This pandemic has shown that without our monarchs and their wise wisdom, the existence of our democracy and democratic system is questionable at best. It would not be wrong to presume that if His Majesty did not personally handle the situation, our political leaders would have been lost in confusion, people left in fear and this deadly pandemic would have already claimed the lives of many Bhutanese.  The repeated personal visit of His Majesty in the highly risky places has touched every person and now even His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo has joined His Majesty at the cost of their own health, shows the selflessness of our kings.

The pandemic has proved that His Majesty is the true Symbol of Unity. When the nation was in complete fear and confusion after Covid-19 case was confirmed, His Majesty’s national address brought every Bhutanese together overnight and reassured the calmness among the people. Hundreds of house owners waived their rents for tenants, taxi owners provided a free ride to frontline workers, hotels provided free accommodation to frontline workers and some offered their hotels as quarantine facilities.  Thousands of Bhutanese signed up to join the integrated Dessung Program to serve the nation and thousands more offered cash in Covid-Fund.  

As a citizen of this great nation, we have solemnly pledged ourselves to be the custodian of our nation including happiness, and well-being of ourselves in the preamble of our Constitution. This means we the people of Bhutan and our elected leaders are responsible for our own well-being, unity, and security of the nation where Druk Gyalpo is only a symbol of unity and ceremonial head. But this proved wrong when the nationwide lockdown was announced. Months of preparation by government agencies and people failed to deliver any good results. We were lost in complete chaos and confusion where social media was flooded with grievances of inefficiencies. 

The chaotic situation was promptly and miraculously calmed in a few days after His Majesty himself personally intervened. Under His Majesty’s guidance, we were able to feed hungry dogs to reach medicines to sick people, efficient supply of essentials to residences across the nation to help farmers to do their farm work without compromising on the health protocol. The biggest contribution was zoning the entire country. This sets a new tone and entirely a different concept of kingship in contemporary democracy and a new jurisprudence of monarchy.

On 7 November 2008 during the Coronation Address, His Majesty said “throughout my reign, I will never rule you 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.” His Majesty’s selfless service in this current situation is a true testimony of that historic national address. This profound statement applies to everyone because we have fundamental duties to perform as a citizen.

As the Fourth Gyalpo once said, democracy is not a gift from the throne but a responsibility of the people. It is high time that the elected leaders, bureaucracy, and people of Bhutan to take the responsibility. Yet, if anything to go by this pandemic, we have failed as His Majesty had to shoulder every responsibility. The only solution is to follow the right footsteps laid down by our great kings so that we make Bhutan a uniquely true democractic nation.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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