A Tribute to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck on his 60th Birth Anniversary for his Selfless Service to the People of Bhutan
A country and its people are products of the past- an accumulation of experiences and circumstances, decisions and choices, and inherited traits and lessons. A country cannot be separated from its people- We are Bhutan, and Bhutan is Us.
When we think of Bhutan and how far we have come together as a people, as a nation, we look to His Majesty the Great Fourth, and we see the symbol of our country, the reflection of our greatest selves.
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck is a true patriot of the Kingdom of Bhutan- a leader that believed in country above all else. The story of the Great Fourth King is one that every Bhutanese will tell.
Today, we will remember His legacy, and we will reflect on all the lessons he has taught us.
His Majesty the Great Fourth King’s Kasho issued on 9th December 2006 reads:
“As I hand over my responsibilities to my son, I repose my full faith and belief in the people of Bhutan to look after the future of our nation, for it is the Bhutanese people who are the true custodians of our tradition and culture and the ultimate guardians of the security, sovereignty and continued well-being of our country.”
It was his faith in the people of Bhutan from the beginning of his reign, and his commitment to secure Bhutan’s sovereignty and well-being that makes him Bhutan’s Ultimate Patriot.
Resolute Strength and Wisdom
In 1972, Bhutan grieved for the loss of our Third King. Our Nation had lost a great leader, a son had lost his father, and in this moment of loss, a young King had to exhibit great strength and purpose to lead his country, and inspire confidence in his people. He promised to govern his country, and people with utmost dedication, as he took the throne at the age of 16, as the youngest monarch in the world.
In his coronation address, he made a pledge, which held true his entire reign. His words revealed this, when in his coronation speech he said:
“As far as you, my people are concerned, you should not adopt the attitude that whatever is required to be done for your welfare will be done entirely by the government. On the contrary, a little effort on your part will be much more effective than a great deal of effort on the part of the government. If the government and people can join hands and work with determination, our people will achieve prosperity and our nation will become strong and stable…If everyone of us consider ourselves Bhutanese, and think and act as one, and if we have faith in the triple gem, our glorious kingdom of Bhutan will grow from strength to strength and achieve prosperity, peace, and happiness.”
If one thing can be said, His Majesty is a man of his words. Right from His Coronation address to his last Kasho to the people, there is consistency in his words, his thoughts, and actions.
Bhutan in 1972 was very different from what we are now. Our country had just opened our doors to the outside world, we had a small population of educated citizens and bureaucracy, our economy was small, we were economically dependent, sovereignty was still an issue we had to tackle, and our national identity as united Bhutanese was yet to be forged.
His Majesty set out to overcome these many obstacles from the start. He looked at our greatest challenges and planned to fix and solve each one of them. In 2006, when he stepped down he had successfully achieved all that he set out to, and had cleared the path for Bhutan, ensuring our safe passage into the future.
The Government and People to Join Hands
It is generally said that, “power corrupts” or “with power comes responsibility.” History has shown the nature of power. Yet our tiny Himalayan Kingdom possessed a leader who showed the world that power meant obligation and great responsibility. He is rare, for he desired to devolve his power to the people. He believed from the beginning that ultimately the successes of a country depended on the people, and that the people should hold the means to contributing to this end. His Majesty began devolving power starting with decentralizing administrative powers to local government in 1981, introducing the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogchung, and in 1991, the Gewog Yargay Tshogchung.
In 1998, the Cabinet was elected by the National Assembly, and executive powers of the King were handed over to them. His Majesty’s proclamation to the National Assembly reads:
“I have been working hard to prepare the people to fully participate with alertness and commitment, in the system of deciding matters of our country. It is important to promote participation of people in the system of decision-making. It is my wish and prayer to amend the system of Cabinet Ministers and gradually transfer the executive powers to the elected Cabinet Ministers for the prosperity and welfare of our country….and it is my wish that the National Assembly will decide about the system of casting vote of no confidence against the Druk Gyalpo…”
At a time when some leaders in the world were refusing to devolve power, he made the final move in our evolution and journey to democracy. On 4th September 2001, he briefed government officials on the need to draft a Constitution for the Kingdom of Bhutan. He initiated the drafting of the Constitution, constituting a 39 member drafting committee, and revised and created the Constitution to introduce a system of democracy, and its safeguards for our country and people.
He desired that the people take on the Constitution as our own and hold it as a reflection of our hopes, aspirations, and guiding light for the future. A public referendum took place, when His Majesty and His Majesty the Fifth King took the Constitution to the 20 dzongkhags where a member of each household was represented.
When we look back, we now know that what was happening to us was all part of a plan- we were being prepared and gradually transformed as a nation. Almost in cycles that came every decade, a meticulous plan was patiently charted out, that culminated in the introduction of democracy for our country.
He put in place almost everything that is required to make democracy vibrant. The grounds had been prepared. We were ready. Education was given highest priority, a well-experienced cabinet had been groomed, grassroots had been empowered, and the people had embraced a new order. The Judiciary had been strengthened. The Election Commission was established to ensure free and fair elections. The Anti-Corruption Commission to curb and root out corruption from the very beginning. Media was given autonomy and free press was introduced.
It was then that His Majesty relinquished his throne, and handed over a democratic constitutional monarchy to our able and prepared people, and under the leadership of a most capable heir.
In his Abdication Kasho (9 December 2006) he proclaimed:
“Whatever we have achieved so far is due to the merit of the people of Bhutan…I repose my full faith and belief in the people of Bhutan to look after the future of our nation, for it is the Bhutanese people who are the true custodians of our tradition and culture and ultimate guardians of the security, sovereignty and continued well-being of our country.”
He stepped down praising the merit of the people of Bhutan and giving all credit to the people for our achievements. He showed us selflessness and wisdom all through his reign. He took nothing but gave his whole life to the people and the country. A life of example he led, setting the standard so high, that the Bhutanese people now demand nothing less of leadership in our country.
He took Bhutan to the greatest heights, and to our Golden Era, our renaissance, in just over three decades.
Security and Sovereignty
In our history whenever we have been faced with threat and challenges we have risen and overcome because of courage and resilience of the Bhutanese people. In the 1990s’ Bhutan was challenged with a looming issue of citizenship and immigration. In a small country such as ours, our identity was a matter of survival, and unity the means to it. Self- reliance, Sovereignty and Security were challenges that had to be tackled during His Majesty’s reign. It is important to know that Article 2 of the 1949 Treaty between India and Bhutan was revised into a new treaty of 2007. This was significant for Bhutan. These were necessary obstacles to overcome for a sovereign nation moving ahead in the world.
In 1995 three groups of Indian militants set up camps in Bhutanese soil illegally. Over the years they had established 30 camps within the territory of Bhutan threatening the security and undermining the sovereignty of Bhutan. We negotiated for many years for peaceful dissolution of these camps. His Majesty himself took the lead in these negotiations, visiting each and every camp and talking to their leaders. These missions were dangerous, and were undertaken regardless of the risks. With imminent threat to our people and as peaceful negotiations did not materialize, a difficult decision was made to protect our country’s sovereignty and security. On 15 December 2003 we went to battle- a day that would decide the future of Bhutan.
His Majesty himself led the troops to battle to remove the militants from our country. His Majesty made sure that every strategy and plan was executed and that our troops remained courageous in daunting uncertainty, but ready to safeguard our nation as true sons of the Pelden Drukpa. Again, this was not luck, but the perfect execution of a brilliant strategy, and in less than 48 hours he had secured our country.
On return from the south to our capital after our victory, government officials and the people wanted to celebrate. However, His Majesty the King commanded that there would be no celebrations, instead we must pray for the lives lost from both sides in the battlefield. There was no need for applause and celebration, for this was ones duty, at a time when the nation needed it most. It was the ultimate test, and His Majesty was willing to put himself in harm’s way in order to protect our country and people. It was the ultimate self-sacrifice.
Identity and Unity
Bhutan’s culture and traditions, our environment, and spirituality all define who we are. Our identity as a small nation depended on our ability to stand united and strong, unshaken by forces, and as a unique and proud nation. Environmentally, economically, culturally, and spiritually we had reached the peak during his Majesty’s government due to the wise and strong policies that were in place. Our diplomatic relations with India was stronger than ever before, and in 2003 we had gained the respect of a great friend. Bhutan has within a short span of time gained respect, and repute for our unique way of doing things, and emerged as a source of inspiration to many.
Development for the People
Gross National Happiness was envisioned, as a policy for our government that was rooted in the belief that, development should be for the people. His Majesty believed that the ultimate goal was the contentment of the people, and that we should not compromise our environment, culture, and traditions for the sake of socio-economic development. We were to take a balanced approach- the ‘middle path’ in all our policies keeping in mind that all elements of our uniqueness and identity, beliefs and values, and security must never be forsaken, and that all must be nurtured in harmonious balance.
Prayers to the Triple Gem
The qualities of His Majesty are infinite, and his legacy unshakeable. Bhutan was destined to have a King like Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and his legacy will live on in our conscience, and in our spirits as long as there is Bhutan.
The Fifth Druk Gyalpo said:
“The Fourth Druk Gyalpo is our precious gem, the unfaltering parent and the god to whom we can rely and prostrate….In the history of Bhutan no King like him was ever born, and will not be born in the future. His actions are not historic just for Bhutan, but even for the world.”
His Majesty, Jigme Singye Wangchuck from the very beginning of his reign worked tirelessly towards entrusting responsibility to the people. We attribute Bhutan’s masterstrokes, our golden era to him- the architect, master statesman, military commander, and selfless, wise and compassionate leader.
We now have a unique system of democracy in place to safeguard our people and country. We the people have the duty to serve our country to ensure a better and brighter future for Bhutan. We cannot fail now when we have been entrusted with the finest values, and fruits of countless sacrifice and hard work. As we celebrate as a Nation, and pay homage to Bhutan’s most precious Jewel, it is also a time for reflection.
The Fifth Druk Gyalpo is the finest manifestation of his father. He is the ‘People’s King’ and has all the qualities nurtured within him of a true patriot.
In his Coronation Address His Majesty reached out to the entire nation and connected with each and every citizen when he said:
“It is with immense gratitude and humility that at this young age, I assume the sacred duty to serve a special people and country. Throughout my reign I will never rule as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing;… I have no personal goals other than to fulfill your hopes and aspirations. I shall always serve you, day and night, in the spirit of kindness, justice and equality.”
When we talk of visionary leaders, it is innate character that determines the right vision, but more so is knowledge of one’s country and people, and unwavering discipline and conviction in working tirelessly, never giving up on bettering the lives of ones people. Their Majesties possess these qualities, and we can be proud today, and celebrate this.
I ask you all to stand up, and let us pray for His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo’s good health and long life. May the Guardians of the Pelden Drukpa protect our country and people, and may the sun of peace, happiness, and prosperity shine on us for all times to come.
Text of the speech prepared and delivered by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, who is also the President of Bhutan National Legal Institute.
The Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) began a Lecture Series dedicated to the Monarchs in 2012, as an annual activity.
This year, BNLI in collaboration with the Judiciary will conduct this lecture series dedicated to, “His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck on his 60th Birth Anniversary for his Selfless Service to the People of Bhutan”
in all the tertiary education and training institutes in the country, to commemorate His Majesty’s 60TH birth anniversary next year, a time of celebration and reflection for all Bhutanese.
The same lecture will be delivered in all the institutions on the same day, and at the same time, by the judges of the twenty Dzongkhags.
According to BNLI the legacy of His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck must be cherished and remembered in Bhutan eternally. Every Bhutanese of both present and future generations must be able to hold him as an idol- a true patriot of Bhutan. BNLI says that His Majesty’s achievements are timeless, and generations will stand to benefit from His Majesty’s wisdom, policies and sacrifices.