The 1st August ceremony in the National Assembly of the Prime Minister, Ministers, Speaker and MPs removing their orange and blue Kabneys has again reignited the Kabney debate on what is appropriate to wear and by whom.
There was surprise in some quarters as former ministers and MPs Yeshey Zimba, Khandu Wangchuk and Wangdi Norbu took off their blue MPs Kabneys to switch to Orange Kabneys.
However, the Chairman of the Royal Privy Council, Chenkyab Dorji, in response to a question said that all former ministers who had received Orange Kabneys from the Kings prior to the democracy can continue to wear them for their lifetime.
The chairman explained that before 2008 the ministers were given their Kabneys on the basis of merit by the Kings, be it His Majesty The Third King, His Majesty The Fourth King or His Majesty The King.
He said that after 2008, with the promulgation of democracy, all such Kabneys were post-based as it was being given to leaders elected by the people.
This would also explain why many former ministers continue to wear Orange Kabneys well after retirement.
The only exception to the Kabney practice in the post 2008 period is the Lungmar Kabney and Red Kabney given as Knighthoods where the recipient of the honor can wear both the Kabneys and also the swords for the rest of their lives.
In the case of women, it is the Gyentag which is equivalent to a sword.
An official said that there had been some misunderstanding that those who got Lungmar and Red Kabneys have to remove their sword or Gyentag on stepping down from their post like others, but it is not so, as these two special categories can continue to wear both their Kabneys and swords or Gyentags for their lifetime.
The Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay switched to his Lungmar Kabney along with his patang, while Lyonpo Dasho Dorji Choden switched to her Bura marp (Red color Rachu) along with the Gyentag and Dasho Zangley Drukpa switched to his Red Kabney and Patang.
The official said that former ministers before 2008 who have received a Red Scarf in effect can wear patangs due to the red scarf.
Certain Royal Advisory Councilors who got their blue Kabney from the Kings prior to 2008 can wear their blue Kabney minus the patang unless they also have a red scarf.
However, Drangpons, Gups and non red-scarf Dzongdas who have received their Kabneys, be it prior to or after 2008, have to remove them once their term is over.
The Royal Privy Council has been encouraging people to give up their post-based Kabneys and patangs received after 2008.
Chenkyab Dorji said that all post-based Kabneys and Patangs must be given up as it is only for the post.
The Chairman admitted that there is no Act or rules on the issue, but the focus has been on encouraging people to give it up voluntarily.
An official said that the Patang Kabney issue is very sensitive and it holds the potential to deeply hurt people who have served for a long time, and so the move has been to sensitize and encourage people to give it up voluntarily.
In the current system, for example, a Dzongda, if he is transferred outside his post, cannot continue to wear his Dzongda kabney and sword, as it is post-based and even if he retires as a Dzongda, he is expected to hand it over.
The Privy Council’s low key approach has successfully led to many people handing over their Kabneys and Patangs over the year, with the result that only a handful remain and they too are gently encouraged to do so.
The Privy Council’s move, in part, is to respect the Kabneys and what they stand for and also due to a public feedback at one time when it was felt that there were too many people holding onto post-based Kabneys and Patangs.