MB Subba

Members of Parliament are expected to face another round of protocol hitches when they travel to their respective dzongkhags for the 112th National Day celebration.

There is a written protocol in place but it does not set out proper relationships between MPs and the local government machinery. The issue has been discussed often, the last time being when met to reflect on the third parliament’s first year.

The existing protocol requires MPs to call the dzongdag, which the former feel inappropriate. As per the protocol, senior dzongkhag officials should receive and see off the MP but they say it is not being implemented.

According to MPs, some dzongdags and local leaders have been reluctant to show due courtesy and respects to them as elected representatives of the people of the dzongkhag.

The protocol issues have resulted in a cooperation gap between MPs and the local government machinery, which includes the dzongkhag administration. The continuation of this situation, parliamentarians say, will impede fulfillment of their responsibilities.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that MPs have three responsibilities – legislative, oversight and representing people. He said that the local government machinery’s support to MPs is most needed when it comes to fulfilling their responsibility as people’s representatives.

“The protocol gap should not exist. The local governments and MPs should work in coordination to achieve national goals,” the Speaker said, acknowledging the problems faced by members.

A three-time MP said parliamentarians keep facing protocol issues every once in a while, especially in dzongkhags. Those parliamentarians who felt that they were not given due courtesy or neglected are said to be mostly new.

A member of the National Assembly House Committee, MP Dorji Wangdi said, “In terms of pay, we are same as government secretaries. In terms of protocol, as per the constitution, MPs are next to cabinet members.”

The House Committee member said the old protocol was revised and extensive discussions held with relevant ministers, the Speaker and the National Council Chairperson in the beginning of the third parliament. He said the home minister had asked for time to further refine and implement the revised protocol.

The House Committee member cited Article 2(5) of the Constitution, which states, “Upon the ascension of the Druk Gyalpo to the Throne, the members of the Royal Family, the Members of Parliament and the office holders mentioned in section 19 of this Article shall take an Oath of Allegiance to the Druk Gyalpo.”

According to him, Members of Parliament mentioned include the prime minister, ministers and the opposition leader.

However, MPs say that they are not given a right place in the hierarchy both in the centre and the dzongkhag.

Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen said that there was no need for a new protocol.  He said some dzongdags were reported to be following the protocol but some were not and that the issue arose mainly because some MPs were new.

The home minister said he would ask dzongdags in the upcoming dzongdags’ conference to follow the protocol that’s already there.

“We pledged to serve the people as “nyamchungs”. It’s out of question to say that we have issues with protocol,” he said.

On questions about whether MPs were above or below dzongdags in the hierarchy, Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen said that people should not tag the post of an MP to that of government officials. He reasoned that MPs and government secretaries come from different lines.

Some MPs are aggrieved due to lack of cooperation from their dzongdags and local leaders. A member described the situation as unfortunate.

The protocol issues between MPs, dzongdags and local leaders have led to coordination issues in developmental works.

MPs have been struggling to find their role in development of their constituencies. A gup said that he did not coordinate or consult with MPs in planning and implementation of works in their jurisdiction.

Observers, however, say that MPs have a stake in the development of his constituency and that they share the blame for lack of development and failure of the local government.

Continuation of the protocol issues, observers feel, could lead to ego clashes among MPs, dzongkhag officials and local leaders.

However, some MPs said they have been given due courtesy during their visits to their dzongkhags. The problem is that all are not treated uniformly.