With the ruling and opposition party trading allegations in the public domain, there have been calls from many for not doing so and preserving our societal ‘harmony’.
Both sides are accused of ‘politicization’ and even asked to handle issues quietly like writing secret letters to the ACC or RAA and not raising any public alarm.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how democracy works. The ruling and opposition parties are not there only to fulfill certain structural obligations of our democracy and constitution, but they come with real and important responsibilities.
One of the most important is to provide a check and balance not only to each other but to also hold the various agencies of the state to account and take up matters of public interest. This is one reason why MPs from both the ruling and opposition can get up on live TV and ask tough questions in the Parliament in the public or national interest, and have a thorough debate.
Also, political parties, whether in the ruling or opposition, should bring out matters of public interest in the public domain instead of having secret backroom meetings or confidential letter writing competitions.
Democracy cannot be like a polite gentleman’s club of the old days where everyone doffs their hat at each other and are all treated as honorable members irrespective of the scandals outside the club.
The ‘harmony,’ in that sense, some are peddling, actually seek to serve the well connected elite in Bhutan. This ‘harmonious system’ of the past saw the elite looking out for each other be it nepotism, land grabs, abuse of power, policy corruption, resource capture etc.
Any disruptions of this artificial ‘harmony’ are treated as being something out of the ordinary and thus something to be resented and not tolerated. This attitude is not healthy for our young democracy.
We definitely cannot have partisan or fanatic party politics and reckless vendetta politics, but we also cannot afford the other extreme of parties pretending that nothing is wrong and having an implicit arrangement among them to not check and balance each other. In this latter scenario the people will be the biggest losers and democracy will suffer a terrible blow.
Real harmony is when citizens get the services, facilities and resources due to them by the state with no corruption, abuse of power, inequity etc.
It is a strange thing that often the excuse of preserving ‘harmony’ is a cover for covering up some of the most persistent abuses and injustices in our system. A small example here would be villagers not wanting to complain about a corrupt Gup only to preserve perceived rural harmony. The point here is that only the Gup is benefitting from this ‘harmony’ at the expense of the government budget and the fearful local villagers.
“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”