The Bhutanese talked to the Opposition Leader elect Dasho Pema Chewang
Your reaction to the results?
PC: It was expected in fact to be very frank. We expected more seats but we have to respect the public sentiment.
What kind of Opposition Party will the BTP be?
PC: The main role is that if there are any policies or any acts that benefits the overall citizen and larger interest, then we have to support. If it does not then we have to stop as basically our role is check and balance. Just because we are the opposition it doesn’t mean we keep on opposing whatever the government proposes in Parliament. In that way, we have to be very professional and create an image to the public that the role of the Opposition is check and balance. We have to support if it is in the larger and national interest and if it is not then we have to stop it.
Whether it is the Opposition or the Ruling, both parties have an equal roles and responsibilities. The government alone cannot take full responsibility as if there is any failure then the Opposition is equally responsible and that is why the check and balance. The Opposition makes the democracy more vibrant and so a matured, experienced and competent Opposition is very important.
Why did BTP win only in one region?
PC: I don’t have much to say and we have been focusing only on our manifesto on how we want to make things change rather than giving too many freebies. We have kept on focusing only on these things and other than that there wasn’t any strategy.
How will you heal the political divide?
PC: It is the individual perception of how they take it now. Does it mean now that if the entire 47 seats are won by PDP than does it mean that the entire country is pro PDP? It is the people’s choice now. There are few individuals that tries to create this kind of division saying BTP is East party and PDP is West party. This really hurts me and no one should have that perception. Even the literate lot should try to disseminate and inform the public. It is the will of the people and it is democracy now.
After the election is over the hard-core supporters of both parties are exchanging very bad dialogues and they are creating certain narratives on that. My humble request is don’t create this kind of misunderstanding and divisive comments when the two Party Presidents are in agreement to work together for the larger interest. Few individuals should not create this kind of division. This is my humble request.
What is your view on the feeling that only a PM from the east can bridge the developmental gap there?
PC: It is the peoples’ sentiments. I mean if there is someone as the PM candidate from the south, they will go for him. This is normal. It is not that the east is not developed and only the PM candidate from the east will develop it. Whether the PM candidate is from the east, south, west or central the PM is for the overall country and not the region. This is a Bhutanese perception.
Did the east feel economically left behind in the way they voted?
PC: This is a very sensitive question to be very frank. All along the way three parties have formed the government and all parties have done their share or work but how it did not reach I cannot say as if I say this it creates the impression that past governments did not do anything. But the reality everyone knows in terms of the developmental activities in the east and why there is more migration from east to west. I don’t think I have to be so explicit. The migration of the east to west itself is a big indicator and land value in the west is so high.
How will you work with the government on addressing economic challenges?
PC: Let’s see. The government will already have its plan charted out to revive the economy and we have to see their strategy. If this strategy could really revive the economy and benefit the country then we have to support, but it does not benefit the larger section and benefits only the minor section of society then we have to stop it.
How will your party support the Gelephu project?
PC: I think His Majesty during the National Day made it very clear as it is His Majesty’s project for the longer term and here whether it is the government or the opposition we have to support. If there is project or activities around the Mindfulness City we have to support them. Here there is no compromise, no two ways of government and opposition arguing and we have to align and support it.
How will BTP fulfil its pledges?
PC: On that we need to sit together with the government of the day and how they can take the pledges and if it really benefits the Bhutanese. Those pledges that are implementable and can benefit the citizens, irrespective of whether they are ruling or opposition, we need to pick one.
Have you talked to the PDP President yet?
PC: We did talk and we felt like while one is government and the other is the opposition he said let us try to work together which I acknowledged and that is a good thing. It is not like the government of the day is there and the opposition has no authority. Here we have to work very closely and as our goal is one and our citizens should benefit and our Bhutanese should win at the end.
What can be done to better develop the East?
PC: I just wanted to recount His Majesty’s National Day address. His Majesty mentioned very clearly on connectivity and it basically means good infrastructure and road network and good internet. There is no good internet connectivity as when I was heading the Eastern COVID taskforce I went to Trashiyangtze for COVID sensitization where the classes were conducted online, but in Trashiyangtze in one of the schools the internet was weak. During the campaign or familiarisation tour suddenly there was a net break and I found the net connection is weak. The Radio bandwidth here is also very weak. So, road, internet connectivity and radio connectivity needs to be improved.
In terms of economic activities there needs to be more in terms of bringing up national projects like hydropower projects and energy projects like wind, solar etc.
In tourism if we want to promote Trashiyangtze as a traditional destination, but who will come to Trashiyangtze all the way from Bumthang paying SDF along the way. Even while sleeping they will pay SDF.
These are some the things we need to straighten up. Right now, it is one size for all which does not work. We have to have some ground based issues taken into account. SDF is important but rather than collecting tax we have to see how we can empower the private sector to make money. Once they make money then they will pay tax to the government.
But we don’t allow the private sector to grow. On day one of the business they make a little profit and we tax it.
We need to create a conducive environment for the business to pick up like better internet network since everything is online.