… govt can table it again whenever it is ready

The National Assembly members unanimously, through a show of hands, decided to withdraw the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2021 on May 31.

The member in charge of the Bill, Chidrel Lyonpo (Foreign Minister) Dr Tandi Dorji who is officiating home minister, moved the motion to withdraw the Bill.

Lyonpo said that the Bill required more research.

The Bill was deferred during the second session of the Third Parliament in June 2019 and then was deferred last year to be deliberate during the fifth session this year.

Citing the need for intensive discussion and consultation, Chidrel Lyonpo said that the LG Act is important because the local government is closest to the communities, so it requires thorough study before amending.

Although the Bill was deferred for almost a year, Lyonpo said that the committee members (from the ministry) could not consult with the local government extensively. “If we’ve to amend the Act, in-depth consultation with them is vital.”

Lyonpo also cited the plan to merge gewogs as a reason for withdrawal. The plan required further discussion since it could change the number of drungkhags. “The merger would have been efficient if it was done before the elections of local government. But now we’re not sure how many gewogs there will be, so we need to relook into this to align the LG Act accordingly.”

With civil service reform underway, Lyonpo said that it was important to fully grasp the various reforms before amending the Act since local governments employ civil servants.

The decentralisation policy, which is in the process of finalisation, is with the Gross National Happiness Commission, which will be then submitted to the Cabinet for approval. “Withdrawing the LG Bill gives us the opportunity to also work and align Bill with the policy,” Lyonpo said.

The House was also informed that with the delimitation exercise nearing, which should be done every 10 years according to the Election Act of Bhutan, the LG Bill can also be reviewed based on the delimitation.

“This is why it’s important that all these related issues must be solved before amending the Act,” Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said. “If we amend the Act then we might have to table the Act for amendment in another year or so.”

National Speaker Wangchuk Namgay told Kuensel that once the Bill is withdrawn, the government can table the Bill any time they are ready and not necessarily in the next session.

The LG Act was one of the Acts that the law review taskforce had recommended for amendment.

By Yangchen C Rinzin 

Edited by Tshering Palden