Council: Preservation of culture, a cornerstone and one of the four pillars of GNH, lacks a legal foothold in absence of an Act or a policy.

The Social and Cultural Affairs Committee’s interim report on the cultural heritage of the country has raised numerous issues including the lack of legal support.

Given the importance of cultural heritage and for the purpose of providing clear policy directives, a need was felt to develop a culture policy and to propose the enactment of a comprehensive cultural Act.

“However, the cultural policy is in the draft form and the cultural heritage Bill could not find its way into the 8th session of the National Assembly as desired by the proponent,” the committee’s interim report stated.

While the country has a Traditional Architectural Guideline without an Act, the committee found no legal basis for the guideline. The Spatial Planning Act is only at the draft stage, the committee found.

The committee also found that there are issues of incomplete mask dance performances being organised for commercial purposes. While the Royal Academy of Performing Arts reported incomplete performances was a practice, the issue arose from performances without the required number of dancers and religious instruments.

“There is no clear policy and guidelines to prevent such problems,” the committee reported.

The committee also found the need of a policy and monitoring for institutions directly responsible for preserving and promoting the art of mask dances, songs, and music, and culture-related performances.

A study conducted in 1991 found that the languages of the Monpas, Mon kha in Trongsa, Gongduepai kha of the people of Gongdu in Mongar, and Droyapai kha, the dialect of the people in parts of Dorokha, Samtse were endangered.

While the country has 19 officially recognised dialects, informal reports show there are between 23 to 25 dialects in the country.

The Dzongkha Development Commission’s (DDC) national policy and strategy of Dzongkha development and promotion mentions that research must be conducted on other indigenous dialects of the country in order to know about the origin of the people and to safeguard the country’s identity and to develop the Dzongkha vocabulary.

Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu proposed to pilot the teaching of subjects such as national history and environmental science for classes four and above in Dzongkha.

Other members pointed out issues that the committee needs to further explore to address rising concerns of society on cultural issues.

Women playing khuru is becoming widespread and popular, Paro National Council member Kaka Tshering said. “The committee should look into this issue and see if it’s fitting for our women to do so from the culture point of view,” Kaka Tshering said.

Pemagatshel NC member Jigme Rinzin said that religious items are being used as door handles. “Is it appropriate?” he said.

Members said DDC could accept the English or international names instead of coining new local words, which are often ridiculed.

Chukha NC member Pema Tenzin said local festivals in most of the communities face threats from lack of dancers and mask dancers, which form an important part of a community’s culture. The committee has proposed looking at the possibility of training unemployed youth in urban areas.

The committee will consult with stakeholders before it files a complete report.

Tshering Palden