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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating Democracy, by Namgay Wangmo, student PHSS. THE BHUTANESE DEMOCRACY: A GIFT FROM THE GOLDEN THRONE

Bhutan, the land of Drukpas, blessed with the hereditary kings since 1907, has always remained  a happy, independent and proud country. People in our country wear our unique national dress and take pride in doing things differently with the foremost goal of “Gross National Happiness” the royal vision that the whole world respects and appreciates today.

Bhutan was continuously blessed with benevolent kings and the process of modernization came to this last “Shangri-La” in the 1970s and with modernization Democracy began to step in.
A Century of Monarchy brought Democracy.
Democracy is young in Bhutan, but it is greatly praised for its unique origin. Democracy has come to this country in the most unusual way. The people were happy and were unwilling to creep out of the monarchical wonderland. People did not demand for democracy but it came as a gift from the Golden Throne despite the peoples’ reluctance. Therefore, the irony here is that, while in some countries people demand democracy and have to fight for it, in our country democracy was imposed on the people by our beloved kings. Our kings gave up their power for the sake of the people and country, which is why we, the Bhutanese people should honor this Gift.

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the third Druk Gyalpo’s opening Bhutan’s door to modernization also brought in key aspects of a democratic state when he ordered the establishment of the National Assembly or Tshogdu in 1953. People elected their representatives to the National Assembly to voice their concerns. Though how the chimmis voiced the peoples’ concern and views in the National Assembly then was far from what freedom of expression means in a democratic state, but it was still a significant step towards Democracy.  His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyelpo King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, a blessing for the Bhutanese people started the process of gradual devolution of power by handing executive power to the Cabinet of Ministers, establishing the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdue and Geyog Yargay Tshogchung in 1981 and 1991 respectively.   The final step to ensure that the Bhutanese people enjoy prosperity, freedom, and independence was ordering a new democratic constitution to be drafted and transformed the government from absolute Monarchy to a Democracy. This democratization was carefully planned by our farsighted kings for the people’s sake through many noble visions of power decentralization, enabling the people and giving voice to the people.

The Bhutanese people were politically innocent in the beginning, but gradually began to understand the gift that our farsighted king bestowed on us. The responsibility that each individual citizen had to shoulder to make our Democracy strong and clean without any corruption was another important aspect that came with understanding the gift. To relish this gift, the very first contribution that each individual could make was to exercise the right to vote. Thus, the Bhutanese people had to make their choice between two parties.
For Most Bhutanese, the two parties were known as the “crane” and “horse” respectively after their logos. “Crane”for Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) led by Jigme Y Thinley who stressed political integrity as the bedrock of sound democracy. On the other hand the opponent  ‘’horse’’ for People’s  Democratic Party  led by Sangay Ngedup , campaigned with the slogan, ‘’walk and  talk’’ and  ‘’service with humility’’

There was not much difference between the two parties in the political ideologies or policies, both the parties  were working  towards the royal vision of ‘’ Gross National Happiness’’ and promising to develop the nation.It became a day to be marked by the Bhutanese people on 24th march 2008, when every citizen of this country elected their democratic government and cast their secret ballot for their right candidate. The outcome confounded expectations and sent a stunning message across the country where Druk Phuensum Tshogpa the “crane” won by 45 seats out of 47 seats.
Thought the Opposition Party remains weak with only two members, but in the past two and half years of democracy the Opposition Party has made considerable contributions as to make sure that the Ruling Party maintains transparency and is accountable for its policies and decisions. The Opposition Party has done their best in questioning certain decisions by the government and has made the Bhutanese people more aware of issues that are important to the country, throwing light on issues that the people are ignorant about. The latest hot news being the Opposition leader suing the government for not following the constitution with regard to revising the taxes in the country. Good Governance, one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness is the key pillar when it comes to ensuring the other pillars stand strong. Therefore, it is important that the Opposition Party live up to their role and responsibility in the democratic arena. So far, the government has functioned well and up to the people’s expectation.  The people and the country have seen various developmental activities carried out by the new government and have served the people well. New roads have connected remote geogs and illuminated them and their children with electricity and new schools. The One important development that I as a student have seen in the school is the infusing of the GNH values. The GNH values infused in the school curriculum will no doubt in time produce good results. This initiative came from the new government as they realized the importance of the words our beloved kings, ‘the future of our country lies with our children’, for Gross National Happiness to be achieved the children of our country are important.

Democracy in Bhutan should guarantee peace and prosperity in the country with a uniform development taking place in the country, and corruption in the country should go down. Important power checkers have been put in place by our wise leaders to help our government function well; they are the Supreme Court, Anti-Corruption Commission, etc. For Democracy to flourish, the government and the people should work hand in hand intelligently so that a strong and vibrant system of governance takes root in our country. 

We as Bhutanese citizens and students have got the responsibility towards democracy, like Plato said ‘It is the duty of every citizen to participate in the political life of the state’. We can play individual roles because when it comes to democracy every citizen of this country is empowered with a right to choose their own government for themselves and can raise their voice and express their views. As a student the individual role that we can play is exercising the power to vote that is gifted to us. The people supported the government when the Bhutanese people casted their votes to declare their choice, their government during the first election held in the country. However, the peoples’ role does not end there, our beloved kings have gifted us democracy and with it comes all the aspects of democracy. One of the most important roles we can play as citizens of a democratic state is exercise the freedom and privileges of democracy in the right manner. We should not misuse our freedom of expression or any other freedom that we now have because of democracy, but we can share our views and opinions in a constructive way, be a critical friend to our government to help our government serve the people and the country well. We can further help to make illiterate people understand democracy better and create awareness among the people about the importance of casting their vote for the right people.
Our democracy is young like us and it needs to grow with us becoming strong and shouldering the responsibilities for our people and live up to the expectations of our benevolent kings.

Thank You.

Namgay Wangmo
Punakha Higher Secondary School 

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