One of the main responsibilities of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs is to preserve the country’s culture and identity. The ministry also has many policies in place to ensure the internal peace, harmony and security of the nation.
However, the Home Minister, Lyonpo Dasho Sherab Gyeltshen, feels that there is a need to review the policies in place to further enhance the peace and security of the country.
Lyonpo shared his views on the importance of the Dzongkha language in the country. Having worked in the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC), he said he knows the importance of the Dzongkha language.
He said that during the mid 90s, all the correspondence and documentations in the home and finance ministries were done in Dzongkha. Lyonpo said that in the olden days they were taught in English but they did everything in Dzongkha.
Now with development, it is the other way round, he said, because everything is done in English. “There is lot we need to do. This is not, of course, to compete with English, but to give more importance to our culture, as being Bhutanese,” Lyonpo added.
In line with this, Lyonpo has had the Cabinet conduct every meeting in Dzongkha and prepare the agendas and minutes in Dzongkha as well. However, there are associated challenges, he said, “On one occasion, when I asked the gathering (cabinet) on how many are able to write Dzongkha, there was only one hand raised. Rest do not know how to write. This kind of situation we have,” he added.
He said, “It is not that English is not important. It is important, but at times, we should know that we are Bhutanese and we must work towards keeping our language preserved and secure. Otherwise, we might reach a time where we won’t see a Bhutanese talking in our national language.”
According to Lyonpo, there is a mindset in place where those who can speak in English are seen as superiors to those who speak in Dzongkha. “It is not the fault of any individual, it is the responsibility of curriculum in schools, system and policies which are in place,” he said, adding that for those reasons there is a need for a change in policies and system. Keeping that in mind, he said that he will try and encourage the usage of Dzongkha and review the policies wherever needed.
When it comes to the preservation of culture, starting from simple things like, forgetting to include an altar room in drawings by engineers itself is an issue, he said. Lyonpo said the designing of old traditional houses should be preserved, or else Bhutan will look no different than the other countries.
He said that how one thinks is more important. People must think and grow positive, from grass roots level and from school level, he said. “School is a platform where students learn and listen. We should make sure that their thinking is culture based in order to preserve the culture. One should not encourage them with foreign cultures and thinking,” he added.
He feels that school curriculum must emphasize on preserving culture and traditions. Lyonpo said the school subjects must be strategically Bhutanized. “Why not we give our own names and identity in all the subjects,” the Home Minister questioned. He said the students are the future citizens who will preserve the culture. The onus also falls on the teachers to impart good knowledge to the further citizens.
Lyonpo said wearing of half kira in schools in hot places will have to be reconsidered. “No government would like to punish the human beings. There will be different challenges with time, so I feel that accordingly we have to change,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said that he came into politics with a hope to change the policies but he can’t say how far he will be successful, in changing outdated policies. “There is the need of change in school curriculum and also the policies of preserving culture and religion in particular,” Lyonpo added.
Lyonpo also emphasized on how he will work hand-in-hand with all the 20 Dzongdas. “I am one- month-old in the ministry and I would love to meet all the 20 Dzongdas. I will listen to them and so that I can keep myself updated.
That is way, as a team, we will move forward for better development,” he added.
He also said that he plans to meet with all the 205 Gups in the country. “Overnight result is not expected,” he said, adding that bringing unity, peace and harmony within the people is the main aim.
He said the annual Dzongda conference might be conducted as usual but the conference should be used in better ways rather than arguing on small things and wasting time.
Meanwhile, Lyonpo emphasized on increase in number of drug related issues in the country. He said that the law should be in place for drug related crimes. However, the main cause of people using drugs must be studied first, and accordingly the preventive measures will come in, the Home Minister added.
He also talked about rehabilitation of criminals so they receive the right support to make them fit enough to join the society. Lyonpo said, “We need to have a reformative plans for those who committed crimes, and a way to give them the second chance. Simply keeping them behind the bars won’t help. Rather we should try to find a way to bring them back to normal after serving their terms.”
Lyonpo warned that if they fail to preserve country’s culture and traditions then there is every chance that the country might lose its harmony, peace and security. “Home ministry alone cannot preserve the culture and identity of the country. All the relevant agencies have to come together to achieve the goal of culture and language preserving,” he said.