DNC demands accelerated democratic reforms

Published on Jul 07 2009 // Main News

New Delhi, July 7, 2009: Over a year and a half has gone by since Bhutan became “democratic”, but there is little to evidence Bhutan’s democratic credentials, and a lot is still left wanting, Druk National Congress said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the party said most significant is the continuing absence of an independent, impartial judiciary and the subsequent absence of a guarantee of fundamental human rights for the common people.

“Political prisoners who were imprisoned for demanding democracy are still incarcerated. They don’t have any means of seeking redressal. With the largely unchanged intrinsic policy of the “democratic” Government towards the democratization of Bhutan, their only hope of appeal rests with the Judiciary,” the statement reads.

DNC demands for immediate release of these political prisoners after the promulgation of the constitution to show that the government is democratic – what they had demanded was admittedly correct and the regime did go about ultimately “fulfilling” this demand. Failing to do this, DNC doubts about Bhutan’s democratic credentials and if Bhutan is truly working towards a democratic culture.

In addition, the Government is using both the Thrimzhung Chhenpo as well as Constitution at its convenience. Article 1(10) “…. the provisions of any law, whether made before or after the coming into force of this Constitution, which are inconsistent with this Constitution, shall be null and void”. All provisions of the Thrimzhung Chhenpo that are inconsistent with the Constitution or with any new laws enacted to replace provisions of the Thrimzhung Chhenpo, should be scrapped. Because of Government inaction, the people are more confused.

As in the past, the police and the security forces still have wide unconstitutional authority to harass the people, especially in the border regions, in the name of security. Members of Parliamentarians are witness to the police brutality and its unconstitutional authority. But they continue to keep mum. For the moment it seems that the MPs are beyond the reach of the police while innocent people are harassed and terrorized, but if left unchecked, a time will come when tables will inevitably turn. There are many such examples, some in not so very far neighbouring states, where unchecked security forces, exploited to the advantage of the leadership to exert control over the masses, evolves into an undesirably structured establishment with no moral reserve, and has turned on its own elected leaders.

It appears that the regime is also determined to control the leadership at the grassroots. To achieve this end, the elections to the Local Governments has been intentionally delayed for over two years to circumvent the time limit of erstwhile candidates to the Parliament, so that they can be drafted back to grassroots polity. The Bhutanese Election Act states, he or she will be eligible to participate in local election provided he/she has dissociated from the party for 12 months.

It is tragic that Lawmakers/Parliamentarian are assiduously working on how to increase their own perks and benefits, while issues related to democracy, human rights and democratic governance is hardly raised. Instead, Members of Parliamentarians are involved making hue and cry that democracy in Bhutan will fail if political parties do not get state funding and cease to exist. When the 2 political parties were established in 2007, the party presidents and members must have foreseen the financial viability. Otherwise, why plunge into politics? Why adopt the existing law governing the party finances?

DNC said through resignation National Council Vice Chairman Karma Ura intended to send message  that democracy is unhealthy for Bhutan.

It further said, the government’s prioritization of democratic reforms is at most embarrassingly inadequate. It is carrying on with business as usual, with, apart from the holding of elections and a new elected Parliament, nothing to really differentiate its functioning from the governments of the past. “If the essential ingredients and basis of democracy is not put into place, democratic governance will always remain a far off mirage. And this will be to no one’s advantage, and will in the end bring instability,” DNC president Rongthong Kuenley said.