NA members blame the committees and agencies for not doing a good job

Lack of proper homework from parliamentary committees and relevant ministries is causing confusions and consuming time in the parliament.

Debates on major issues in Bills often get stuck in editorial corrections and in looking for equivalent Dzongkha terms for English words.

Most members of the National Assembly acknowledged this during the re-deliberation of the Bhutan Information Communications and Media Bill yesterday.

Some members said it was a waste of time for the house to look into minor issues like typos, grammar and translation. Experts and the secretariat, they said, should look into such issues.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo opened the deliberation, saying that the House did not have enough time to go through every section of the Bill and requested the members to focus on major amendments made by the National Council.

The Bill was passed by the Assembly during the 9th session and forwarded to the Council.

Major changes made by the Council include removal of provisions on the establishment of ad hoc media and ICT advisory bodies to advise the ministry on all aspects of ICT and media sector or delegate specific responsibilities as necessary upon approval of the Cabinet.

Information and Communications Minister DN Dhungyel indicated that the government wanted to avoid a joint sitting on the Bill and pass in the ongoing session.

If the Assembly rejects the amendments of the Council, the Bill would be submitted to the Druk Gyalpo, who shall then command the Houses to deliberate and vote on the Bill in a joint sitting. In such a case, the Bill will be pushed to the next session.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel urged the members to support the recommendations of the Council, saying that except for a few, the changes were minor. He said he held consultation meetings with ministry officials, who according to him accepted the amendments made by the Council.

Chairman of the legislative committee, Ritu Raj Chhetri, also said that the committee agreed to most of the changes recommended by the Council. “There would not be any problem if we endorse the changes recommended by the Council,” he said.

However, Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi insisted that the house deliberated all the sections one-by-one to avoid any mistakes. He said the legislative power belongs to the parliament alone and not the ministry and the legislative committee.

“We cannot pass a law just because the ministry and the legislative committee want it,” he said, adding that laws should be passed with due diligence. “Let’s not rush.”

The Speaker said that the issue had emerged although all relevant committees and members were carrying out their duty. However, he accepted MP Dorji Wangdi’s request to deliberate in detail.

The debate started right from the preamble where the Panbang MP said that the Dzongkha version was inaccurate.

“If we don’t point out the inconsistencies now, no one including the Secretariat, will see them. Later we will be blamed for not doing our job properly,” he said.

The issue also divided the 14-member Opposition, which usually stands united in almost all issues.

Khar-Yurung MP Zanglay Dukpa said issues related to translation should be looked into by experts and the secretariat. He pointed out that the ministry and the committee had not done their job properly.

“We were just told that the Bill was reviewed by ministry officials and the legislative committee. Such issues in the Bill reflect that they did not do their work properly,” he said.

Nyishog Saephu MP Kuenga said that the house was wasting a lot of time correcting typos and translation. Such issues, he said, should be left to experts and relevant committees.

The members also deliberated on sections that were passed by both the house although some members pointed out that the legislative mandate was to discuss only the amendments from the Council.

Bumdeling-Jamkhar MP Dupthob said that if the house amends the sections that both the Council and the Assembly have endorsed, it could become a new Bill altogether.

Chumey MP Tshewang Jurmi also reminded that the house was supposed to deliberate on the sections that have been amended by the Council.

Debates on the bill will continue.

MB Subba