Jokes and memes storm social media

MB Subba

Amid serious discussions, it is the viral remarks and statements of ministers and MPs in Parliament that have caught widespread attention.

In one of the viral video clips, Lhamoidzingkha MP Hemant Gurung said that the “Kalikhola river had got angry recently and encroached into the nearby settlement”.  He was questioning the government on the need to construct a permanent embankment to prevent flooding in the villages.

He is not the only MP whose remark has gone viral and been criticised. Other MPs whose remarks have gone viral include the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, who said that there were difficulties in selling eggs as “the Bhutanese people had started laying eggs as requested to them in my recent BBS interview”.

The agriculture minister wanted to say that layer hens had started laying eggs abundantly. He was responding to a question from Sarpang’s Sompangkha MP Tek Bdr Rai, who said that the import of eggs posed challenges to local farmers.

Jokes and memes about the remarks stormed social media, particularly Facebook.

Some of the members and observers have raised concerns on the issue.

The Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that that MPs and ministers cannot be casual while speaking in the House. “Their statements should be meaningful and impactful,” he said.

However, he added that it was an unhealthy practice to take the video out of context and share on social media.

He said that talking was one of the fundamentals of democracy and that people should understand the statements and discussions in the right context and perspective. Social media users, he said, should be responsible and be mindful of the dignity of Parliament.

Members say that such issues could affect the dignity of Parliament as the highest decision-making, as many people took to social media to criticise the statements and remarks.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that members should maintain their dignity and honour and that of the House. “We can have some humour but cannot be reckless,” he said.

He said the manner in which things are conducted in the House collectively and individually should show the national character and be highly respected. He reasoned that the conduct of Parliament would become an example for the nation.

Some of the remarks, he said, were uncalled-for. “People look up to Parliament for role models.”

A close observer of said that such issues would affect the quality of debates in the House. “Members should be careful and prepared on what to speak before pressing the request button,” he said.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering’s advice to people to walk to their offices if the fuel prices were too high during the discussion on the motion on forming a committee to deal with the increasing prices of  goods and services also went viral.

The remark, however, invited criticisms, as it became a subject of discussion among people, including social media users. A few social media users supported the prime minister’s statement.

It was the members and ministers who found themselves at the receiving end of the discussion.

Some jokingly said that the ministers had come up with out of the box ideas to address the issues.

In the agriculture minister’s case, however, the discussion footage shows that he wanted to add humour in his answer by recalling his recent BBS interview, where he in his slip of tongue had said that the “Bhutanese people had re-started laying eggs”.

He was talking to BBS on the recovery of the poultry sector after contaminated feed had affected egg production in the country.

However, a former parliamentarian said that the issue showed a lack of preparedness and seriousness on part of the Cabinet members and the MPs. He added that no one should joke with serious issues.

He added that one of the “serious jokes” was about Education Minister Jai Bir Rai being unaware of the National Council’s (NC) recommendation to the ministry to curb mental health issues and prevent suicides in its last session.

“I did not know when the recommendations were sent. My colleagues could have failed (to inform me). We do have respect and trust for the NC’s recommendations,” the education minister in the NC said, asking for apologies.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering’s statement in the NC that the country had little to export except boulders also went viral.

Some close observers of the parliament proceedings said that members needed to carry out proper homework on issues.

As in the past parliaments, it was the same MPs who contribute to most of the debates.