Legal aspects and risks of politicizing education system is a concern

Advocacy on democracy and politics among the youth is important but there is a need to question Bhutan Children’s Parliament (BCP) and its legality.

The issue came from the deliberation on budget and appropriation Bill, which has granted Nu 4.6M to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) for the conduct of BCP elections and sessions.

“It is important to advocate and educate children on democracy and parliament and it’s all the better if our children understand this at an early age,” the Council’s Chairman (Dr) Sonam Kinga said.

“However, the risk is that our children and education system could be politicised.”

Eminent member, Tashi Wangyel questioned whether it is ECB’s core mandate to promote democracy and institute Children’s Parliament. He said that the Constitution clearly defines the commission’s mandate.

“We have started with children’s parliament. A need will arise in future to have children’s ministry or a commission. So, where will it stop?” he asked.

With more political parties coming up, Tashi Wangyel said that it is only a matter of time when schools and colleges will have student political bodies. He recommended the house to reject the budget for children’s parliament.

Trongsa MP Tharchen also said that the name children’s parliament is misleading as some members of BCP are aged 20 and above. The BCP, he said, has even provided its recommendations on certain issues to the government and Parliament after their session.

He also asked whether the ECB has the authority to fund the BCP when the fund allocation in the budget was not even approved.

About 220 student representatives from 135 democracy clubs from schools across the country signed and adopted the Constitution of BCP in the kuenray of the Punakha Dzong on June 2, 2015.

The Constitution comprises of 16 Articles on various aspects of the parliament.

Members agreed that this act of adopting the BCP Constitution doesn’t make it legal because it was not approved by the Parliament. The Chairman also said that he did not participate in this event because he sensed the risks and legality aspects and that just this mere act of signing doesn’t make it legal.

Gasa representative Sangay Khandu, however, said that children parliament look up to the Parliament as an example and follow its proceedings.

“It is not the children’s mistake but because there is no clear responsibility and mandate for the BCP, concern emerges,” said Sangay Khandu.

However, members who spoke on the issue acknowledged that educating and raising awareness on the democracy and political system among the youth is crucial.

While the House directed the economic affairs committee to submit recommendations regarding the budget, it was decided that there is no scope for discussion on the legal aspect at this point of time.

The chairman asked the members if the matter could be discussed as a separate agenda later.

Bhutan Children’s Parliament (BCP) was initiated to help students enhance leadership skills and facilitate the formulation of opinions, views, hopes and aspirations in real life situations.

As per the Constitution of the Bhutan Children’s Parliament, students are encouraged to learn about the roles and responsibilities of citizens in nation building and in sustaining democracy besides providing a platform for democracy clubs to come together.

The BCP Constitution also states that the Children’s Parliament will convene at least one formal session every year, in July or during the winter vacation. Each member will serve for two years.

Tshering Dorji