During the Coronation of His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in June 2nd, 1974 the National Geographic Magazine reported His Majesty as saying, “I’ll be happy, If Bhutan remains an independent and sovereign Kingdom, if people are happy and united and self sufficient. I don’t think there’s anything else that a King can achieve.”
The Fourth King in the subsequent decades not only met all the above aims, but also exceeded the wildest expectations in a Golden Age for Bhutan that not only saw unprecedented development and prosperity, but the strengthening of Bhutanese sovereignty, security and internal stability.
The Fourth King announced in 2005 that he would step down and also bring about the advent of Democracy.
On December 14th, 2006 the first and most crucial phase of this new era was carried out with the Fourth King announcing that His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck would take over the golden baton. The Coronation was formalized on 1st November, 2008 in an auspicious and symbolic ceremony.
Since September 2006 till date Bhutan has experienced the reign of a King that not only upheld the strong legacy left by his father as a good Monarch but also presided over a crucial transition phase, strengthened democracy and redefined the Monarchy in a new era.
Between 2006 and 2008 His Majesty the King strengthened democratic institutions like the Anti Corruption Commission, Election Commission, RAA and the media. It is very revealing that despite the establishment of private and critical newspapers in 2006 that often criticized the government, His Majesty the King took no direct or indirect measures against them. His Majesty along with the Fourth King also oversaw the consultations of the constitution which came up as an exceptionally progressive and liberal constitution. Ultimately 2008 saw the conduct of free and fair elections praised by election observers around the world.
His Majesty has stated that as King, one of his biggest and most sacred responsibilities is to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Bhutan. His Majesty has done this with great effectiveness, tolerance, wisdom and patience far beyond his young age. In many ways His Majesty has turned out to be a more democratic leader in his conduct than many democratically elected leaders.
Though the 2008 elections were an essential part of Bhutan’s path to a democracy it was also a hugely divisive and in many way a traumatic process for a small and tight knit society more used to working through consensus. The election divided families, friends, villages and communities. The role of His Majesty during this period and ever since was crucial in bringing the nation together as a symbol of unity.
His Majesty the King from 2006-2008 was also an efficient steward of the economy managing Bhutan’s budget and foreign currency well and spending well within our means. For e.g. Despite the Wall Street crash where foreign governments and institutions lost billions, Bhutan’s foreign reserve investments were safe and secure. Fundamental and important institutions that would ensure good governance of the corporate sector like DHI were created.
During His Majesty’s Coronation address in November, 2008 he addressed some key issues apart from Bhutan’s successful transition to democracy.
His Majesty stressed on the importance of continuing to secure Bhutan’s sovereignty and security and peace and happiness. Though it may not be well known His Majesty as the Supreme Commander has brought about far reaching and effective reforms in the armed forces which have further strengthened Bhutan’s national security. His Majesty has strengthened our sovereignty as the head of the state ensuring that our key external strategic and security interests are protected.
One of the most touching aspects of His Majesty the King’s his speech was, “I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing.”
In many ways His Majesty has walked this talk throughout the Kingdom using an extensive Kidu program which many would say is more effective than many planned programs of poverty reduction.
Through Kidu, especially land Kidu, His Majesty has ensured that the most vulnerable sections of our society do not slip through the cracks of a faceless bureaucracy, red tape and an indifferent system as is the case in most other countries.
At a time when business houses and some corrupt authorities are centralizing wealth and power, His Majesty the King has been the greatest source of decentralization of wealth and land benefitting the poorest farmers in Bhutan.
At a time when confidence in the elected Bhutanese leadership for a variety of reasons is at a low, His Majesty continues to inspire the confidence and faith of the people in the nation.