Our Genkhu is an inspiration from His Majesty and repeated by the Ministry of Health to fight this pandemic. It has worked well when the government did well initially in fighting this pandemic. Citizens took this as our Genkhu and condoned any hiccups the government had because the pandemic was in the early state. However, with change in time, while citizens continue to take Genkhu, the government potentially failed on two occasions leading to two major lockdowns.  First possibly due to lapses in Paro International Airport and the second outbreak which is still going on from potentially caused by the government’s laxity. Further, Technical Advisory Committee itself pointed out that numerous lapses occurred in Phuentsholing during the four-month lockdown. But nobody faced any accountability thus far. However, when the citizens failed to close their shop during a lockdown or travelled from one place to another and tested negative are treated like criminals. This signifies that Our Genkhu is left only to the citizens, not authorities. 

His Majesty citing the 4th Druk Gyalpo said, “It is said that the failure of justice persecutes an individual, but the lack of adherence to rule of law persecutes an entire nation. Rule of law begets discipline, which in turn begets order, and peace, which leads to trust and to stability.” Our Genkhu is the duty of both the government and the citizens under the Constitution. It must be based on the rule of law and not otherwise. United Nations said the “rule of law is non-arbitrary governance as opposed to one based on the power and whim of an absolute ruler.”

Article 20 (1) of our Constitution mandates the government to provide good governance and well-being of the people.  It is said that the “Rule of law provides legitimacy and authority to the government and the quest for good governance will never be successful” if there is no rule of law.  Similarly, Article 20 also mandates the government to govern the nation based on “the democratic values and principles enshrined in this Constitution.” The rule of law is fundamental to democratic values. However, the government has not been fair in this sense. While Article 20(8) of the Constitution explicitly prohibits the Executive from issuing “any executive order, circular, rule or notification which is inconsistent with or shall have the effect of modifying, varying or superseding any provision of a law made by Parliament or a law in force” the government allowed importation and even distribution in violation of Tobacco Act, redefined the pay and allowances for public servants such as suspending the transfer grant, revising the travel allowances in violation of Pay Revision Act. Two senior medical professionals from Gedu and Phuentsholing travelled from Phuentsholing to Gedu without staying 7-day quarantine and were subject to only administrative action in 2021. On the other hand, a woman was convicted for the same offence in the same year. Some were even fined, and some were taken to detention for not wearing masks without any rules.  

 Till now, there is no answer to the public outcry on the death of a woman in isolation, and possible lapses in the current outbreak in Wangdue and Samdrupjongkhar. Authorities must be held equally accountable in this fight against the pandemic before the public lose all patience.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.