Is it too late to consider the petitions of the people who are not happy with the changes to gewog boundaries?

Soon after the public hearing on the delimitation of the dzongkhag thromdes, petitions to reconsider thromde boundaries have been submitted by a few gewogs. Except Tsirang dzongkhag, the other 14 dzongkhags have issues either with the thromde boundaries or names of the constituencies. In Paro, the public boycotted the public hearing, as they were not happy with the delimitation.

Changing a name of a constituency, or reverting it to an original local name is not much of a problem, but changing a boundary is. And it is a bigger problem if people were not consulted, as they claim.

If local leaders, including the chairman of a gewog thromde, can appeal in writing to authorities, elected representatives and the Speaker of the National Assembly, claiming that they were kept in the dark, it is a worrying concern.

The boundary is mapped by experts and we believe it is done in the best interest of the gewog, dzongkhag and the country. There could be some vested interests in losing a gewog, as it would mean losing a gup’s post. Gups are still influential in the gewogs and they could convince the people to agree with them.

An average Bhutanese in the gewog will not understand the importance of the transition. It is therefore vital to convince them. There will be disagreements, as people want to hang onto a gewog status for many reasons. It is through public consultations that people are convinced of changes in governance at the local level.

A principal of democracy is making collective decisions, which can be achieved through consultations at all levels. It produces mass support to endorse decisions. We are talking about local government elections and if locals are not consulted, the purpose of democratic governance is defeated.

Gewog boundaries have changed, some have lost the gewog status and people are not happy. It seems it was never clear who should be doing what as the works and human settlement ministry feels it was the Election Commission of Bhutan’s responsibility and the commission believes it was the ministry’s.

The local government election is scheduled for early next year, there are issues to be ironed out. It is better late than never to sort the issues out. The Constitution mandates local government in all the dzongkhags, the government has pledged it. The delimitation order is issued.

But the priority should be to ensure a smooth local government election that is agreed and appreciated by all.