The Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) of the central district of Zhemgang will re-deliberate its earlier decision to make it compulsory to wear the national dress in the district, in its upcoming fourth DT meeting.
However, from an early indication it looks like the DT may decide to uphold its previous decision if it goes by the feedback received during the recent consultations.
The chairperson (Thrizin) of the Zhemgang DT, Sangay Letho, said that even after the latest round of consultations a clear majority is in favor of the 9 am to 5 pm national dress rule.
“Since 5th December we (Gups and Mangmis) have been visiting the gewogs and we found that 99 percent of people are for the decision of enforcing wearing of gho and kira, the national dress, from 9 am to 5 pm, throughout the district,” he confidently said.
“Villagers felt that they will have to wear gho and kira while working in the fields and when going into forest which is why they were initially against the decision,” said Sangay Letho. “However, with awareness and clarification from our side that this is not so, they are now for the decision. The villagers told us that, this is the only way they can serve the country and preserve one’s culture.”
“Our main intention is to preserve our culture as it is our identity. Every individual has its right, however, this is only the way we can keep our culture alive as it is important for both the security and sovereignty of Bhutan,” Sangay Letho said.
He also said that some people questioned them on why it was made mandatory to wear gho and kira between nine am to five pm. “When office going people, students and teachers can be in Driglam Namzha until evening, why can’t others, after all it’s our own culture,” he said.
Those against the decision, according to the Thrizin, were youth who had left school, the unemployed and a few business people. “We can make exceptions like during rafting, sports, working in field, people going to forest, farmwork etc.,” he added. He said they made the rule for those in public gatherings, lhakhang, drivers, office, schools, town area and those residing along the highways.
Although the decision was to be implemented from 17th December it was put on hold because they felt that people needed more awareness and more consultation was needed.
Sangay Letho said they are done with the awareness and consultation program in all eight gewogs but they are yet to discuss on how to implement the decision and on the imposing of fines.
This is to be discussed in the next (4th) DT meeting. He said that, for example, it is proposed that people in the gewog will be monitored by Tshogpas and Mangmi, and RSTA and traffic police will monitor drivers.
Home minister Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said the government is in touch with the DT members who are consulting people in the Zhemgang on the issue. “It was learned they had not properly consulted the people before they took the decision. They are now visiting every gewog to consult people and make them aware of the resolution and they are going to re-deliberate it during the 4th DT meeting,” the home minister said.
The Home Minister said that the local government is mandated by the LG Act and the Constitution to protect and preserve culture.
With much social media and media controversy on the issue the government asked the DT to ensure proper consultations are done. Now if the DT upholds its last decision then it will place the government in an unenviable position of dealing with an essentially local government generated issue that has attracted national attention and discussion.
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay said that at one level the local people know their situation well, but if there are problems then it should be solved.
The PM said such cases are good in a young democracy as it allows for the clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the various agencies.
The PM said that during the Constitutional case over taxes the Supreme Court made it clear that local government cannot raise taxes without going through the Parliament.
The PM also an example of Paro DT which had kept a day off for tourists from Taktshang but since it affected the tourism sector the government sat with the Paro DT and other stakeholders and ensured that there was no such day while at the same time ensuring visiting fees to build resources for Taktshang. The PM similarly gave the example of Samtse DT passing a resolution to not allow any mining but the PM said that the Samtse DT in consultation with the Department of Geology and Mines had decided to keep a moratorium one new leases but with conditions renewed the older ones there.
The PM said that in case of any major issue between agencies or people, the judiciary would be the best institution to interpret the law.
The ongoing Zhemgang DT issue has brought up a debate on culture as well as brought forth questions on the powers and relationship between the local and central government.