BIMSTEC Convention ratification sparks debate

NC’s social and cultural affairs committee recommends ratification 

Younten Tshedup 

The BIMSTEC Convention on combating international terrorism, transnational organised crimes and illicit drug trafficking, needs extra scrutiny before it is ratified for enforcement.

The concern was raised by an eminent member of the National Council, Ugyen Tshering when the convention was introduced by Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen to the House yesterday.

Sharing the benefits Bhutan would have from the ratification of the convention, Lyonpo introduced the BIMSTEC Convention and requested if the House could endorse its ratification.

However, Ugyen Tshering said that it would be unwise if the House went ahead with a similar decision taken by the National Assembly and ratified the convention. The National Assembly members ratified the convention during the third session of the Parliament in February this year.

Citing an example of the European Union and how it’s regulations and laws have come in conflict with the domestic laws of the member countries, the eminent member requested that the convention needed to be studied further.

He said that the issue was that during such conflicts, there was no consensus on which law would prevail — national or international.

Following the establishment of the United Nations Security Council in 1945 at the end of the second world war, Ugyen Tshering said that there was a proliferation of international laws and conventions.

He said that unlike the pre-1945 era, where countries could conquer other nations with their military might, the legal methodology of treaties, did the job today by legitimising the process of economic exploitation of a country.

“It is through the diplomacy of signatures that local legislation of a country can be altered today,” he said.

Before the ratification and enforcement of any international convention, an enabling legislature within the country had to be put in place, he said.

The member also questioned the home minister if the country had shared any reservation for not ratifying the convention for almost a decade since it was signed.

Lyonpo said that of the seven-member states who signed the convention in December 2009, only Bhutan has not ratified the convention. However, Lyonpo did not clarify on what basis the convention was not ratified until now.

Members of the House also questioned the minister that in the event the convention was ratified and enforced in the country, what other laws and regulations needed to be harmonised, changed or enacted.

The minister could not provide a definitive response to the questions and said that he would take up the issues with relevant agencies.

Committee review report

Following the ratification by the National Assembly in February, the convention was forwarded to the other house for deliberation. The NC assigned its Social and Cultural Affairs Committee (SCAC) to review the convention.

The committee based on its review recommended the House to ratify the convention.

The review found that there was consensus among the stakeholders that ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention would benefit the country.

The committee also observed that its ratification was long overdue. “Further, the ratification of the convention by the Parliament will depict Bhutan’s goodwill and support for the regional cause particularly in strengthening coordination and cooperation in international terrorism, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking,” the committee reported.

The committee found that the country had adequate laws to implement the convention such as Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan, Financial Services Act, Penal Code of Bhutan; and Narcotics Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act.

The committee stated that except for the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, which was already drafted by the Department of Law and Order with assistance from the Royal Monetary Authority, there was no major obligation for enactment or amendment of national legislation to implement the convention.

“Through this convention, our domestic legislation and other national mechanisms against terrorism and organised crimes can be strengthened and improved,” the committee’s report stated.

The disadvantage, according to the report, is that Bhutan lacks expertise and capacity in the event the country starts receiving requests for information exchange and action related to matters covered in the convention.

The committee stated that there was no serious implication on the national interest in ratifying the convention as per the National Interest Assessment (NIM) report.

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