NA lock horns over nomenclature

The house spent hours deliberating whether they should address each other by constituency or name 

Title: What’s in a name, asked Shakespeare. A lot, going by the hours the National Assembly members spent on deliberating how they should address each other yesterday.

The house was deliberating on the amendment of the rules of procedure and the point in contention was section 71, which states that a member shall refer to other members by their constituency and not by name.

The House Committee proposed adding another option: “However, if a Member holds an additional portfolio, a Member may be referred by that portfolio after the constituency name.”

This suggestion caused some uproar in the house.

While some members said the change would dilute the established culture of addressing honourable members and the ministers according to their constituencies and ministries respectively, others said it could even mean disrespect.

Jomotsangkha-Martshala Member of Parliament (MP) Pema Wangchuk said, “Calling the members by the name of the constituency and the ministers by their ministries have become a norm since the establishment of the national assembly in 1953. It’s best kept that way.”

Other members spoke vehemently on the section and labelled the committee with various degrees of motives and vested interests on proposing the section that the chairperson of the committee even offered to defer the deliberations on the procedure.

Lunana Khamaed’s MP Pema Dukpa said that some of the members who serve various posts in committees have vested interests in changing the section.

“While the members complain of not getting adequate time to discuss issues, here we are wasting time on such an issue as this, which is unnecessary,” Pema Dukpa said.

He said that it seemed the House Committee members wanted to boast of the positions they hold. “There is no need to change anything on this,” he said.

Bardo Trong MP Lekey Dorji and other committee members pointed out that the deliberations were misleading and clarified repeatedly.

“We have discussed thoroughly on this issue, in the three sessions we had, and even by international practice, the elected members are referred first by their constituency and then the additional posts they hold,” the chairperson of the house committee, Ritu Raj Chetri said.

“The discussion today has gone beyond the proposed section, some even suggesting serious issues among members of the committee. It made me really sad.”

Ritu Raj Chetri also proposed that the amendment be deferred to be decided in a plenary session after the parliament session ends.

Others said that the section despite the additional clause, still left them options.

“It’s a choice for members nothing obligatory on them,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said.

Some members including the former foreign minister and Shompangkha representative Rinzin Dorje said it was not the appropriate forum and time to discuss the issue.

“Let’s not wash our dirty linen in public; there is a proper forum and time to discuss such issues. Or else the public would suspect that we have some ulterior motives,” he cautioned.

Deputy speaker Chimi Dorji, who presided over the session, refused to defer and pushed the agenda forward asking the house to vote on the issue. Of the three options, the majority with 26 of 43 present members, voted not to amend the section.

The house will continue deliberating the Rules of Procedure today.

Tshering Palden

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