The house will now forward it to the government

The National Council (NC) unanimously voted to adopt the social and cultural affairs committee’s recommendations for preservation and promotion of cultural heritage yesterday. All 21 members present during the deliberation voted ‘Yes.’

The house made four broad recommendations. It asked the government to finalise and endorse the Bhutan Culture policy document that should encompass all aspects of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible.

The Council also recommended the government to review the Cultural Heritage Bill with the necessary stakeholders and make it a comprehensive legal proposal by including popular concerns and suggestions on tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It also stated that the government should strategise and scale up programmes to raise funds for the Cultural Heritage Trust Fund, and recognise and reward institutions and individuals with incentives such as research and project grants, scholarships as well as employment opportunities to promote and preserve Bhutanese values and ethos. The house also recommended the government to look into the possibility of revising wages for artisans, craftsmen and performing artists.

The house made eight recommendations to the government to preserve traditional architecture. It stated that the general public, including local leaders and relevant officials, have a limited idea on Bhutanese Architecture Guideline 2014, the only guideline that supports the preservation and promotion of traditional architectural designs.

“The house is concerned that indigenous skills are at risk of extinction with no formal plans and activities initiated for skills transfer,” the final recommendation stated. “The house is further concerned that the architectural guidelines have not been executed uniformly which resulted in inconsistency of government and private constructions.”

The Council made six recommendations to preserve the performing arts. Stating that although the government has allocated maximum budget to promote and preserve tangible culture like infrastructure development of religious monuments, there is a risk that local tshechus will be discontinued due to lack of performers and limited budget allocation.

It stated that without a central agency dedicated to preserve and promote vernacular languages, it is found that Bhutan Broadcasting Service Radio and civil society organisation’s initiatives to establish community radio stations have the potential to promote local languages and culture in their respective areas.

The house recommended the government to grant additional resources to the Dzongkha Development Commission and to give it the extra mandate to preserve and promote the vernacular languages besides Dzongkha, invest in training linguists to develop a dedicated corps of specialists in documenting, preserving and promoting vernacular languages, and consider supporting the establishment of community radios particularly in communities where vernacular languages are endangered.

The house also stated that they observed that the practice of Driglam Namzha and chadri, both in the capital and dzongkhags, with no comprehensive guidelines are inconsistent.

“The house is also concerned that introduction of western dress in many agencies as formal uniform irrespective of the nature of work will eventually affect efforts of preserving and promoting our national attire,” the recommendations stated.

The house recommended the government to encourage research and publications on Driglam Namzha and disseminate its values, practices and expressions through formal processes and institutions, schools and media as well.

The government should also develop standard guidelines for chadri protocols in consultation with experts, and monitor that they are honoured and applied by in partnership with relevant agencies.

“Culture officers must be trained before their appointment to different dzongkhags, so that they educate officials, local leaders, students and public on the values and importance of Driglam Namzha,” the recommendation stated.

Punakha NC member Rinzin Dorji was the only member who raised his concerns during the deliberation yesterday. He said that the house should recommend the government to provide monetary compensation to continue local festivals.

Bumthang NC member Nima, who is the chairperson of the committee, said it is complicated to ask the government to provide monetary compensation for specific tsechus and locality. “Our general recommendation to look into the possibility of revising wages for artisans, craftsmen and performing artists should suffice.”

Tashi Dema