An MP has resigned after his application for extended leave to study abroad was not accepted.
Apparently there are no legal provisions upon which an MP can be granted a lengthy study leave.
Undeniably, we need to have more specific provisions in place when it comes to leave for MPs.
However, it would be also worth discussing if MPs should be entitled to lengthy study leaves during their tenure and especially if the study is to occur abroad.
The question brings us back to what the fundamental duties of an MP as a representative of a constituency are.
The National Assembly Act of Bhutan says that members are accountable to the people at all times. They shall perform their legislative mandates with utmost competence, efficiency, effectiveness, integrity and fidelity to the people’s welfare and the national interest. They also have a duty to be accessible to the people of the areas for which they have been elected to serve and to represent their interests conscientiously.
Perhaps leave for studies can lead to even better service being delivered by an MP. Constituents may benefit greatly with better educated MPs.
But the question is, would an MP be able to carry out the responsibilities detailed in the National Assembly Act while studying abroad for several months. The tenure is not yet ended. Can the full range of services to the people that an MP is responsible for, be provided despite being out of station?
Again, this raises the need for more specific leave rules for MPs. If an MP chooses to study within the country, perhaps the MP may still be able to fulfil responsibilities to the people at the same time.
Whatever it is, an MP has resigned and a constituency remains vacant. A by-election will have to be conducted in three months, which means additional costs to the state and taxpayers.
Going forward, it is important that the kinds of leave an MP is entitled to, is spelled out before resources are invested in his or her election process.
Like any other job, extended leave for health and emergencies have to be granted.
Perhaps MPs should resign before going for lengthy study leave abroad, if it is ever permitted in the future.
Let this case not set a precedent.