I remember the first Parliament that His Majesty attended as King. When His Majesty prostrated before the Golden Throne, it was a powerful moment and message. No words were necessary to mark the importance of the sacred institution of Monarchy to Bhutan’s future as a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy, and the immense responsibility that it places on the King. It underlined that the King is there to serve the greater good of a democracy that ensures the aspirations of the people for a “just, equal and harmonious” society are met.
The past ten years have gone by in a flash. Yet, if we look at all that our country has accomplished under His Majesty, it is difficult to believe that so much could have been achieved. This is a decade that stands apart in terms of accelerated socio-economic development, as evident from our graduation from LDC status into a middle income country and the visible transformations that have taken place around the country. A comparison of the National Statistical Bureau’s “Bhutan at a glance” of 2006 and 2016 shows clearly the tremendous achievements made in all areas of development.
All these gains were made under the guidance of His Majesty. When we recall that these have taken place alongside the most historic event of our times, the enactment of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and the transformation of Bhutan into a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy, it is all the more remarkable. In all these developments, His Majesty played a critical role of an anchor to ensure that the sea of political changes would not lead to instability. This was a real concern given that large-scale political reforms of the type introduced in Bhutan, is fraught with uncertainty as seen around the world.
When we look back over the past decade of rapid development and significant political transformation, it would be naïve to imagine that all these changes could only have turned out well. It is the bias of hindsight, which makes us imagine that there could not have been any alternative to this path. Infact, at the time, every moment was filled with possibilities and the choices were not obvious. All these changes required constant guidance to ensure that plurality of thoughts and actions, post electoral politics, did not undermine national goals and priorities. His Majesty provided this guidance.
Being among those who had the good fortune to work directly under His Majesty early in His Reign, we were able to observe His Majesty in action. His Majesty was totally immersed, into finding ways and means to enhance the sovereignty and security of the country, and the peace and happiness of our people.
It was a challenge to keep up with His Majesty’s energy and ideas.
Many of these ideas have taken root, such as, among others: the establishment of DHI as a public holding company to take care of the nations wealth; Comprehensive Resettlement Programmes to eradicate poverty by resettling whole villages so that development is not a waiting game; Land Kidu reforms to make sure that all Bhutanese enjoy the safety net of having land to feed their families and build their homes; establishment of RIGSS to create cadres of leaders in all sections of our society, imbued with His Majesty’s empowering ideal of “Leadership of the Self”, to secure our country’s future; contribution to peacekeeping missions of the UN around the world and keeping our armed forces tried and tested in the process; introduction of Desuung – Guardians of Peace – as a ready volunteer force; proactive kidu to ensure that no one is left behind, especially children from education; establishment of the GNH Commission to ensure that all policies and programmes enhance GNH etc. In the process, all of us who worked closely with His Majesty learnt a great deal and moreover, were infected with a passion to keep learning to find ways and means to address the challenges before our country.
Yet, for me, the actions that really define the rule of His Majesty, the “Peoples King”, are the small things He does on a day-to-day basis. His Majesty in an address at the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecturein New Delhi in 2009, said “I take each day as it comes. If someone in a village has something to tell me, I stop and listen. If an old man’s house must be rebuilt after a natural disaster, I try and stay there to see it through. It may take an extra few minutes or months but it must be done…..Besides, it’s all very well to have a vision that stretches to the top of the peaks, but unless you are walking a little up the hill every day, you will never get there.”
I remember travelling in an entourage from Samdrupjongkhar to Trashigang when the convoy suddenly stopped at a house where His Majesty spent time with the people gathered there. The house belonged to a lady, who was a mute. How thrilled she was when His Majesty gave her a photograph taken together when His Majesty had met her the last time. On the same journey, while leaving Wamrong late in the night to continue onwards to Trashigang, we came across two old ladies waiting to greet His Majesty with the traditional burning of “sang”. As late as it was, His Majesty stopped to spend some time with them, finding out about their troubles and told us “how can I not spend some time to meet and talk to them when they have waited so long to see me”. In another incident, His Majesty met around 30 primary students in a remote school in Nganglam and spent over three hours talking to them and creating stories together. I am sure the children will never forget that moment. In similar ways, His Majesty continues to touch and change the lives of numerous people through His constant travels around the country. When you see and hear about such interactions, you are reminded of one of His Majesty’s most memorable lines from his Coronation Address, of being a father, a brother, a son, to all Bhutanese.
Such acts are really the source of His deeper connection with the people and the reason why we were so happy when His Majesty announced, with a smile, the much awaited news of our Queen-to-be, Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema, to a stunned Parliament and public. Similarly, so many Bhutanese all over the country shed tears of joy, when we learned of the birth of His Royal Highness the Gyalsey. And how we all delight in seeing the Royal Gyalsey’s growth from month to month as we do with our own. In fact the RCSC has an easter egg in its website dedicated to watching our Royal Gyalsey grow!
As a constitutional body responsible for ensuring the development of an apolitical, professional and meritocratic civil service, we are deeply grateful to His Majesty for His continuing concern for the welfare of the civil servants. His Majesty’s recognition of the contribution of the civil servants to the country’s development,a s seen through Royal Addresses and the institutionalization of the Civil Service Awards and other prestigious national awards, and also the time spent with civil servants at every given opportunity, is our single biggest source of inspiration and motivation. Many civil servants have been pleasantly surprised, around the country, by His Majesty visiting their offices and spending time with them to learn of their work, hopes and aspirations. And many were also fortunate to have the opportunity to play football with His Majesty!
His Majesty constantly highlights the special place that civil servants occupy in the country’s development. In the 2013 National Day at Changlimithang, His Majesty stated, “Whether it is the King or the government, as time passes, there will be constant change. At the end, a compact, efficient and strong civil service is the key to ensure the nation’s present and future welfare, security and people’s wellbeing.”It is no wonder then, that the civil service still remains the preferred choice for the best and brightest Bhutanese. People want to be part of the Royal Civil Service because of the opportunity to serve the country under His Majesty. On this happy occasion, I urge all civil servants to always remember these words, and redouble their dedication and efforts to serve our King, country and people.
As a child, I remember a sad day, in 1972, when the news of the passing away of His Majesty the Third King reached the small town of Trashigang. We couldn’t imagine what the fate of the country would be as we had just lost the “Father of Modern Bhutan”. We couldn’t imagine a sunny day after that sunset. Then came the living legend, the Great Fourth!
And now, ten years of His Majesty’s reign has already proven true what we know, and pray, to be the destiny of all the Kings of Bhutan – Each to be Greater than the Last!
Long Live the King!
Long Live the King!
Long Live the King!
By Dasho Karma Tshiteem
The writer is the Chairman of the Royal Civil Service Commission