Dear Honorable MPs,
There seems to be a lot of ‘confusion’ and also a great deal of hesitation on the Civil Liability Bill currently in the National Assembly.
Please don’t be confused or hesitant la. The Bill just affirms that Bhutanese lives and health are not cheap.
Currently, when a Bhutanese citizen or child dies due to the carelessness of authorities or others, the death is almost as good as a dog dying on the street with very minimal compensation and consequences.
In 2019 there were 22 infants that died in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in JDWNRH within a short time frame, but despite complaints of negligence by the parents, nobody was held accountable.
Honorable MP, imagine the pain of you and your partner if one of those babies was yours.
On 18 July 2019, in Thimphu, a six-year-old boy died and another four-year-old was critically injured when a Hume Pipe rolled over and crushed the small children.
The huge Hume pipes were carelessly stacked death traps, but no one was held accountable.
Honorable MP, imagine if the six-year-old boy was your son, and you were at the site trying to get the lifeless body of your son from below the huge pipes, as government site engineers and private contractors threw up their hands to say his death is not their responsibility.
In 2018, a four-year-old drowned in an artificial pond at a private construction site in Changzamtog, Thimphu. The pond which was dug for the construction purpose was left uncovered.
No accountability was fixed.
Honorable MP, that could have been your child playing there.
In March 2021, a 17-year-old girl was killed by falling metal rods at the Mega Dry Port in Phuentsholing. The contractor had not paid the required compensation.
In February 2012, a father and his eight-year-old daughter drowned inside the five acre sewerage treatment plant in Phuentsholing.
Residents of Phuentsholing town blamed and asserted accountability on City Corporation officials for absence of safety measures in place.
The Phuentsholing Thromde washed their hands of the matter and no one was held accountable.
Imagine, Honorable MP, if the father and daughter were your family members.
In 2018 a drayang owner in Trongsa had employed a minor to work as a dancer. The minor was raped by a government official.
Honorable MP, imagine if the young child was an unfortunate niece of yours.
We all get outraged by the rape and molestation of young children which only seems to be going up.
Our blood boils collectively and many, including MPs, demand the death penalty.
However, when a Bill comes before them that fixes liability on Institutions (schools etc) for Child Abuse our MPs suddenly become all confused and fuzzy.
Are they more concerned about the institutions than the safety of children?
Our People’s King has been talking about accountability for a while, and the National Council inspired by that call and after thorough due diligence, came up with a comprehensive Civil Liability Bill.
Honorable MPs, you instead now suddenly question if this bill is required.
Honorable MPs, over the years, you have added several perks and higher protocol for yourselves and in doing so have positioned yourself above senior bureaucrats and even Constitutional Heads.
You have done so because it was not only about money, but to preserve your dignity and position after initially being seen as misfit outsiders to the system by apolitical bureaucrats, including some humiliating encounters with senior officials and others in the early years.
Now imagine the indignity, humiliation and pain of family members unable to get any answers or accountability for the death of a loved one.
Your first instinct as the house which has the government and the opposition will be to side with the executive and the various agencies and hence you will try to kill or weaken the bill which is happening
However, that will be the wrong approach as you represent the voice of the people.
Most of the laws are about giving powers to government agencies and imposing restrictions and fines on people.
However, this is the only law till date that talks about ordinary peoples rights and places a value on their lives and health.
At the end of the day, Honorable National Assembly MPs, please remember that you are neither accountable to nor elected by ministries and agencies,powerful bureaucrats, rich contractors, your industrialist friends or other people in government offices who can get your work done.
You are elected by the people of Bhutan and are accountable to them and your failure to support this Bill or even attempts to kill and dilute it will be a disservice to them and the Tsa-Wa-Sum.
The writer is the Editor of the paper.