Govt makes discreet moves to contain Zhemgang dress code fall out

Zhemgang Dzongda now says DT resolution on dress code must follow national policy

With the Zhemgang Thrizin, Sangay Letho and Dzongkhag Tshogdu still determined to enforce the 9 am to 5 pm compulsory ‘Gho and Kira’ dress code despite a national controversy, moves are afoot to try and contain the issue.

At least two cabinet ministers are learnt to have already got in touch with the Zhemgang Dzongda Harkha Singh Tamang to discuss the issue.

It has been learnt that the Dzongda has been told in no uncertain terms that while preserving culture and tradition is important, the Zhemgang DT will have to follow national laws, policies and practices on the issue.

This means that while one has to wear Gho and Kira within Dzongs, Lhakhangs, government offices and in certain public gatherings, it is up to the people what they want to wear outside these venues.

Talking to The Bhutanese the Dzongda Harkha Singh Tamang said that the Dzongkhag administration would wait and see the outcome of the fourth DT meeting where this issue is expected to be tabled and pushed by the Thrizin and his DT members.

The Dzongda said that while it is up to the DT to pass resolutions it is the job of the Dzongkhag administration to implement them, and simply put, the Dzongkhag administration cannot implement any resolutions that are not in keeping with wider national laws, policies and practices.

The Dzongda also told the paper that the Dzongkhag administration itself has been gathering feedback on the issue and there are people who are also not in favor of the DT resolution.

This is though the DT Thrizin claimed that ‘99.9 percent’ of the people supported the national dress resolution even after the recent second round of consultations.

The 4th Dt meeting itself will see an intervention of the Dzongda who will make it clear to the DT on what can be done or not.

The Dzongda said that the administration can continue to enforce the wearing of Gho and Kira in Dzongs, Lhakhangs and government offices, but it cannot start asking people in the markets and villages to do.

He said that it would not only be difficult, but it would also not be in keeping with the national policies.

Meanwhile the DT Thrizin on the other hand did not indicate any change in plan. In an interview last week to this paper he said that during the second round of consultations they removed the misconception among farmers that they would have to wear Gho and Kira in the fields after which even they farmers supported the resolution. The Thrizin claimed 99.9 percent support.

The Thrizin at the time said that they would bring in the resolution again in the 4th DT session and look at how to best implement it.

Talking to the paper the Thrizin said that his stand and that of his colleagues still remain unchanged this week. He said that the resolution is not new as people have to wear Gho and Kira from before. He said that while farmers don’t have to wear them while working in the fields, everybody in the rural areas and town areas traveling to and fro and even to the vegetable market, hospital, schools etc. should wear the national dress between 9 am and 5 pm.

A senior government figure said while the Local Government Act does give powers to the local government it must be within the national policy and legal framework. He said that when he visited Zhemgang there was apprehension among the people on this issue.

In an earlier meet the press the Prime Minister had highlighted how the Samtse DT had banned all mining and the Paro DT had made Taktshang out of bounds for a day of the week. The PM had said that in both cases since a national issue was being affected the DT’s were convinced to overturn their decisions while other remedial measures were taken.

The senior government figure said that the Dzongda is the representative of the government and it is his duty to let the DT know when they are doing things outside the national legal and policy framework.

The Zhemgang case, however, does not seem to be an isolated incident.

During the 2017 Thrizin’s conference it is understood that the Thimphu Thrizin first raised the issue of enforcing a strict dress code of Gho and Kira. He was supported in this by other Thrizins at the meeting.

In response senior Home Ministry officials who were at the meeting cautioned the gathering that the promotion of culture and tradition and Driglam Choesum is important but it must be done in a subtle manner. They were told that things are now in democratic context and nothing should be done in a drastic way to elicit a public backlash.

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