Yesterday, His Majesty the King spoke the hearts and minds, aspirations, and expectations of thousands of voiceless Bhutanese, giving new hope, direction, and confidence to the nation. This is another true quality of the selfless and great leadership of Bhutan’s monarchs. In short, His Majesty reassured that the rule of law shall prevail and non-adherence to the rule of law has no place in Bhutan. We must make hard decisions to uphold and abide by the rule of law. This new path must be embraced with boldness and honesty.

The rule of law is undeniably the soul of any strong and good democracy. While accountability and the rule of law look different, in essence accountability means to adhere to or abide by the laws. Therefore, accountability is the foundation of the rule of law in any democracy. Article 1 Section 13 of the Constitution states that “there shall be separation of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.” This provision ensures strong checks and balances among the three branches of the government—fixing the accountability.  This principle of separation of power is nestled on the premise of what Lord Acton said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Further, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo established several independent institutions under the Constitution itself to root out corruption. While establishing the Anti-corruption Commission, His Majesty the Fourth King said, “At a time when we are establishing parliamentary democracy in the country, it is very important to curb and root out corruption from the very beginning.” This same concern and warning was reiterated exactly nine years ago in Kanglung, Tashigang by His Majesty. His Majesty warned that “The highest probable risk to development that I foresee is corruption. Our national development efforts will be hindered by unchecked corruption. The formulation of plans and programs may be done well, aimed at the wellbeing of the people. The impressive amount of budget may be disbursed in line with these plans. But as the activities become too numerous, oversight and monitoring may fall short, allowing some people to be corrupt.”

His Majesty further warned that “Corruption is unambiguous—there is no great or small corruption. And no one can be above the law. But there is an even greater threat—ignoring corruption. When the corrupt are not held to account, those who observe due diligence, work hard and professionally are most likely to be discouraged. That is why, corruption must be curtailed and, more than ever before, extraordinary service must be recognized and rewarded.”

His Majesty’s national address was clear that we have failed to adhere to those warnings and continue to ignore them. As a result, corruption crept into our system and undermined the rule of law. His Majesty now charted clear and definite directions including what steps to take if there is an element of corruption and how should accountability be fixed.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.