The 105th National Day is a milestone not only for the five year old Bhutanese democracy but also for the 105th year of a cohesive and politically united Nation under the Enlightened Bhutanese Monarchy.
His Majesty the King’s speech as well as the awards given this year had several important messages and symbolic gestures for the nation.
His Majesty the King encouraged the citizens of the country to come out and vote and exercise their franchise. This message is a call to the people to remain involved in the process of self governance, which is the most important component of a successful democracy.
The Druk Thuksey’s to the Ruling and Opposition party and also the National Council reiterates the equal importance of all the key institutions in the democratic set up. In recognizing the Opposition party, His Majesty has reaffirmed the importance and space of the opposition in a democracy. The recognition of the National Council is an important reminder that the house of review has to continue playing an important and apolitical role in ensuring that our laws are made for long term national gains rather than just short term political interests and expediency of political parties. The award to the ruling government is for taking the lead as the first democratically elected government in Bhutan, which is a unique challenge in itself.
His Majesty said, “We have made a good start in our transition to democracy but much remains to be done.” This statement acknowledges that Democracy in Bhutan is far from complete and much remains to be done before we can claim success.
At the same time His Majesty’s caution to not be divided on ethnic, religious or political grounds during elections is an important message for national unity. Bhutan in many ways is too small for the divisive religious and ethnic politics or even ethnic vote bank politics that is common place in other bigger countries.
Too many countries that have fallen to this trap have only come out of it, decades later, to realize what ultimately matters is the nation and not narrow ethnic and sectarian divides which only leads to more problems. In short leaders and parties should be elected on the basis of their capability and not ethnic and other affiliations. Very often leaders who engage in ethnic politics are often the biggest enemies of their communities as they keep them separate, under developed, backward and away from the mainstream.
His Majesty’s awards to teachers and relatively young people once again stresses on the importance and potential of the 60% youth population in this nation’s future. His Majesty’s concerns on youth employment is a wakeup call for the government and all other stakeholders in dealing with a serious economic problems which is also translating into well known social problems.
The economy once again occupied an important priority in His Majesty’s awards to two Bhutanese and two Indians from the Hydropower sector.
On the Rupee crunch His Majesty said, “The recent Rupee shortage is a serious problem. I feel it is a reminder that, as a Nation, we must exercise our traditional sense of caution and work even harder as we address the challenges of the time.” This important message apart from recognizing the seriousness of the problem at hand also exhorts the government, private sector and ordinary people to do more.
An important aspect of the national day was awards given to some former Indian Ambassadors to Bhutan including the current Ambassador all of whom have played an important role in furthering Indo-Bhutan ties. Awards for the same reasons were also given to Bhutanese officials.
These awards which were the first of their kind to foreign diplomats in many ways can be construed as a symbolic but important step by His Majesty the King in strengthening our ties with India who is Bhutan’s biggest developmental partner and economic investor.
These special awards also come in the backdrop of what many see as the bungling by the elected government in its diplomacy with India, which had led to a feeling in India that old and traditional friends were being ignored in favor of new ones. Bhutan now more than ever, needs India to become a self sufficient nation by 2020 and complete the 10,000 MW projects but the steps taken by the elected government had to lead to a lot of confusion and suspicion.
His Majesty’s awards to two Goops of the Fourth King recognized their service to the throne and will serve as an important inspiration to those who serve the throne selflessly.
His Majesty while acknowledging the socio-economic growth of Bhutan also highlighted the need for equitable growth.
This is an important message as there is a growing feeling in the country that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening quite considerably. There is also a growing feeling that some sections of society also have an unfair advantage when it comes to businesses and economic opportunities.
In Bhutan the ills of corruption both economic and political, consolidation of wealth in a few hands, in-transparency and intolerance of criticism can demolish our equitable society.