Election deadline pressure on thromde decision

The joint sitting will reconvene next week to finally resolve, it is hoped, the pending issue

Parliament: With the joint sitting of Parliament still not able to come to a consensus on the declaration of proposed dzongkhag and yenlag (satellite) thromdes even after two days of extensive deliberations, the house resolved to defer its deliberation to next week.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the proposal would be finalised next week, so that the local government elections in the 20 dzongkhag and yenlag thromdes can happen next year.   

The Parliament met for the second time yesterday to continue deliberations on the works and human settlement ministry’s proposal for declaration of a dzongkhag and yenlag thromde each in all dzongkhags.  The ministry, as part of its responsibility in urban development, initiated preparatory works of thromdes from respective dzongkhags for review and submission to Parliament.

For almost 90 minutes, members deliberated on the boundary change in existing dzongkhag thromdes that  contravened the Election Act.  As the Act states that the delimitation commission shall readjust territorial constituencies after every 10 years, some members pointed out that the Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag thromde was declared in 2010, but the recent proposal includes new areas of Garpawang and Matanga as part of the dzongkhag thromde.

Council’s eminent member Karma D Nidup raised the issue, saying this must be sorted out as it could lead to issues later.

With each member making their point, as per their own interpretation of the clause in the Election Act, works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that the ministry had similiar concerns, after which they sought clarification from Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said they received a letter from ECB stating that the delimitation of the four class A thromdes then was done temporarily, as the Constitution mandated establishment of dzongkhag thromdes and yenlag thromdes across the country.

However, some members said that there was no such thing as temporary or permanent delimitation of a boundary, and that the four thromdes passed by Parliament in 2010 should remain as it is.  As per the ministry’s proposal, except for Thimphu and Phuentsholing thromde, the existing thromdes of Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu has some changes in boundary, which sparked the debate. 

The speaker then decided to sort out the Samdrupjongkhar issue after the house started deliberating the proposal on the rest of the dzongkhags.  Samtse followed.  Then came Sarpang with the same issues as Samdrupjongkhar, where the new proposal includes the airport area as part of the Gelephu thromde.

Some members emphasised the need to have the airport as part of the thromde, while others said the same rule must apply for the existing four thromdes, in terms of decrease or increase in boundaries.

Council’s chairperson, Dasho Sonam Kinga, said interpretation of the clause differs from one member to another, but that doesn’t make one member wrong from the other. “Whether the thromde’s boundary increased or decreased and the airport included or not, the airport will be in Gelephu itself,” he said.  This was endorsed.

Panbang representative Dorji Wangdi said he had been emphasising the need for a clear policy for declaration of thromdes without which the house would not be able to come to a consensus.

The ministry’s guideline, Dorji Wangdi said differed from one dzongkhag to another.  For instance, he said, the airport, dzong and hospital were not included in the Paro thromde, while for Gelephu it had been.

“Personally, it’s better if dzongs, airports and hospitals are included, as they are urban functions,” he said. “This is why I strongly feel that there’s no proper policy in place to address these issues.”

Similarly, the Parliament is yet to decide on dzongkhag thromdes of Paro, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Sarpang, Samdrupjongkhar and Zhemgang.

On Zhemgang, council and assembly members from Zhemgang recommended that Tingtibi be merged with Zhemgang dzongkhag thromde.  Bardo-Trong representative member Lekey Dorji said Tingtibi was a potential town, with plots and everything ready since 2004 after it became a town. “Tingtibi also has more area for future expansion,” he said.

This was deliberated at length, with many members in favour of it.  However, the recommendation failed to secure three-fourth majority votes after 52 members voted ‘yes’ and seven voted ‘no’, while five abstained.  The speaker said a total of 54 votes were required to secure majority of three fourth.

The joint sitting so far endorsed Bumthang, Chukha, Dagana, Gasa, Haa, Lhuentse, Punakha, Samtse, Thimphu, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Trongsa, Tsirang and Wangduephodrang dzongkhag thromdes.

The house resolved that the speaker and the chairperson would decide on an appropriate date to continue deliberation on the proposal for declaration of thromdes that is subject to royal assent. 

By Kinga Dema

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