News of 50 Druk Phuensum Tshogpa supporters planning a trip to the capital on behalf of the Speaker and the Home Minister in regard to the Gyelpozhing verdict caused some disquiet in a country not used to political activism.
Though the DPT members withdrew their petition as of yesterday the issue still continues as members of the two candidates constituency will put up the petition in their place now.
In a party meeting in Trashigang held in January 2012 DPT supporters even threatened to take to the streets if the Speaker and the Home Minister were not allowed to contest.
The comparison by some of the above with the anti-national protests of the past is too extreme and unjustified so far.
However, there are some serious questions to be asked of this tactic adopted by members of the ruling party and wether it is in the long term interest of democracy in Bhutan.
DPT supporters are not satisfied with ACC’s investigation of the case, the Mongar district court’s verdict, they also want the Home Minister and Speaker to be allowed to contest in the 2013 race and finally they have raised the question if past cases can be subjected to review today.
In short all of the above issues have been settled by the ACC investigation and the verdict of the Mongar district court which the DPT supporters are not prepared to accept.
As many observers point out the problem with the party workers stand is that it questions the institutional credibility of both the ACC and the Judiciary and also is a challenge to the concept of the rule of law.
The correct and legal method would be for the Speaker and Home Minister to appeal to the High Court if they are not satisfied with the decision and then go onto the Supreme Court.
There is no constitutional or legal provision for anyone to bypass the district or High Court and go directly to the Supreme Court in an ongoing criminal case.
The move is also being seen by many as an organized pressure tactic by members of the ruling party to put all the institutions involved under political pressure.
In stark contrast the same government came down heavily on an innocent and non political solidarity walk with a senior civil servant even being given early retirement.
The same government strongly advised against people wanting to protest against the Tobacco Control Act.
There was also strong criticism on the plans of some businesses to peacefully close shop for a day to show their dissent against Pedestrian Day.
Except for the Solidarity Walk none of the others happened as citizens and businessmen decided to heed the government’s wishes and not protest.
Now in stark contrast members of the ruling party are not only questioning the validity of the ACC and the Judiciary but are also threatening to hit the streets if things don’t go their way.
This is clearly setting a wrong precedent for the future as the message is taking the law into one’s own hands if it does not favor you.
People must understand that Democracy is not just farm roads or mobile connection. These are just as easily available in non democratic countries. Democracy at its core upholds the rule of law, respects the rights and freedoms of individual citizens, and has a system of checks and balances on power.
Riding roughshod over these for short term political gains will not serve democracy well. The ruling party may also be opening a Pandora’s Box of political activism and a culture of protests on the streets.
Since the advent of democracy the only reason why people did not come out on the streets to protest on various issues against the elected government is out of respect for the Monarchy.
The ruling government in that sense has to be grateful to the Monarchy due to its stabilizing and unifying role.
Moreover, Bhutan is too small and vulnerable a country to practice highly polarizing and cut-throat politics.
Therefore, politicians in Bhutan have a sacred duty to not only serve the people but also lead the people in the right way and uphold the Tsa-Wa-Sum.
“Government leaders are amazing. So often it seems they are the last to know what the people want.”
Aung San Suu Kyi