When we turn the pages of Bhutan’s history, Bhutanese will remember 2016 as a year of profound significance, a year of Tendril that was never matched before. It was a year of celebrations- celebrating our successes.
The year started with a lot of expectations as His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, expecting the royal birth of the Gyalsey, shared a picture in late January, with the Majestic Tashichhodzong under a blanket of snow in the background.
Two weeks later, on the auspicious morning of February 5, coinciding with the 17th day of the Fire Male Monkey year, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen gave birth to the first Royal Child at the Lingkana Palace.
Bhutanese were preparing for Losar and it was the perfect Losar gift. What a way it was to herald the Male Monkey year.
News of the birth of His Royal Highness spread overnight as Bhutan welcomed The Gyalsey. People from all walks of life visited monasteries, made offerings and expressed their heartfelt wishes for Their Majesties’ good health and long life.
The birth of the Gyalsey was yet another historic milestone of un-paralleled significance. It was the beginning of a new era. It symbolised the continuity of the sacred legacy of the Wangchuck Dynasty linking Bhutan’s past to its future.
On behalf of the people of Bhutan, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay welcomed the news of the birth of The Gyalsey and said that it fulfilled the wishes and prayers of the people.
Prayers and congratulatory messages for Their Majesties poured in from across the country and abroad. One Sakteng farmer decided to visit Their Majesties on behalf of the people of the remote gewog and travelled three days to reach the Lingkana Palace. It was a pleasant surprise for Their Majesties.
Understanding the profundity of the occasion, celebrations kicked off all over the country. The people were celebrating the coming together of the past, the present and the future. The Gyalsey was first presented to His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
The celebrations were kept small as His Majesty The King wished, but as unique as Bhutan is, the auspicious occasion was rejoiced by planting 108,000 trees across the country, performing sacred kurims and initiating the construction or renovation of cultural heritages around the country. The salang ceremony to restore Drukgyal Dzong to its original grandeur was conducted on February 6. In the south, the Shivalaya Mandhir, the temple His Majesty The King granted to the Hindu community was consecrated.
In April, Their Majesties hosted another royal couple. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, His Royal Highness Prince William and Kate Middleton paid a visit to Bhutan on the invitation of His Majesty The King. The two-day visit by the Duke and Duchess was their first visit to Bhutan.
The celebrations continued. On the auspicious Zhabdrung Kuchoe in Punakha, on April 16, Bhutanese witnessed another historic moment when His Royal Highness The Gyalsey was named Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck at the sacred Machhen Lhakhang.
Addressing the nation from Punakha Dzong, His Majesty said that The Gyalsey is not just the prince of The King and The Gyaltsuen, but a son to all the Bhutanese people. Three generations of the Wangchuck Dynasty and His Holiness the Je Khenpo attended the naming ceremony. They were joined by thousands of people outside the dzong waiting to greet their Gyalsey.
Coinciding with the Zhabdrung Kuchoe, His Majesty granted bura marp to the works and human settlement minister, Dasho Dorji Choden, Dratshang Lhentshog secretary, Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor and Royal Physician Dasho (Dr) Tobgyel Wangchuk. Later in July, His Majesty appointed six government secretaries and the secretary general of the National Council.
In June, HRH The Gyalsey visited his ancestral home in Dungkhar together with his Royal Parents. HRH The Gyalsey was received with a grand chipdrel to the Nagtshang said to be built by Desi Jigme Namgyel.
In December, Bhutanese were witness to another historic milestone when HRH The Gyalsey attended His first National Day celebrations. The 109th National Day celebrations in Trongsa was attended by His Majesty The King, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and Royal Family members.
The Male Monkey Year also witnessed how Bhutan is building on the foundations of democracy. In August, opposition member Kinga Tshering resigned sparking debate on whether serving elected officials can resign for reasons other than health or an emergency. A substantial discourse followed on the clarity of the law. The debate continued with a local leader, resigning two months after the election.
The National Assembly decided to submit the stalled Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement to His Majesty The King for Royal Command to deliberate it in a joint sitting after the National Council voted against ratifying the agreement. The Council refused to ratify the agreement on the grounds that the government had not consulted the stakeholders besides not doing enough study on the impact of the agreement.
In September, Bhutan saw 55.8 percent of eligible voters turn out to elect gups, mangmis, and tshogpas during the second local government elections. About 11 percent of the total elected leaders were women.
The Monkey brewed some trouble in the economic sector that was gradually recovering. Following the Indian government call to withdraw INR 500 and 1,000 notes in India, Bhutanese too bore the brunt of the decision. By December, the Central Bank had collected Nu 1.68 billion rupees. Rupee was rationed affecting businesses and travel.
Like every year, the monsoon causes havoc and the Monkey year saw the destructive side of mother nature. A huge flood washed away Sarpang town except its watchtower. But it is during such times of disaster that Bhutanese rise and stand side by side. His Majesty the King visited the flood site immediately to personally inspect the damage and coordinate relief efforts. The people felt relieved by the presence of His Majesty who waded through the flood waters visiting and consoling victims.
The curtain finally fell on August 1 on the Lhakhang Karpo corruption and abuse of functions case with the Supreme Court overturning the High Court’s ruling and exonerated former foreign minister, Rinzin Dorji. The High Court convicted the former minister to a year in prison for misusing a dzongkhag pool vehicle when he was the Haa dzongdag.
Besides the hard jabs the country felt occasionally, the Male Monkey Year will be remembered for all its good events. The momentum is continuing and we wish that the Female Bird will soar high to bring us unprecedented peace and harmony, prosperity, progress and happiness.