Opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) has said that he did not attend the government’s press conference although the prime minister had invited him twice.

Speaking to Kuensel after the Opposition’s press conference on January 31, the opposition leader said it was not right for the Opposition and the government to address a press conference together. “There is a limit where the government and the government can work together,” he said.

Dr Lotay Tshering has repeatedly stated at press conferences that he wanted the opposition leader to attend and even speak at the press conferences held by the government. The prime minister says he wants the government and the Opposition to work as a team.

The opposition leader was of the view that he could address the media together with the prime minister only if the two shared a joint position, which he said was not likely. He said the Opposition would not be able to provide its alternative views if he shared a joint position with the prime minister.

“If they really want to work with us, they should offer at least three cabinet berths to the Opposition,” he said, adding that such a system existed in Switzerland. “In Switzerland, there is no Opposition and everybody is on board.”

However, he clarified that Bhutan’s parliamentary system was different from that of Switzerland. Cabinet berths in Switzerland, he said, were shared on a proportional basis.

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji told Kuensel that the government wanted to give platform to the Opposition to express their views. “Issues of national interests should be discussed together. We don’t need to hide behind the mask of a fake social media account to criticise others if we make use of such platforms,” he said.

However, Pema Gyamtsho said he was satisfied with the working mechanism of the government. “As of now, we have a very amicable working environment,” he said.

However, he added the government’s term has just begun and that only time would tell if the momentum could be sustained.

The first session of the new Parliament, which concluded recently, did not see issues of controversial nature. Observers say the relationship between the government and the opposition will get more serious as the term progresses.

The members of DPT have often said that DNT and PDP were similar in terms of their character and vision.

Asked whether he was more comfortable working with the present government than the previous government, the opposition leader preferred not to compare the two. However, he acknowledged that the present government was better in terms of their efforts to reach out to the Opposition.

“We are not going to compromise on our role as Opposition. We will cooperate but that doesn’t mean that we will compromise on providing effective checks and balance as Opposition party,” he said.

Opposition MP from Panbang, Dorji Wangdi, said the government has repeatedly expressed commitments for the ruling and opposition parties to work as one team, but he lamented that the government had conducted certain things clearly on party lines.

“DPT worked with one government, and is working with another. PDP was in politics, hardly in government,” he said, when asked about his expectations from the government.

Dorji Wangdi said that the PDP government spin-doctored things too much. “DNT thinks less, talks more. As such, it seems the DNT will deliver little.”

Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said the government wanted to work with the Opposition amicably although it was natural to have different views. “We don’t expect the Opposition to agree with us on every issue. Similarly, they cannot expect us to agree with them on all issues,” he said.

He said the Opposition should point out if any of the government’s decisions are politically motivated. “We will definitely consider the Opposition’s views if our decisions are politically motivated,” he said, adding that the government was willing to listen to different views even outside the parliament setting.

“We should agree to disagree, and not point fingers at each other. We will always put our national interests above politics,” Dr Tandi Dorji said.

Despite expressing satisfaction on the government’s effort to be accommodative, the Opposition has criticised the government’s vision and plans. At the press conference on January 31, Dorji Wangdi said the government had failed to include some of its populist pledges in the 12th Plan.

Asked if he wanted to offer any suggestions to the government, Dorji Wangdi said the government should first prioritise putting key policies, be new or revision of the old, in place. He suggested the government to draw up a legislative plan for five years, saying that a clear plan of action was important especially being in a time-bound tenure and procedure-laid legislative system.

“Further, policies and laws should go hand in hand as they have to complement and reinforce each other to achieve national targets and goals efficiently and effectively,” the Panbang MP said.

MB Subba