Reading your article titled ‘A Cold War between RCSC and ECB leaves the career of 130 hanging in the balance’ of Saturday the 12th of September 2015, I am a bit perturbed as to why ECB is being dragged into it when there is no issue involved unless it is being done to help better appreciate the organizational directional challenges being confrontedby RCSC.
Whatsoever, it is necessary to draw the attention on the provisions of the Constitution and related facts:
- The Constitution categoricallystate’s that only the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is ’independent’ and it is silent as to the status of RCSC. Instead, it says RCSC is responsible for only ensuring an ‘independent and apoliticalcivil service’. Is it not ironical that an office which is not itself ‘independent’ tries to control another that is enjoying ‘constitutionally guaranteed independence’? If there is a variation I can only respect the wisdom and vision of the authors of the Constitution for the deliberate differentiation. Note the Article on Elections precedes those on other entities. I can only conclude that for a sound democracy elections are fundamental and unconditionally essential. Election is a State subject whereas issue of corruption is government concern that may or may not feature on an election campaign manifesto.
It may be useful to note that globally there is increasing pressure on all States to commute to keep all election management bodies away from any form of external control in application of its resources be it financial or personnel and not only the independence over implementation of functional programmes.
- In addition, records would speak for themselves since, as per a letter received from the previous Chair of the RCSC, ECB was required to give options to all Civil Servants. ECB employees were to be repatriated to the RCSC if they did not want to continue in ECB. We were to make it clear to those who decided to remain in the ECB that they would no longer be regarded as civil servants.
Accordingly, in place of the 24 or so who had decided to leave ECB we had to recruit substitutes and train them to conduct Local Government Elections and 2013 Parliamentary Elections under ECB Service Rules and Regulations.
- Unless Elections are being administered by dedicated employees over whom ECB has full control, given the nature of unpredictability as to when an elections or bye-elections may need to be conducted, the ECB may not be able to stand in a ‘ready mode’ to conduct them.
- It may be noted that the RCSC dragged its feet to draft the Civil Service Actand thus it was enacted much after the Election Act was enacted. Elections laws are there to promote a healthy democracy and care was taken that these are made consistent with the Visions of Their Majesties enshrined in the Constitution. In the case of Civil Service Act, it was found that their goal was not to support and promote good governance and democracy but to exercise its control over other entities for the sake of it, no matter at what cost to the public and national interest. Therefore, the Civil Service Act contravenesthe provisions ofthe Constitution
Accordingly, the stand of the ECB was communicated to the RCSC in writing informing that it cannot conform to a constitutionally incompatible law. This stand appears reinforced by the ACC repeatedly through their Annual Reports to the Parliament.
In view of the above facts, I am of the strong conviction that ECB is a Constitutional Office and its officers have a moral duty to uphold the integrity of the Constitution and it must continue to do so for the cause of furthering democracy and its institutions under a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy.
In this regard, if need be, the parliament may have to be moved to initiate action to repeal the provisions of the Civil Service Act that are necessary to be made consistent with the Constitution for upholding the principles of good governance and not to place future elections at grave risk. This is unless the RCSC can take responsibility for the success of future elections in the absence of production of any empirical data ever being presented to vouch that past elections could have been better managed had RCSC been made responsible for personnel and human resources of ECB.
It is often a human tragedy that one gets bogged-down with focusing on what others ought or ought not to do instead of devoting ones energy and resources to furthering ones primary goals and objectives.
With regard to “the career of 130 hanging in the balance” as long as Elections are needed as essential process and as important component of the Bhutanese Democracy, employees of ECB will continue to enjoy have a bright and secure future! An employment of honour and prestige with the opportunity to serve the people of Bhutan to express their will through periodic Parliamentary and Local Government Elections to ensure their wellbeing.
(Dasho) Kunzang Wangdi,
(Immediate past) Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan.