Yearender: It was a year filled with events so memorable, the year that we just bade farewell to, 2015. It was a year painted in myriad colours of joy, successes and celebrations; it was a year that saw this small Himalayan nation that is fast shedding its image of a hermit kingdom in peace with itself take daring steps, etching its greatness in the enduring realm of Drukyul’s more than ordinary story.

As the nation moves on, it has the natural urge to look back on the milestones that it has covered, for often it is one’s past that shapes one’s future. What did this forward-looking nation achieve in the Year of the Sheep that will catapult it further beyond as a society with its own clarity of visions, aims and objectives?

The Wood Female Sheep was a year of celebration. The nation celebrated the 60th birth anniversary of a king that gave the nation its face and heart and defined the very contours of its being. The celebration of the reign of a monarch most unparalleled brought the people and communities together like never before. What deep fractures and dark crevasses democracy and politics might have brought to this otherwise quiet and content nation was healed by one unifying act of worship to the sire who is still the indelible source of inspiration.

It might be on the nation at times to tread a path most treacherous and sad, but it is in the leader to give the people hopes and dreams to rise. Through the ages since we bestowed out trust and faith and elected Sir Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch by signing the most sacred covenant in Pungthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang, Bhutan and the Bhutanese have been singularly fortunate to receive the extraordinary stewardship and benedictions of the Wangchuck Kings.

And what better joy for the nation than the reassurance of the great dynasty’s perpetual continuity? The news of the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey was a blessing most precious and divine that gave the Bhutanese people happiness that they could only express in tears. What milestone in the life of a nation could be greater than the birth of our most favoured child of destiny? As is spelled in the nation’s most hallowed hymn, so it is now come for the nation to enjoy continued sun of peace and happiness.

The Wood Female Sheep was a year when Bhutan made headlines beyond its doorsteps. As part of celebration of the 60th birth anniversary of Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Bhutan set a world record by planting 49,672 trees in one hour at Kuenselphodrang in Thimphu. Nothing could have been more fitting a tribute from the people to the monarch who championed environment conservation. Also at Kuenselphodrang, 2015 saw the consecration of giant 201ft Buddha Dordenma. The biggest Buddha statue in the world was consecrated by Je Khenpo to celebrate the life and reign of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

Bhutan in the year of Wood Female Sheep showed itself as a country that aspired to build clean and upright society by eliminating corruption root and branch. Besides launching numerous investigations related to corruption, the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) put an end to one of the biggest fronting cases in Phuentsholing involving Jatan Prasad Lal Chand Prasad.

ACC also launched an investigation involving former Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorje, who the court later convicted for violating the Civil Service Act and Anti-Corruption Act when he was the dzongdag of Haa. Reversing the dzongkhag court’s ruling, the High Court convicted Rinzin Dorje to a year in prison for misusing the dzongkhag’s pool vehicle to transport private timber from Thimphu to Haa. The court, however, granted Rinzin Dorje an option to pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment amounting to Nu 45,000 and ordered him to pay a penalty of Nu 111,640.

In what could be described as an important milestone in the aviation sector, the Wood Female Sheep year was the year when Bhutan established Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Ltd (RBHS), allowing Bhutan to overcome the many geographical challenges in the event of emergency.

Bhutan also received some hard jabs in the year of the Wood Female Sheep. It wasn’t an all-good year. Health ministry detected 29 new cases of people living with HIV, including an 18-month-old child. Of the total detected, 13 are male and 16 are female, taking the total number of people living with HIV in the country to 432. The viral disease is fast becoming a major public health concern in the country.

In Trongsa, a teenager and a woman were brutally murdered on august 5. The16-year-old class seven student of Samcholing middle secondary school and his 60-year-old grandmother were murdered at Kingarabten, Trongsa on Wednesday night. This came as a rude reminder that Bhutanese society is changing and fast becoming unsafe.

All that, in a nutshell, is what the year of the Wood Female Sheep brought to Bhutan and the Bhutanese. As we welcome the year of the Fire Male Monkey, we hope that the year will bring unprecedented peace, progress and happiness. Over all, goodness-ushering Fire Monkey has in store some good things to offer.

Jigme Wangchuk