By the time the National Council session ended yesterday at around 12:30 PM, everybody was talking about the removal of the Member of Parliament from Gasa, Dorji Khandu from the National Council hall.
On the table for discussion was the Pay Structure Reform Bill. When the member who was given the opportunity to comment on Section 16 – Communication allowance, he started his submission relating to Section 14 – Housing allowance. The Chairperson intervened and when he refused to sit down as requested, the Chairperson asked him to leave the Hall.
As expected, many had passed their judgement on who is right or wrong or why and how the Chairperson can stop or remove a member in the middle of a session.
Both NC members and the Chairperson are governed by a rule. The Code of Conduct for NC MP states that a member must ensure that his personal conduct is consistent with the dignity, reputation and integrity of the National Council. Members also must, at all times, conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner and respect the authority of the Chairperson. The Chairperson must have found the MP’s response to his intervention disrespectful or not courteous. To preserve the dignity and decorum in the NC hall the Chairperson could ask them to leave.
What is respectful or disrespectful can be debated like the Bills. Arguing in an aggressive tone with the Chairperson can be construed as one.
The incident went viral because this is the first time an elected member of Parliament was asked to leave. It is also because those watching the proceedings were not used to such things. A little skirmish between the Speaker and members, between the Chairperson and the members or between members of the ruling and opposition party makes the session interesting. Add to it those ready with their creativity to make fun or memes of the incidents.
The National Assembly and National Council are august halls. Members bow to the Golden Throne which represents the Druk Gyalpo that completes our Parliament. Visitors to Parliament including foreigners or diplomats say ours is the most disciplined Parliament. This is perhaps because many are used to seeing or hearing unruly behaviour including hurling chairs and microphones at each other during session.
In the past few days there had been two cases of MPs attacking or assaulting each other. On November 23, a MP in Sri Lanka attempted to assault another MP and in Sierra Leona, members of Parliament went on a rampage, hurling objects and punching one another as the Speaker lost control in an ill-tempered debate over new electoral laws.
We do not expect this with MPs dangling swords around their waist. Heated debates are needed when it is on issues and not on political or personal grounds. The manner of discourse, debates and decisions will not only reflect the standard of ethics and morality of our leadership but the value of the parliamentary system itself.
Removing the Gasa MP does not make the Chairperson a hero or a villain. Nor is the MP a hero as many are quick to comment. Nobody has lost face or become a hero. We can, in fact, expect more of it and get used to it.