New Delhi, 11th February, 2007
The Destiny of the Institution of Monarchy lies in flexibility of Constitution
The Druk National Congress is dismayed that in spite of repeated appeals and the submission of proposed modifications to certain provisions in the draft Constitution, the two amendments released thereof by the Royal Government of Bhutan does not reflect any alterations as per the suggestions made on Article 2. Among many, major concerns are over the provisions of Article 2  that shields the monarch from being subject to the law. Article 2 [16(e)] which grants executive, judicial and legislative residual powers to the King is also a cause for apprehension.
The constitutional crisis in Nepal that triggered major upheavals, clearly points to the residual power vested in the King by the Constitution as the underlying cause of the crisis. Its snowball effect and the aftermath is now leaving little from which the Monarchy can salvage its existence.
Moreover, if the royalties themselves become embroiled in internal hostility, the public can only but remain silent spectators, even if the bloodiest of outcomes result from such feuding. By virtue of being above the law, no action whatsoever can be initiated. This leaves a lot to be considered while finalizing our own Constitution. Unless such contentious provisions of the draft Constitution are looked into and amended, the possibility of a similar crisis engulfing Bhutan in near future cannot be ruled out.
The Druk National Congress has repeatedly pointed out that it is the people of Bhutan who are the root protectors of the institution of the Monarchy. No army or bureaucracy throughout history has yet proved that it has been strong enough to do so.
To safeguard the institution of Monarchy and the sovereignty of the country, the immunity of the Monarch and the royal family from the ambit of the judiciary must be annulled. If a royalty commits a crime according to Bhutan’s laws, its Courts must have the jurisdiction to try and convict them. And such conviction must bar a royalty from becoming heir to the throne.
Also, the final residual powers must rest with the Parliament.
The Electoral Playing Fields of Bhutan : Tilting the Balance
The recent activities of the Election Commission presents a grim future for the electoral process in Bhutan. It has been reported that the Election Commission has resorted to compelling residents in Thimphu and Chhukha to shift their census registration from the villages where they are registered to these districts. Even the deadline for the registrations have been extended to accommodate this. These two districts have recorded a population of 98,676 and 74,387 respectively according to the population figure released by Census Commissioner. But the combined number if registered voters in these two districts is said to be less than 12,000. We commend the brave residents for refusing to change their census records despite the stick and carrot tactics of the Election Commission.
Another matter that warrants condemnation is the Election Commission’s intentional delay in registering political parties. This is denying an equal playground for political parties and individuals, other than persons favoured by the present regime. On one side the Royal Government of Bhutan paints a picture of adopting zero tolerance against corruption, while at the same time it is silently encouraging its cohorts to bribe and cajole people into becoming their vote bank. The Druk National Congress is aware of who is offering what and who is taking what.
The Chief Justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgay, who is also the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee declared that in the final draft Constitution the number members in Lower House of Parliament has been reduced from 75 to 55. This too is objectionable. This amended provision clearly reflects the Royal Government of Bhutan’s design to grant less power to the peoples’ representative in Lower House while allowing for centralized power to the institution of Monarchy. If the number of members in the Lower House is reduced, then, correspondingly, the number of members in the Upper House too must be reduced to 15 or 20 from the existing 25 members to bring about more equitable representation of the people.
The declaration by the Election Commission to hold elections to Upper House in this fall is ridiculous. The King has declared that democratic elections will be held in 2008, only after the promulgation of Constitution and the establishment of Constitution Monarchy. So how come the plan to hold elections to Upper House before the election to the Lower House and while the absolute Monarchy is still intact? It is like putting the cart before the horse, and moreover, without free speech and expression how is the election expected to be fair.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
January 8, 2007
Election Commissioner’s anti-democratic statements
The discussion on the draft Election Bill in the National Assembly presented a clear picture of the Bhutanese Election Commissioner’s mindset and the acute need to cultivate a democratic culture and to embrace democratic ways of functioning.
The Election Commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi’s remarks that the Elections Bill was distributed to the Assembly Members for information and awareness in preparation for the elections in 2008, and not for discussion, speaks volumes. His remarks are nothing less than an insult to the Members of National Assembly, including the new King, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck who was present there to grace the proceedings. If that was the intention, why was the Election Bill tabled for discussion in National Assembly in first place?
He added that, “Since the people of Bhutan have already endorsed the draft Constitution, the endorsement of the draft Constitution or the Election Bills by the present Assembly is not necessary”. The Druk National Congress demands an explanation from the Election Commissioner as to how he concluded that the people of Bhutan have already endorsed the draft Constitution? So far, the people of Bhutan and observers of the changing political scenario in Bhutan have only seen “meetings” on the draft Constitution being held in 20 districts by the fourth King, and the fifth King when he was Crown Prince.
The Election Commissioner’s defense of the Election Bill, particularly the portion that stipulates that the minimum eligibility for a candidate to be a Member of the Parliament is a college graduate, warrants condemnation. He declared that the Bill was based on the spirit and the provisions of the draft Constitution. Instead, the Bill is in total contravention of the fundamental rights enshrined in draft Constitution. To repeat the words of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Zhamling Dorji, “the education criteria will take away the rights of the people. There will not be mass representation”.
Democratic governance is only possible with the participation of the entire spectrum of society – citizens from all walks of life – from every race, culture and background, who are represented in the Parliament by candidates of their own free choice. And every Bhutanese citizen of voting age should be eligible to contest the elections. Even members of the Royal Family, civil servants, army personnel, Trulkus and members of the clergy should be eligible to offer their candidacy provided they resigned from their current post and the decision should be irretractable thereafter.
Mr. Kunzang Wangdi’s assumption that only graduates are able to understand, analyze and respond to matters of local, regional and national interest, is flawed. It must be remembered that, from the first King Ugyen Wangchuck, down to the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, Bhutan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence was protected and preserved under their leadership with the able support extended by dedicated citizens, a majority of them who did not have any kind of formal education. It must be further remembered that, in a democracy, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary have clearly defined functions, and the eligibility criteria of its members are determined by their respective responsibilities. And the Legislature is a body of people’s elected representatives - representatives who have been freely chosen by the electorate to proxy on their behalf on all matters related to governance.
The Election Commissioner needs to know that the Election Commissioner doesn’t make laws. The Legislature promulgates laws and it is the Election Commission’s job is to implement those that relate to the election process. Therefore, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi’s focus should be more on his job at hand as the Election Commissioner, and should refrain from encroaching on matters beyond his jurisdiction.
The Home Minister, Lyonpo Jigme Y. Thinley, said that Bhutan had not yet become a democracy and that the present National Assembly had no authority to endorse any Bills that are related to the Parliament. His statement has finally handed out the boot to the Members of the National Assembly and a slap on the face of the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who assiduously proclaimed to world that Bhutan was indeed governed democratically by an elected National Assembly.
The Refugee issue must be resolved
The many views expressed by various Members on the Bhutanese refugee issue in National Assembly reflects an ad hominem reaction. Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuck’s brief to the National Assembly is a further impediment. The initiatives of the EU, the US and other international organizations who are extending their hand to resolve the protracted refugee issue offers a marked change in atmosphere and both the Governments of Bhutan and Nepal must grasped this opportunity to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.
The Druk National Congress agrees that non-nationals, if any, must not be mistakenly repatriated to Bhutan, at the cost of genuine Bhutanese refugees. The Bhutanese Government must know that it has a moral duty and a responsibility to accept its citizens back to Bhutan. The refugee issue needs to be resolve at some point of time for it cannot wash its hands off it easily, because the people in the camps are internationally acknowledged as Bhutanese refugees. The ball is in Bhutan’s court.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji
Dated: December 16, 2006
The Druk National Congress welcomes the appointment of Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan on the 14th of December, 2006, as per the kasho of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
It is confident that King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will spare no efforts in bringing about peace and prosperity in Bhutan that every Bhutanese citizen in every strata of society can enjoy. It is also positive that King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will work towards maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan, and the conservation of Bhutan’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage, and will usher a democracy in Bhutan that is participative and vibrant.
The Druk National Congress pledges its full cooperation and support to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in all his endeavours aimed towards the betterment of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.
Rongthong Kunley Dorji.
3rd May, 2006
Changing Population Distribution in Bhutan - Implications for Democracy
Bhutan, one of the rare nations, still reeling under Monarchy, has been promised to witness the dawn of democracy in 2008, according to public proclamation of the King of Bhutan. In any democratic set-up, the basic underlying principle is “one person, one vote” hence the precise figures of population assume greater significance. In this backdrop, let us look at the recent population figures of Bhutan.
On the occasion of 97th National Day celebration on December 17, 2004, in Mongar, King said, "As citizen of a small landlocked country with a population of just over 500,000, it is vital for the Bhutanese people to be fully conscious of how important it is for them to be always ready to shoulder the sacred responsibility to safeguard the security and sovereignty of our nation". Subsequently, the population figure of 534,000 was frequently quoted by Kuensel (only newspaper of Bhutan, state owned) as well as by International media, on the basis of data published by Central Statistical Organization, Bhutan.
Demographically, Bhutan is divided into three regions: i.e. Eastern, Southern and Western.(Ethnically, Sharchop, Naglong and Lhotsampas). If we momentarily forget the hundred thousand refugees sheltering outside country, for the sake of simple calculation, then the population percentage in three regions would be as follows:
Region Percentage Population
Eastern 68%, 363,120
Western 16% 85440
Southern 16% 85,440
However, the population of Bhutan has been shown to be 634,982 on May 31, 2005, according to census report released in Thimphu on April 27, 2006. Thus there is a stunning variance of a hundred thousand persons between the figures given by His Majesty and official figures released by Census Commissioner, in the space of mere 5 months! By a simple arithmetic, the population distribution now stands as shown below:
Region Percentage Population
After even considering the urban migration of 91,778 persons, the display of figures raises many questions which bear grave implication as Bhutan is preparing for a two-party system of governance based on elections and delimitation on electorate. According to the provisions enshrined in the draft constitution on delimitation for the member of National Assembly, the present trend of population as shown in official documents, would give almost half of National Assembly Members to western region, thereby making it a dominant player in the upcoming democracy.
During inaugural address, rotary Prime Minister, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup said that the data provided by the report would be 'very beneficial in preparing future developmental plans'. In the past, many development activities, slated for eastern region were shifted to Western region by Sangay Ngedup. His speech gives a direct indication that more and more developmental activities will continue to be confined to western region in future too, on the ground of increased population figure. For many years, developments activities have been prioritized in western region and it has serve as magnet for upcoming business activities.
The ulterior motive behind this fudging of population distribution can be understood from the fact that the Monarchy, though originally hailing from Eastern Region, shifted to Western Region in 1952 and since then this region has been given special thrust for development. This was justified on the ground that Eastern Region has less population and hence less development work is required there. In recent past, towns like Thimphu, Chhuka and Samtse have become magnets for migrating population owing to a plethora of developmental activities.
Thus there is every reason to believe that by concocting data on population in different regions of Bhutan, the King is preparing ground to perpetuate the existing discriminatory status quo regarding development work, at the cost of under-development in the other regions. This is corroborated by the fact that in the past when Eastern Region has more population, official records always underplayed the figures, in order to justify concentration of developmental activities in Western Region. Now at the dawn of democracy the same trick is being played by fudging census data. This also points to an ominous scenario – the non-existing increased number of persons in the Western region would be used in electoral process for fake voting.
The large chunk of people in towns don't have any quality of life…no access to the food, clothing, health, education, sanitation, water etc. Many live at the edge of towns with little sanitation or no sanitation and most don't have census in the districts they inhibited. Are alien eligible for voting in district they stay other than their census rolls districts? Democracy means that people exercise their voting franchise and it should be congruent with democratic tradition and practice. Therefore, the 'politics' in population figure by Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) is unacceptable. RGOB must come out clean on this issue and be transparent to the public on actual region-wise population figures. Purported inflated population is actually the manufacturing of bogus voters in Bhutan. Royal Government of Bhutan should give answer sooner than later on this issue of primordial significance.
Druk National Congress,
New Delhi. India