His Majesty The King graced the opening ceremony of the last winter session of the second Parliament yesterday. Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, members of the Royal Family, foreign dignitaries, senior government officials, students and public also attended the opening ceremony.

On behalf of the Parliament, National Assembly Speaker Jigme Zangpo expressed his deep appreciation to His Majesty The King for the noble royal initiatives undertaken in the interest of the nation.

The Speaker said that His Majesty personally visited Haa, Samtse, Bumthang, Chukha and Gasa dzongkhags and granted kidu to the needy. His Majesty met with people of 1,157 households and granted 433.57 acres of land kidu to the people of Gasa, which will benefit the people in achieving their self-sufficiency pursuits. He added that His Majesty had also met with the people in areas affected by natural disasters and granted soelra and kidu to the affected families.

On the invitation of the Prime Minister of India, His Majesty The King, accompanied by Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen and His Royal Highness The Gyalsey visited New Delhi, India from October 31 to November 3. The Royal visit provided an opportunity to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, including befitting celebrations for the golden jubilee of Bhutan and India’s diplomatic relations in 2018, and to advance the special bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation.

“For this, we would like to offer our gratitude to Their Majesties and His Royal Highness The Gyalsey,” the Speaker said.

He said His Majesty has further strengthened the friendly relations between the government of India and Bhutan, which was established in 1958. “To showcase strong bilateral ties between the two nations, His Majesty has commanded to commemorate the celebrations of the golden jubilee of Indo-Bhutan diplomatic relations, and also established a high level committee under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye,” Speaker Jigme Zangpo said.

The Speaker expressed Parliament’s gratitude to Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen for launching the “Bhutan for Life” initiative coinciding with the Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and inaugurating the Ozone Park in Motithang during the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol. “Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen as the United Nations Environment Programme Ozone Ambassador has strengthened our endeavour of protecting the ozone layer,” the Speaker said.

He also expressed Parliament’s gratitude to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for gifting this great vision, His Majesty the King for strengthening this great vision for Bhutan and the world, and Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen for patronising these noble initiatives.

The Speaker also expressed Parliament’s appreciation to the Government of India and its people for their continued support.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo said that Their Majesties accompanied by His Royal Highness The Gyalsey visited Thailand from October 25 to 27 to offer their last respects and prayers to His Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej during the Royal cremation ceremony. Their Majesties also visited Thailand in October 2016 to offer respects to His Late Majesty, who passed away on October 13, 2016. “The Royal visits symbolise existing close ties between Bhutan and Thailand and further deepens our relations to newer heights,” he said.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo also thanked the members for the Royal Family for the numerous initiatives taken for the development and welfare of the people. The Speaker expressed his deep gratitude to His Holiness the Je Khenpo for presiding over the oral transmission of Kangyur Lung at Kuenselphodrang over the last three months and the annual Moenlam Chhenmo of Thimphu dzongkhag. He said that His Holiness made a generous contribution of Nu 10 million to Bhutan Health Trust Fund with blessings and prayers for the good health of the people.

The Speaker also thanked the Prime Minister for visiting the 195 gewogs and meeting with the people and the chairperson of the National Council for strengthening parliamentary ties by participating in parliamentary exchange programmes.

This Parliament session will deliberate the Audit Bill of Bhutan 2017, Tax Bill 2017, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse (Amendment) bill of Bhutan 2017, Agreement between the Royal Government of Bhutan and People’s Republic of Bangladesh for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes of Income among others.

The Joint sitting will deliberate on the annual audit report, performance audit reports and review reports submitted by the Public Accounts Committee.

The 10th and the last Parliament session of the present Government is scheduled to conclude on December 8.

Rinzin Wangchuk