Tshering Palden

Members of parliament yesterday deliberated at length on whether they should be al- lowed to partake in sketching out development plans at local levels.

A decision will be reached on May 28.

The discussion was triggered off by the labour minister, Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi’s submission that MPs should be allowed to participate in devising the development plans of the communities.

“Their Majesties the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty the King have always emphasised that we should work together,” he said. “I see no harm in members helping work out the economic development plans for communities, as long as they don’t indulge in their administrative affairs.”

The minister pointed out that, in the past, gups and chimis worked together at the local levels but in the new system MPs, who play as much an important role as the chimis, are not allowed to participate in DYTs and GYTs by the draft Constitution and the Local Governance Act.

He added that it was the thuemis (MPs), who promised development activities for communities, and their inability to participate in the planning process would only lead to their failure in fulfilling those promises. “So there must be a system for local and central governments to work in close consultation,” he said.

Echoing the labour minister’s views, the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, cited examples of other neighbouring countries where local governments, when left on their own, questioned transparency and accountability.

The national council member from Trashigang, Sonam Kinga, said that the local government should re- main separate from politics which, he said, was also enshrined in the Constitution. “It’s also against the policy of decentralisation,” he said.

Even if the central government draws up good legislation and plans, if local governments fail to deliver, the blame will eventually fall on the central government, said the education minister, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel. “MPs should be allowed to participate in framing local economic development plans.”

Dasho Karma Ura argued, “If the parliamentarians get involved in local governance, then it would seem as if the central government did not trust or have confidence in the elected representatives at the local level.”

Some NC members pointed out that there was no need to add or delete any provisions, since Article 22 of the draft constitution covers this part which states that ‘the powers and the functions of the dzongda and the local governments shall be to work in accordance with the laws made by the parliament’.

The Chief Justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, said that it was essential for local governments to remain separate from politics for the good of the people, government and the country at large.

All policies and the development plans, he said, would be discussed in parliament and there was no need for the parliamentarians to put their hands in the activities of local governments.

The discussion will continue in the remaining days of the assembly session.