Daylong thrashing out of issue by joint sitting fails to reach complete resolution

Parliament: After a daylong deliberation, the joint sitting of the Parliament yesterday could not come to a consensus on the works and human settlement ministry’s proposal for declaration of dzongkhag thromdes and yenlag (satellite) thromdes.

Of the 10 dzongkhags thromdes deliberated until 5 pm, three proposed thromdes were nullified through majority votes that almost ended up in chaos.  The three thromdes are for Mongar, Pemagatshel and Paro.

However, at the end of the session, the house resolved that the three thromdes would be re-deliberated today along with the remaining dzongkhags.

Presenting the proposal for declaration of a dzongkhag thromde and a yenlag thromde each in all dzongkhags, works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said the ministry, as part of its responsibility in urban development, initiated preparatory works of thromdes from respective dzongkhags for review and submission to Parliament.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said thromde boundaries for 12 dzongkhags remained the same as approved by the Parliament in 2010, while thromde boundaries for the remaining eight dzongkhags had changes.

The ministry issued three broad guidelines to all dzongkhags, based on which public consultations were done in identifying and nominating the thromdes.

The largest town in the dzongkhag was proposed as the dzongkhag thromde, and the next largest town was proposed as the yenlag thromde.  Establishment of thromdes, lyonpo Dorji Choden said, would help achieve balanced regional development, which was also the vision of His Majesty The King and the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.  “Thromdes are also important to fulfill self-sufficiency,” lyonpo said.

Discussion on the proposed dzongkhag thromdes for Bumthang, Chukha, Dagana, Gasa, Haa and Lhuentse went on smoothly.  However, when it came to Mongar, parliament members of Mongar said that, instead of declaring Mongar as the dzongkhag thromde, and Gyalpoizhing as the yenlag thromde, the two should be merged as the dzongkhag thromde.

Drametse-Ngatshang’s parliament member Ugyen Wangdi said, while he respected the dzongkhag tshogdu’s resolution, it would be better if Gyalpoizhing was merged with Mongar, given the proximity. “This would immensely benefit people and there would be scope for future expansion as well,” he said.

The opening of the Nganglam highway, Ugyen Wangdi said would further boost the thromde. “We could have a separate yenlag thromde after merging the two,” he said.

After some members also spoke in favour of the recommendation from Mongar parliament members, the speaker said it would be decided through majority votes.  Members voted twice, first for the ministry’s proposal and the next on the merger of Gyalpoizhing and Mongar thromde.

Of the 64 members present, 27 voted ‘yes’, 24 ‘no’ and 10 abstained during the first round of voting.  For the second round, 31 voted ‘yes’ and 20 voted ‘no’ while six abstained.  The house decided to nullify both the proposal and the recommendation from members, as three-fourth majority, required to endorse alterations of areas and boundaries of any dzongkhags and gewogs in a joint sitting, in line with the Constitution, was not achieved.

On the Paro thromde, the Dogar-Shaba representative Kezang Wangmo sought merger of Paro thromde and Bondey town that was proposed as the yenlag thromde.

Lamgong-Wangchang’s representative Khandu Wangchuk said that Paro was one of the most populated dzongkhags, while in terms of thromde size, it was the smallest.  Most of the land in Paro is wetland. “Some villages didn’t want to come under thromde, as they wanted to avail the same rural privileges,” he said, emphasising the need for a proper policy on declaring the thromdes.

Other members also submitted the need to merge Paro thromde with Bondey as the proposed dzongkhag thromde was much smaller in size with 90 acres, while Bondey was 114 acres.  They also highlighted the need to include the teacher training centre, airport, and the hospital under the dzongkhag thromde.

The same voting pattern followed, where 30 members voted ‘yes’ for the proposal and 21 voted ‘no’, while nine members abstained.  Similarly, 44 members voted in favour of Bondey being merged with Paro thromde and 14 voted ‘no’ while six abstained.

On the Pemagatshel dzongkhag thromde, Khar-Yurung’s parliament member Zanglay Dukpa submitted that Denchi would be more feasible for the dzongkhag thromde instead of Nganglam.  With folded hands, he pleaded with other parliament members to support his proposal.  He said that people had always preferred Denchi as a thromde, but he was surprised that the dzongkhag tshogdu identified Nganglam as the dzongkhag thromde.

Since Pemagatshel was identified as a separate dzongkhag about 30 years ago, Zanglay Dukpa said the need for a thromde was deliberated many times in the past, after which Denchi was identified as a thromde.

Members were made to vote and 31 members voted ‘yes’ and 28 voted ‘no’ while five abstained on the ministry’s proposal.  On the recommendation to declare Denchi as the dzongkhag thromde, 35 members voted ‘yes’ and 24 voted ‘no’ while five abstained.

With three above thromdes not getting the majority vote, Punakha’s Limbukha-Toedwang’s representative Chimmi Dorji said he was worried that members were making a mockery out of themselves without taking the issue seriously. “How can the same members agree to both the proposal and the recommendations submitted?” he said.

Confusion on voting

The leader of the opposition (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho cautioned that the voting process was making it complex to decide. “It is better we vote for the whole proposal instead of going dzongkhag wise. If the proposal is endorsed, the voting for the earlier dzongkhags could go in vain.”

It was not just the voting process that created confusion at the Parliament yesterday.  After the proposal was presented to the house, members were asked to submit general views. However, when the session resumed after the tea break Speaker Jigme Zangpo gave the 11 members, who submitted their views three minutes each to submit their views.  Those, who could not complete it within three minutes, were cut off abruptly.  The speaker said, if every member took their own time, deliberations on the proposal would not complete even in two days.

Some members decided not to speak while Panbang’s parliament member Dorji Wangdi said there should not be such time restriction for a member to present their views.  He also said that the rules of the house kept changing.  Before he could finish, Speaker Jigme Zangpo interrupted, asking him to get to the point and that he should obey him.

Some members felt that the government was rushing the proposal, which they said should be reviewed again.  Others voiced their concerns on financial implications, lack of clear guidelines to address the taxation issues and human resources, among others.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said it was important to initiate delimitation exercise for thromde establishment first, as resource allocation would follow suit. “The ministry is discussing the taxation issues for areas that would fall under thromdes.”

By Kinga Dema