Representatives of the four political parties, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Druk Phunsum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) met again yesterday evening to speak on their pledges and strategies to address various issues.
Speakers emphasized on economic development, strengthening democracy, promoting media freedom and zero tolerance against corruption among many others.
DPT’s speaker at the debate, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho emphasized on how the party worked towards standing by its slogan ‘equity and justice’. He said, despite a landslide victory in the 2008 elections, supporters of both parties, DPT and PDP were treated equally in terms of providing services and developmental activities such as constructing farm roads, ensuring telecom connectivity and delivering electricity to many homes across the country.
Dr Pema Gyamtsho said the party would always stand by its manifesto, strengthen foreign relations, support women, disabled citizens, introduce child care centers, promote economic growth and above all ensure self sufficiency by 2020 through various means if elected.
PDP’s speaker Damcho Dorji who is also the party’s Vice President reiterated that its pledge to decentralize powers to the grass roots shall remain strong. He said the party if elected to office will bring about economic development in all corners of the country by developing a Thromde in each Dzongkhag in addition to the existing four Thromde.
He said the party shall promote free media, reduce poverty, initiate better policies in the education sector and civil service, strengthen and support the constitutional bodies, fight corruption, resolve the economic situation and sort out unemployment issues among others.
DCT president Lily Wangchhuk said public consultation shall be prioritized at all times in making new policies or enacting any law. She said there had been many instances in the past where the previous government failed to consult the citizens before making and implementing any major decisions.
The DCT president also said her party shall place high importance in solving the current Indian Rupee (INR) crisis. She also highlighted how the government denied advertisement to critical media which she said was not a good for a democracy.
The last speaker at the debate, DNT’s speaker Dr Tandi Dorji stressed on empowering people not only during the elections to vote but at all times even after the new government is formed. He said people today feared the government while the government is supposed to serve and fear the people. He said citizens should not be intimidated at all by the people in power.
Dr Tandi also said institutions such as the media, anti-corruption commission and judiciary among others should be given high importance, freedom and independence in order to fight corruption and strengthen democracy.
He also highlighted on the worsening economic conditions and the need to address it at the earliest. While the government’s report on the economy looks good, he said one must understand that the positive reports are derived from borrowed money and that the country is prospering on liabilities. He said the DPT government made borrowings at an alarming rate, highest in the history of the nation.
Dr Tandi said, above all his party will work towards closing the huge existing gap between the poor and the rich.
During the second phase of the debate, Damcho Dorji in response to a question by Dr Pema Gyamtsho on private media sustenance said if the government abandons private media, it will be difficult for people to believe or trust the information disseminated by government owned media houses.
One of the topics that dominated the debate was women participation in politics. While all parties encouraged more women participation, DCT and PDP strongly supported women quota in politics.
Lily Wangchhuk said most women she talked to across the country desired for women quota which would provide them with a direct platform for participation.
Damcho Dorji said, more than the quota it is very important that enabling environment is created to ensure that women are made equally capable of managing public office.
Dr Pema Gyamtsho said the DPT pledge to promote women participation along with child care and special services for the disabled.
The session also had some tough questions of the ministers taking Prados with an audience member even questioning the GNH credentials of DPT.