“The government is being viewed as autocratic, intolerant and vindictive”

 Opinion: Evolution of Bhutanese Democracy –Part 2

Later in the paper when structure and vision is discussed, other follies of the incumbent government such as their subtle intrusion into the workings of independent and autonomous institutions, micro-managing and fear tactics will be highlighted.

As aforementioned, Bhutan’s democracy was introduced with strong leadership, people’s unflinching support and participation, high hopes and fertile conditions for the success of the new political system. In form the entire system was excellent but the lesson to be learnt here is the importance of the functionary aspects of a democracy- namely the role of the elected leaders.

Democracy in Bhutan could have developed organically, imbibing much of our existing social mores, which had strong roots in communalism, strong family ties, and a sense of unity. But instead the Government wedged itself into an isolated role. This appears to be circumstantial rather than with any particular well crafted objective. The outcome doesn’t appear to be the failure of the system but rather individual personalities or whims that have taken precedence over rationality. Incidental decisions and actions by the leadership of the incumbent government resulted in many undesirable outcomes. To name a few: isolation, ivory tower decision-making, political patronage in government and business and neglecting the views of the common people.

The Government became isolated. Isolation that resulted due to Government not being able to maintain proper institutional linkages and working relationships within a professional and legal framework, guided by democratic norms. This led to increasing conflicts namely with the Judiciary, the Bureaucracy, Civil Society, the Media and other institutions. In other words when you isolate power of decision making you isolate yourself. Individuals played a much larger role towards this outcome. The democratic leaders own perception of their function and extent of their authority did not match people’s aspirations out of democracy. The other institutions also found it invasive to have political masters constantly interfering with their work. The transition to democracy appears to have brought in a democratically elected government but failed to institute democratic governance.

The eagerness of elected leaders to consolidate their position and power took precedence over their role as democratic leaders. This resulted in the lack of transparency. Senior Ministers became very partial towards those who they felt were supporters. Favoritism from the top quickly eroded both the sense of duty as well as the uneven distribution of work and rewards for public servants. Clear lack of trust not only lowered their morale but also alienated many who were genuinely apolitical.

The government became confrontational in its dealings with other institutions and organizations. To put it simply, it became ‘you are either with us or against us’ or any person with a differing view was blatantly accused of doing great disservice to King and Country. Thus opposing any policy initiated by the government was equated to going against democracy. Such accusations frightened people. By now, the leadership’s clear lack of tolerance for alternative views is well known and firmly established. The government is being viewed as autocratic, intolerant and vindictive. In every way democratically legitimate but not a democratic government.

The Tobacco Act of Bhutan and the cabinets’ decision to declare Tuesdays as Pedestrian Day are perfect examples of the elected government’s complete disengagement with the general population. The difficulties and suffering of the people are distant and irrelevant while pandering to a western audience. Petty autocracy is to be found in the PM going publically at loggerheads with a young journalist. This led to an embarrassing situation when the Minister of the MoIC issued a written order banning advertisements from going to the newspaper, ‘The Bhutanese’. When this went public it invited even greater criticism and doubt. Making matters worse the Government then decides to cast all media agencies as being irresponsible and working for certain interest groups and then reduces the media’s advertisement income drastically by cutting down on their budget.

Furthermore the government has also been tied to many questionable people and business deals and several political leaders are being investigated by the ACC. The  billion dollar Education City Project, which was also approved by the Cabinet, appears to have a conflict of interest with the PM’s son and nephew as the local representatives for the Foreign Investor. People are already openly questioning the decision taken by the PM. There have also been other misgivings regarding certain business families with close proximity to the PM either through kin or otherwise, gaining unmerited opportunities. The Prime Minister’s disposition towards family and political allies is viewed as not only unethical but of grave danger to Bhutan’s future.

At this point the reader will be of the view that this articles’ very motive is to criticize the government. It might appear to be so. Here I would like to emphasize the gravity of having leaders forge the right path in a young democracy like ours. While the nation has been gifted with an opportunity to build strong institutions and promote the right practices, our leadership inadvertently is taking our country on a precarious journey. The PM and Ministers are indeed very experienced but their experience does not extend to democratic exigencies. In fact it is exactly the opposite. They are used to commanding people, viewing suggestions as threats, hiding information and branding opposition as enemies.

Let me now tell you a little about myself. I am not interested in joining politics nor do I have any affiliation with political parties and politicians. I do in many ways support and acknowledge some of the good things that our government has achieved over the past 4 years. I am aware that some readers will label me as being biased and unpatriotic. If I am accused of being biased, I will wholeheartedly raise my right arm and under oath, confess of being biased towards the Tsa-Wa-Sum.

The headlines on the Gyalpozhing scam read, “No laws have been violated in allotments” and in Kuensel, “OAG finds no merit in ACC allegations.” This is how people lose hope. Ordinary people go to jail everyday for petty crimes, civil servants have lost their jobs for claiming DSA with forged documents, families suffer as loans accumulate and banks seize their properties. Citizens are always held by rules, breaking them comes with a price. People only expect their leaders to be held to the same standards as they themselves are. But when this is not the case people’s faith erodes. In many countries where bad practices have become so entrenched and almost impossible to amend; after a long unavailing struggle, people’s spirit is defeated and leans towards acceptance. Discontentment, Criticism, and Concern is certainly better than Apathy towards reckless governments, violation of laws, gross negligence or misuse of power.

When Politics is viewed as an opportunity for self-advancement, office of profit, seat of power and immunity from the law, the very principal of democracy, good governance and representation is threatened. It is no secret that present day Ministers and MP are taking to business and that rules are being bent everyday in order to favor themselves. Or, that the rich have capitalized on their insecurity by colluding and cooperating with them for immense mutual gain. Corruption takes place blatantly but nothing is being done. Yet everyday common people lose their livelihoods or serve out jail terms for smaller crimes and genuine mistakes.

Lets move on to other equally important issues. The Banks are experiencing a liquidity crisis, fuel prices are up, real-estate market is in a limbo, job opportunities scarce, youth crime increasing, parents no longer trust our schools and corruption and the income gap continue to grow. During such times we need our government to redirect their focus on addressing these important issues.

In 2008 Bhutan had diplomatic relations with 22 countries, today we have with 44 countries such as Cuba, Tonga, and Armenia. The government aggressively campaigned for a non-permanent seat in the 2014-15 UN Security Council. The PM has become the face of Bhutan’s philosophy of GNH. It’s a well known, but less spoken fact that while the elected government aggressively pursues a larger role in the international arena, Bhutan has not only jeopardized our strong relationship with India but all the important issues affecting lives at home remain grossly neglected.

Under the present circumstances there is every danger of setting down a path of discord, fragile institutions, unreliable system of check and balance, misuse of discretionary political powers, and weak rule of law. It could prompt the invitation of a mismanaged economy; poor governance and fractured society; and of course a ruined democratic future. In the past we had benevolent monarchs but with the introduction of democracy Political leaders assumed the patriarchal role of the King. But a politician is limited by ever shortening tenure; opposition in parliament and in society; and insecurity of re-election. Therefore, their priorities, instead of being national and universal as is required by a patriarch, would be skewed in favor of vested interest groups and favorable constituencies. In every sense Bhutan currently is a polyarchy with PM and few senior Ministers exercising unrestricted power over a populace who has not been allowed to practice the democratic process of asserting their will. In this reality, there is dwindling hope of a positive outcome. Necessary change required is farfetched under present circumstances.

 

Phub Wangdi pursuing his studies in Australia gives his take on Bhutanese democracy so far

 

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31 comments

  1. looks like he has some problem with dpt…his opinion is biased and sees only from the negative prism of the glass!…….looks like he has access to Bhutan’s information through only one paper which basically forgot journalistic ethics and paints government with black ink only!!!

    • Phub Wangdi has in a nut shell said all what quite few of us believe to be the truth but couldn’t express the way he did. It is an insult on his intelligence to brand him as being only influenced by the Bhutanese or his so called problems with the DPT. He has been following the events at home carefully and has put in proper perspective the strange ways of our first democratically elected leaders.It is certainly food for thought and our leaders ought to read it as a sign of what thinking people are thinking.It would be prudent and wise to take heed and learn from such remarks and not condemn it as biased or anti DPT. After all the future of our country is more important than empty loyalty to a Party.

    • Very well written article. It is indeed worrying and sad for the people and the country and the first democratically elected government has doing everything but uphold democratic principles.

  2. freedom/right to expression has been followed which deserves a salute. m not sure if thats biased or not but a very good academic attempt and disclosure of facts need to be accepted by all the people whether we like it or not.

  3. This guy is a big joke who has been reading too much of the ‘Bhutanese’ lately and has to be ignored. Absolutely no merit in what he writes simply because his views are as myopic as it can get. 

    The answer to whether the DPT government has been good or bad will be decided at ballot box in 2013, I am sure that question will be answered decisively either way, come April/May of 2013.

    To the author of this piece, my advice would be to better concentrate on his studies instead of trying to decipher what the government is doing.

  4. The government of Bhutan is always been autocratic, will be autocratic unless folks like us do not wake up. I always wander, we the Bhutanese people do have consciousnesses like people of Greece back 2000 yrs. what a shame!  This is the country where politics is not taught. I clearly remember when I was in class 5 (1986),  headmaster warned the students not read topics like democracy, n world politics. During those days Bhutan did  have its own social studies text. So imagine folks one day if we do not wake up, this regime will urine in our mouth.

    • How do we wake up? As far as I can see it, we are heading towards a good democratic future. Every institution is doing their job; the media is getting bolder and stronger though irresponsible most of the times. People can now make lot of noises and raise their issues. We are definitely not moving backward. But this paper wants us to move backward. This paper wants us to create and participate in the anarchy that it much wishes.

  5. The only defense the DPT has is to say truth-sayers are biased.

  6. I think ‘unflinching support’ by people for democracy has difficulty to find a place in this article because many were rather skeptic of it. We could infer it from when people said, while introducing democracy, ‘Its too early’. Did we not hear this many times? Or did people mean otherwise? Yes..people could have meant the incapacity of ourselves to be leaders. Had we listened to the people then, would such undemocratic issues proliferate today? I think not……..

  7. Because mass praising of the DPT is like a flock of sheep with their uniform bleating, it is boring to read and listen to. It is sheepy. We don’t want to read what we already know. This article is interesting filled with undeniable facts. Bhutan is explicitly, rapidly turning into a  nation of sheep ruled by the wolves to feed pigs.

  8. haha.. A guy without any understanding of a Government’s functioning writing about our Govt

  9. TL
    With your little knowledge,don’t try to be expert.Your yesterday born child and need to learn how crawl before even trying to stand up with anti attitude

  10. Satyam eva jayate. Laygdh you are just lost in the process of being seen. Lets know which things wud come out if positive side of prism was explored.

  11. Well written…. its real, fact and its the naked truth.

  12. I write this small piece of article with lots of trepidation on one hand and ecstasy on other hand. With the inception of tumultuous wave of speculations and gossips about the land grab in Monggar since July last year,  most of our political bigwigs are insulted, cursed, defamed, downsized, and even spat with filthy and venomous languages as if they are the perpetrators of the nation. Being vindictive is not the way of Bhutanese and we must vindicate within the heart of self and analyze for the future of nation. What happened twenty years ago has nothing to do or have any link with the present government, and as the next election draws nearer, the media is brewing the rumors to disqualify few politicians from participating in democratic process in 2013.

    Using highly defamed words to downsize the present government, most of the editorial column and news that ‘The Bhutanese’ encompasses are the dumbest piece of writing that is always scripted negatively. As a main ingredient of the successful transition of democracy, the roles of the media are to inform, entertain, and educate the public. The roles of media are not to misinform the public and not to interpret the happenings according to their own level of stupidity. The interpretations shall be vested with the expert and judiciary branch of government, and I do certainly believe that ‘The Bhutanese’ newspaper has hampered the image of the King, Country and People, as Prime Minster is busy skyrocketing the name of the nation with GNH. The reporters and editor of ‘The Bhutanese’ fails to understand that there roles as fourth branch of state cannot in way force the hands of the agencies and politicians involved, to do things as they wish. The reporters and editor failed even that media has permissible limits guaranteed by law.

    The attract on the government and individuals by ‘The Bhutanese’ and opposition party and that are constantly are all baseless, and it is my belief that there is outlandish feeling within the mindset of the reporters or CEO Tenzin Lamsang to tarnish the good name of the country. This newspaper wants to sustain in the market with their single-minded and evil minded perception to publish scandals from the past. As a patriotic citizen of the nation, I wholeheartedly asserted I have the right enshrined in the Constitution to defense my government, country and people. Whether the big fishes involved in the land grab are guilty or not is the task of the courts and democratic institutions like ACC but media don’t have rights bestowed them to cross boundaries and pass the verdict. I am pretty sure that ‘The Bhutanese’ newspaper doesn’t care for this country and people. We live in a society where there is harmonious peace and stability marked and ruled by the benevolent monarchs for last one century. We don’t believe what protestors are doing in the Middle countries and we can’t replicate their cultures and adhere to our own culture.

    What government has done in the past shall be kept as past. We don’t want to move backward; we want to move forward with new hopes and new directions. We want to see our budding media functioning in accordance the law the land and remaining static with the boundaries of their rights bestowed. We need to uplift our sense of belongingness and responsibility; our sense of respect and gratitude to the Monarchs and in particular to our CHABJE JEKHENPO that served the nation with immaculate service and loyalty.

    I write this not to emasculate the ‘The Bhutanese’ newspaper but with the inception of this budding media, there is an ample rumor that threatens the pathway of successful transition of democracy. There are even rifted rumors that the ‘The Bhutanese’ newspaper are funded by private conglomerate and even with the opposition part but this may not be true. What I feel is there should be respect for our Royal Family Members and Jekhenpo as they are beyond the boundaries of discussion and pragmatic sacrosanct of the nation. We don’t want to see media ravaging the excellent intimacy between the government and people. We want to see media sending our unheard voices to the government and in turn harnessing the efficacies to the country and people.   The fallacious information that print media contains only fuel, and sow hatred and resentments in the society. But I do respect the media but it should not inform the public to gain political advantages for one party.

    Last year, PM mandated the ACC to fully investigate the Gyelpozhing land case, and after months and months of investigation the findings were posted in their website. But after submitted to Office of Attorney General, the findings become baseless as the legal experts found out that there were no way to take the case to the court.  One must have a sense of understanding that both the ACC and OAG are authorities in their respective fields and both are the constitutional office bearers. They know their duties and obligations as responsible democratic institutions!

    Or just because ‘The Bhutanese’ is reporting scandals and we must engage in mocking each other, and engage in a hot discourse to see who are disqualifying in 2013 elections.

    And, we have stronger and active opposition part but he always argued when the eggs are already hatched or when the decisions are executed. When the tax was raised as an economic program in 2010 and after following Public Finance Act, he took government to the court and won the case himself. I can truly say that he did his best as an opposition part but the poor Bhutanese and government lost the case. If we think practically only our haves section of society can purchase the high prized and luxurious vehicle and in turn for their harnessing of pollution, they must pay the tax. He considered the tax rate increased by government was unconstitutional and must pass through parliament. Even after the landmark judgment was passed by the Supreme Court, who benefitted the most? Who? Are those who toiled from dawn to dusk in the farthest and remotest villages in Bhutan? No. The efficacies went to the haves section of society; the society that are independent and have capability to pay tax. Tax refund done by the government cost more than 24 million and we need to think how much economic activities have hampered as a result of the stupidity act from the opposition party. But I do believe that we need more opposition members in the parliament but unluckily we have immature Opposition who failed to understand their obligations

  13. Sorry “The Bhutanese “, This is just my opinions
    and no bad feelings la…..

  14. I do support the author’s saying.

  15. GIVE NO HAPINESS GET NO HAPPINESS

    It is good initiative, but it would be more helpful if there was one in jungshina too, near india house, i was attacked by 2 guys who stopped me nd pulled me put of the car, it happened near the india house , jungshina bridge just before the pamtsho rbg checkpost. the shopowners and police on duty in india house didnto come to my rescue. the guys assaulted me and my lady friend. later on when we went to complaint about that police on duty who witnessed e efything and was carrying gun, the officer in charge said this police are vip duty police, they cant do anything. What if I was murdered or my lady friend was rapped in front of them. I am very sad the way rbp should response to me.

    As per law, Bhutanese civilians are allowed to own only semi-automatic weapon but if one  check the www of rbp we will see some people have more than 3,4,5 etc firearms and some have fully automatic weapons like AK47. I don’t know how they get it unless they are gifted by the royal families or smuggled into the country. But law is law everybody should be equal. Rbp should check and act on it. 

  16. Truth is always bitter…

  17. great article, it has covered almost everything in brief and truth. And those suckers against this article are idiot. As I always say Dissatisfied human is better than satisfied pig. they are like swine, happy to have got three time meals and sing for corrupted government. 

    • I’d love to start anything head to head with you MTF.  Either the play of stupidity or otherwise. You are one dissatisfied and looser in life. And thus shall you remain looser and a dissatisfied man. Good that you at least have such people like the author of this article, for you to suck on and lick up his whatever. 

  18. All those who think that the RGOB is autocratic needs to be sent to North Korea to know the real meaning of autocratic.

  19. This guy is simply trying to throw his personal frustration to DPT/government for whatever personal or political reasons/grudges he maybe having…,he is painting as if everything is collapsing in this country n going wrong which is not true…well, my advise to others is, with change in political system, we will find many such kind of writings after every election, n we just need to analyze properly before believing it …like this one, most of the articles will be half truth n malicious intend to discredit someone!

  20. Just because the author or somebody is pursuing studies in Australia doesn’t make one credible for his comments or opinion. His whole article which is totally vindictive and defamatory is fit for JigNews or the Bhutanomics. And it is not surprising that theBhutanese with its mandate and mission to malign the government happily publishes here.

    Mr. Phub Wangdi must get himself well educated before he can point flaws. He must be able to differentiate the democratic principles before he comes to the conclusion that the foundation of autocracy has been laid. And most importantly he must put effort to his studies rather than wasting time writing such anti-Bhutanese articles. 

    Truth is bitter but there ain’t, No truth. It is just a  pessimistic opinion. 

  21. @good- You pointed out correctly,but we do not deal with celestial dictatorship at home whereas in North Korea Kim-ill Sung(founding father) is marked as an eternal president of the party. We do not have 24/7 state-installed radio in our kitchen where we do not have the freedom to switch it off(Because the radio is not built with power button) , but one can only contently lower the volume. The vast difference between N.K and Bhutan is the possibilities of Bhutan having what is so called the prevailing “Inner Party”. I don’t view our government Autocracy as being accused by the author. The government or an Outer Party might very well be the crafted face of the brain of the Inner Party.

    (JUST SAYING)If Bhutan’s philosophy is built upon the Dharma rather than the unpopular and unfriendly-to-the-commoners GNH, we would not be having this indignation. 😉 

  22. @good- You pointed out correctly, but we do not deal with celestial dictatorship at home whereas in North Korea Kim-ill Sung(founding father) is marked as an eternal president of the party. We do not have 24/7 state-installed radio in our kitchen where we do not have the freedom to switch it off(Because the radio is not built with power button) , but one can only contently lower the volume. The vast difference between N.K and Bhutan is the possibilities of Bhutan having what is so called the prevailing “Inner Party”. I don’t view our government Autocracy as being accused by the author. The government or an Outer Party might very well be the crafted face of the brain of the Inner Party. 

    (JUST SAYING)If Bhutan’s philosophy is built upon the Dharma rather than the unpopular and unfriendly-to-the-commoners GNH, we would not be having this indignation. 😉 

  23. I am in no position to judge who is wrong or who is right. But it is interesting for people to hear both sides and reserve the judgement for themselves. Although we may not get right information from the right channels, we need to read between the lines to extract truth from both accusations and counter accusations. What neutral people like us must do is to get as much information from the debate here and make the judgement only at the end. Cheers!

  24. DPT, want the Bhutanese people to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” of their evil did.
    Gayloo Gayloo Lhagayloo Peldendrukpa Lhagayloo

  25. A simple fact, the author has not done any constructive analysis of the situation. He had not made any attempt to revealing positive developments but full of accusations. To me the article has TL written all over it. Therefore somebody wrote this article for Mr. Phub. 

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