NC members who resigned said they only followed ECB’s directives
Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley said the National Council (NC) members of the incumbent house resigning before the end of its term is a clear violation of the constitution.
Lyonchhen said the serving incumbent house has to be replaced upon the completion of its term and on the day that the new council members are elected to office. “The house of review, the NC is to be a continuously functioning house. The constitution does not allow a gap to exist between the departure of the incumbent house and the arrival of the new house. It’s very clear,” Lyonchhen said.
Of the 20 elected councilors, 16 have resigned so far following the election commission’s (ECB) notification saying they need to resign to ensure there was level playing field during elections. One quit to contest from a political party while the rest resigned to take part in the ongoing council election process.
Lyonchhen said “there is no NC in effect. For a quorum it requires a minimum of seventeen members but there is only nine. How come you the media so sharp and alert to any mistake the government may make do not see this gross violation of the sacred document, the sacred principles enshrined in the constitution?”
Former NC member who resigned to re-contest from Gasa Dzongkhag, Sangay Khandu said “I do not believe it is a violation of the constitution because the ECB required us to do it and I am sure the commission has given enough thought to the interpretation which has mandated all of us to follow.”
He believed to have followed the law by following ECB. “If the constitution has been violated it is because of the interpretation of the commission and because we respected what has been required of us to re-contest. The members did not have much of a choice to do what we wished to do,” he added.
NC chairperson Lyonpo Namgye Penjore said “I have said earlier that it is worrying to have many NC members resigning because in case we had any review work to be done or if national assembly decides to have parliament session such as for budget discussions, we can’t have a quorum.”
He said the Election Act gives full authority to the ECB to issue notification after the Royal decree for the election process. There is no authority to stop the commission from notifying anything in relation to elections.
The NC Chairperson said the law required Council to be a continuous house and the continuity has to be that experiences of the first members should be taken forward to the second batch. “If the whole set of new councilors is to come in, there would be no continuity, so I think the commission has thought it well,” he said.
“As the chair of NC, my responsibility is to receive the resignation letters and relieve them as per the law. So, we have relieved them and there are only nine of us left. We couldn’t keep the house continuous but we need certain people who have worked in the house and have experience,” NC Chairperson Namgay Penjore explained.
While 17 members is the requirement for a quorum, 19 members are required to debate and vote on a resolution of the NC.
One of the former NC members raised concerns if one could say that there is no NC when the chairperson and eight other members are still serving. “They will not be able to pass any decisions for there isn’t a quorum but would it be right to say that there is no NC,” he asked.
Almost all the parliamentarians that The Bhutanese talked to said it is very important for any new parliament to take up the issue seriously.
Sangay Khandu said “in the interest of the NC and parliamentary culture that we need to nurture, so that we allow institutions to grow, the NC laws and prerequisites will need to be discussed.”
Lyonpo Namgay Penjore said “I am very hopeful that the next parliament will take up this issue first thing and very seriously.”
He said one should learn from mistakes and set things straight and completely right after the mistake.