the peoples’ stolen seal.
The Draft Constitution states that the King is protector of all religions in Bhutan. The 4th King was in the forefront of prosecution of the Nyingmapas in the late 1990s. He forcefully converted many Nyingmapa
monasteries to Drukpa Kagyupa, a sect, he and his family seemingly patronizes, but has also enslaved. In addition, many Nyingmapa Shedras and Gomdeys were sealed. Given this track record, the people of Bhutan have no faith whatsoever that the King will uphold his Constitutional duty. All religious establishments must have the freedom and right to chart their own future and well-being, as long as their activities does not go against democratic laws. Each establishment knows best how they can protect themselves. They just need to be empowered.
Need for an increase in the number of seats in the Parliament and in the ministerial berths
The Druk National Congress has always demanded for an increase in the number of seats in the National Assembly from the current 47 to 100, and continues to do so. This will assure equitable representation and equitable development throughout the country. Given the sectors that need attention, the Druk National Congress also demands for an increase in ministerial berths from the current 10 to 20. One representative from each district must be inducted as a Minister. Some may say that such action will prove expensive. But, for the larger benefit of the people, the little bit of extra cost is nothing when compared to the large sum that would incur for the upkeep of a single family.
Awarding of coloured scarves as a sign of prominence
The question with regard to protocol primacy between Members of Parliament and the Nyi-Kyelma presents the mess that King has created by granting the “orange scarf” to ministers and speakers and blue scarf to their peers (MP) even though they are equal in House (Parliament). No one is elected to Parliament as a minister or a speaker, but as representatives of the people. It only after the elections that the winning party that decides to form the government, also picks the ministers and the speaker. During the era of absolute monarchy, a social class was deliberately created by the King amongst the bureaucracy. Those who otherwise do the same amount of work, share the same responsibilities, have to endure the humiliation of wearing a ‘white’ scarf while his peer wears the red scarf gifted by King along with 'patangs' and the title of ‘Dasho’. Such persons held the primacy in protocol over a white scarf wearer in every government or social function.
Given the situation where the ministry needs to be reshuffled due to change in responsibilities or a change in the government due to a loss of a majority in the Parliament, what happens to the scarves? The creation of ‘class’ on the basis of the colour of the scarf is remnant of the era of absolute monarchy. The democracy era has begun and therefore, such discriminatory practices must come to end. All members of Parliament, irrespective of being a minister or speaker should wear the same blue scarf. Parliamentarian, as elected representatives of the people naturally should hold primacy in protocol over the bureaucracy.
Monarchy above the law, foreboding danger to the Monarchy and of a Constitutional crisis in future
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. The Monarchy can be protected under the Constitution only if its provisions allow it to do so.
Thus, vesting ultimate powers with accountability to the Parliament will be a deterrent to any possible 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.
Responsibility of the Parliament to adopt a strong suitable Constitution
It has fallen upon the shoulders of the new Parliamentarians to adopt a new Constitution for Bhutan. Fate has presented them with the opportunity to remedy any remaining undemocratic and anti-people provisions in the Draft Constitution. Because of this important task, which has significant ramifications for the future of Bhutan and its people, utmost consideration had to be given while deciding on the constitutional provisions while adopting the Constitution.
We demand that the Chief Justice changes his dictatorial attitude. Members of the Parliament do not give much credence to his statements but are nervous of the person behind him.
We also urge the Parliamentarians to shun their fear, doubt and uphold the supreme responsibility that the people have reposed on them. This window of opportunity mustn’t be lost. These demands are not just that of the Druk National Congress, they are the demands of the Bhutanese citizens who actively participated in bringing about a change in the power centre and in determining the makeup of the new Parliament. They sincerely want genuine democracy to take root in Bhutan. The Parliamentarians must not betray their trust. If they do so, it will be to they own political peril. They must work to accommodate the rights, aspirations and dreams of the Bhutanese people. The Parliamentarians must act in manner that the future generations can look back with pride and not with scorn.
DNC hopes Indian Prime Minister to advice Monarch on Inclusive Democracy
DNC trusts that Indian Prime Minister will support and guarantee Bhutan’s sovereignty and integrity and would assist her in International and regional forum as well.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
Open Letter to Member of Parliament, Bhutan
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.
Dated: 10th March, 2008
WE DEMAND RESPONSIBLE ACTION FROM EUROPEAN UNION OBSERVERS.
A team of 15 observers from 13 different European Union countries arrived in the Bhutan to observe the first ever general election that is scheduled on the 24th of March, 2008. The Druk National Congress welcomes this. But taking into account the recent remarks of the team, it puts into doubt the effectiveness of the team in observing the happenings in the backstage that will determine the ultimate outcome of the elections. It is obvious that the process is being observed only at face value. Further, we apprehend that EU observers will bless Bhutan’s general election in spite of all shortcomings. Mr. Javier Pomes, the Chief of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), said, “In our observations so far, most of the processes comply with international standards.”.
In fact, he and his team members understand and acknowledge the fact that only two political parties both headed by the relatives of the King are allowed to function and participate in the political process. Despite the elections being only two weeks away, fundamental human and democratic rights for the people still does not exist. People are still arrested for engaging in political activities that does not favour the present regime and its cronies. Large sections of the population are excluded from the process including the people in exile. Are these practices in compliance with International standards?
We are aware of the existing democratic practices and traditions prevalent in European Countries. We are therefore, disheartened to hear such irresponsible remarks. Bhutanese democrats are no different from democrats in European democratic countries; we too accept a Constitutional Monarchy that is akin to the Constitutional Monarchies in European countries. Henceforth, we hope that the Team will advise the Bhutan regime to work towards a genuine and inclusive democracy.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
Druk National Congress stands with 10,000 refugees in this hour of personal grief
Druk National Congress firmly believes that Royal Government of Bhutan should come forward to help the victims of fire, as the cause is humanitarian and politics must be relegated to periphery. Further, throughout the world Bhutan is recognized as a Buddhist Kingdom and practitioner of compassion and kindness. This unfortunate incident provides an opportunity to the Royal Government of Bhutan to demonstrate that indeed the country practices the teachings of Buddhism, in words and spirit. And above all, these victims are primarily bona fide Bhutanese citizens and by virtue of this, they have a right to receive help from their nation. Therefore, this is high time that Royal Government of Bhutan come out of its slumber.
Of late, the third-country resettlement has featured prominently in local and international news. We firmly believe that it is the personal choice of each refugee to decide his/her own fate. But at the same time, majority of refugees sheltering in camps, want to return Bhutan with dignity and honour. The present crisis has precipitated owing to non-Bhutanese issues and we cannot afford another crisis because of it.
Therefore, in this backdrop, the verification of Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese has become very important. The Joint verification process, jointly initiated by a team of Bhutan and Nepal Government in early 2002, was suspended over some trivial differences. Since both the nations are witnessing historic developments, Druk National Congress, urges both governments to resume the stalled verification process in order to evolve a just, fair and honourable permanent resolution of Bhutanese refugees crisis.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
Dated : 22.01.08
DRUK NATIONAL CONGRESS DENOUNCES BOMB BLASTS IN BHUTAN
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
The Druk National Congress(DNC) categorically denounces this act and also condemns the use of any violence to achieve democracy. It believes that a violent approach undermines the very foundation of democracy that is based on majority rule and minority rights. Democracy achieved by such means is never stable as it justifies the use of force to achieve ends whenever disputable issues arise.
The DNC has repeatedly appealed to the Bhutanese Regime to resolve the protracted refugee problem and also warned about subsequent residual consequences of its delay. It has also urged the Regime to make the democratization process inclusive so that all Bhutanese can participate in this effort. The Regime has refused to see reason and is using the democracy exercise to consolidate its hold on the governance process even more. Given the Regime’s adamant stand on these issues, precipitation of such incidents was inevitable.
However, having had to unwillingly announce democratic reforms in Bhutan(evidenced by the half-hearted, cosmetic and manipulative approach to the process that is purported to unfold democracy in Bhutan), such ‘incidents’ could easily become a pretext for the Regime to stall the democratization process. At the same time, by declaring that it will be going ahead with its ‘democratization process’ despite the blasts, this incident also provides the Regime an opportunity to send an image-building ‘message’ to the international community that it is serious and sincere about ‘democratizing’ Bhutan.
The initiation of the democratization of Bhutan is the outcome of years of effort and struggle. The DNC is of the opinion that in the present context, the process, though deeply flawed, needs to begin without delay. Fine-tuning democratic governance is a process that can improve with time. Both electors and the elected alike discover the ropes as time goes by, learning and being compelled into shouldering their respective responsibilities with dedication and sincerity. And ultimately working to resolve all issues that concerns Bhutan and its people.
The DNC will not let up in its efforts to continue urging the Royal Government of Bhutan to rectify the shortcomings in its present democracy exercise, and will persist towards resolving all issues concerning Bhutan and its people within the quickest possible timeframe, but it also demands that the RGOB continues the process of democratization as per schedule and as previously declared by it.
Unmasking King’s Democracy
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
The King of Bhutan has introduced a unique type of democratic process in Bhutan. The international community has already congratulated Bhutan (King) on “historic election" with the pre-conceived notion that genuine democracy has finally been introduced. Sadly, the basic tenets of democracy are totally absent in Bhutan. People are goaded to press the electronic voting Machine (EVM) and this process is no different to the voting system initiated by the Third King in 1953. Prior to voting, background details of each candidate are required to be submitted to the King. If there is slightest chance of any candidate, having potentials to challenge the authority of the monarch in future, his/her candidature is disqualified. A wooden box ballot contains the names of two contenders and people are required to vote ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. This practice was prevalent until 2006.
The first so-called 'historic election 2007' was conducted under a socio-political environment, where no fundamental human rights and democratic rights are recognized. It will be sacrilege to mention that the polling is conducted under 'free and fair' atmosphere. Consider these facts - the freedom of speech and expression is restricted; the freedom of press is banned; the assembly and association of people are banned; and so on and so forth. King introduced a ridiculous and outrageous stipulation, as prerequisite eligibility, i.e., candidates aiming to contest election for becoming a Member of Parliament (MP), must have a university degree of western education format. Large section of population, endowed with experience and patriotism, are thus denied their inalienable democratic right to participate in politics and to become MP. The power of Monarchy remains intact till date, as the National Constitution does not have any control over Monarchy. Can this practice be really called democratic?
In universally accepted democratic practice, a multi-party system must exist. However, in Bhutan, only two political parties have been allowed to operate, both having close proximity with palace. One of these parties is People's Democratic Party (PDP), headed by Mr. Sangay Nidup, maternal uncle of King, and the second is Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) headed by Mr. Jigme Thinley, matrimonial relative of King. The third party, Bhutan People's United Party (BPUP) formed by Mr. Sigay Dorji, was disqualified/unregistered by Election Commission on November 27, 2007, on the ground that this party doesn't have will, competence, experience, qualification and appropriate support to contest elections. In addition, all political parties in exile are banned. Obviously, King will be amenable, if either of his 'confidantes' Jigme Thinley or Sangay Nidup becomes Prime Minister. Though, I have a feeling that King will prefer Singay Nidup for the Prime Minister’s Job.
The candidates, successfully elected, in this recent election for National Council, offer a prelude to the scenario that will be unfolding in the forthcoming National Assembly election. Majority of them come from a bureaucratic background. Even two 26 years old young person are “elected." It is a matter of grave shame that inexperienced young persons are allowed to occupy seats in National Council. They would be overwhelmed, overpowered and dominated by the five nominees of King. King's most obedient, trusted, loyal and experienced personals, are still working under him. These people would be drafted in the Upper House. These nominees would undermine the true democratic ethos in the National Council. Being 'yes man' to King, I have an apprehension that they will place the interest of Monarchy on a higher pedestal, compared to the interest of public at large. I foresee no change in legislations; they will continue to preserve the structures and systems that prevailed in absolute monarchy and protected Monarchial interests. Even the losing candidates would be eventually drafted back to bureaucratic setup. The only discernible change in election is - the wooden ballot has graduated to Electronic Voting Machine. Can this practice be called dawn of democracy in Bhutan?
There were sporadic revolts against Fourth King since 1974 and most rebels were arrested in their early stages. However, 1990s witnessed the first full-fledged revolt against King by Lhotshampas and certain section of Sharchopa. It demonstrated that 70 percent of the population resented and disapproved King's policies. The aftermath of rebellion resulted in human rights abuses and atrocities, on a large scale. Relatives of rebels are barred to participate in current democratic election; in fact, they are always under the government surveillance. The political prisoners of 1997 eastern Bhutan uprising continue to be incarcerated and there is no ray of hope for their release so far. The democratic voting rights of monks, Gomchen, Anim are denied. Are they not Bhutanese citizen? Is this a democracy?
The familiarization tour by PDP and DPT throughout country has garnered enough action. The people, villages, districts and perhaps regions too, are sharply polarized on party lines. Discords, friction within family are created. Both political parties are engaged in wooing voters by offering bribes in the forms of cash and kind. Election Commission has failed to live up to its promise to root-out the corruption in electoral practice. In fact, King, Election Commission and political parties made a mockery of Constitution.
For last hundred years, the people of Bhutan have been ruled by King like animals. Therefore, I once again ask - Are Bhutanese willing to live yet another animal life by meekly submitting to King's anti-people and anti-democratic polices? When King agreed to become a Constitutional Monarch, it was expected that he would be remorseful for his past misdeeds and would therefore usher the true democratic reforms. But now, it appear, he is incorrigible, remorseless and cold-hearted. These democratic reforms are only aimed to ensure that Bhutan remains in the iron-grip of Royal family and Royal family continues to accrue all the benefits, as if Bhutan is personal estate of King. We, the people of Bhutan, should know that all of us are equal to King. Destiny of monarchial institution rests in the peoples’ will. Democracy in Bhutan, at present, exists only on paper. The true democracy must be enjoyed by the entire population, rather than few privileged ones.
The Druk National Congress reiterates its resolute stand that we will wedge a relentless non-violent struggle against the present form of 'democracy', till it is transformed into an inclusive genuine democracy. The Druk National Congress has re-drafted the Constitution encompassing all democratic aspirations. Though our expectation from King is minimal, yet the Druk National Congress continues to harbor a feeble hope that there is still some time for King to re-correct the current undemocratic process. If King wants to ensure the longevity of his monarchial institution, onus lies in his present course of action. Kings must know the universal truth - in order to enjoy benefits, other people must also be supplemented with same benefits. Druk National Congress warns, if Bhutan falls in the grip of disturbances, unrest, instability and anarchy in near future, only King will be responsible.
Dated :24th October, 2007
The Election Commission of Bhutan received a Royal Decree from the Fifth King on 30th June, 2007 to conduct Parliamentary elections “as per the provisions of the Draft Constitution”. This decree officially admits that the people would enjoy constitutional rights enshrined in draft Constitution, including fundamental rights.
However, the political process unfolding inside country is to the contrary. So far the Election Commission, the Judiciary apparatus and the administrative machinery has entertained only two royalist parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). Mr. Sangay Nidup, President of PDP and maternal uncle of the King and Mr. Jigme Thinley, President of DPT and relative of the Queens are given unlimited access to conduct themselves in whatever they wish to fulfill their objectives. But, genuine democrats are either excluded from the process or intimidated and threatened with imprisonment when they voice their opinions. Under such circumstances, can the International Community accept the Royal Government of Bhutan's democratization process and the Parliamentary elections as a free and fair? In such an environment, we believe that the Parliamentary elections going to take place in 2008 is total a total farce.
The Druk National Congress questions the role of the Judiciary and the Government machinery. The common people are denied fundamental, civil and political rights as enshrined in draft Constitution. As we dispatch this press release, seventeen people, whose only "crime" was to voice their political opinion, are still imprisoned in Samdrup Jongkhar and Mongar. They were arrested for assembling and freely expressing their opinion on the present politics. Most of them are relatives of democrats who participated in the 1997 demonstrations in Eastern Bhutan against the Royal Government. Some of them are those who had been released after serving prison sentences for the 1997 uprising. Why is the Judiciary not protecting their fundamental rights?
Both the Chief Justice of Bhutan and the caretaker Prime Minister are turning a blind eye to the present political situation. The aiding of the royalist parties by the Judiciary and the Administration has aroused fears that both establishments would brush aside the pleas of the general public even beyond 2008. In order to allay these fears, the Government must immediately release these detained persons and recognize their right to freedom of expression. Moreover, the Government must come up with policies that ensure political inclusiveness. Every citizen of suitable age has an inalienable right to contest for any public office, irrespective of race, caste, sex, language, religion or any other status. People from all sections or strata of society must be made eligible to participate in politics, without bias and without stipulations that disqualify candidates unjustifiably. Lack of mass representation and continuation of the present exclusive polices is bound to create dissatisfaction and turmoil in the future. We are certain that the situation could go beyond the control of respective stakeholders then. The ball is in court of the Royal government of Bhutan.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
20th August, 2007
R.B. Basnet - a moderate reticent leader
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