As we wait for yet another Royal Address to the nation this morning,  it is a day to thank our monarchs for their selfless service to the nation.

It was exactly 115 years ago that we signed the social contract with the First King of Bhutan, officially instituting the Wangchuck Dynasty. This document signifies the greatness and farsightedness of our Wangchuck Dynasty and established the foundation of Bhutan’s sovereignty, unity, and stability. The social contract was not giving power and authority to monarchs but obligating them with the responsibility of protecting sovereignty.

 Sir Ugyen Wangchuck unified the nation, built confidence and trust in his leadership, restored peace and stability, laid the foundations of the rule of law, and sealed Bhutan’s sovereignty. Bhutan’s progress began and hardships ended with the successive monarchs and the rule of law has been strengthened since. His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck not only continued the great legacy of the first king but also embarked on radical reforms of taxation, protecting the social and economic rights of his subjects in an unprecedented manner.

The third king personally guided and drafted the first-ever modern Law of the country, the Thrimzhung Chhenmo. He also established the first courts and separated the judiciary and executive, established the National Assembly, instituted the vote of no confidence in His Majesty, and abolished the serfdom system, sowing the seeds of the doctrine of separation of power. The king strengthened the rule of law by ensuring judicial independence. 

While His Majesty the Great Fourth had to become king at a tender age, he shouldered his duties even with greater wisdom and vision. He brought in radical reform by empowering the grassroots institutions and began a rapid decentralisation process, instilling democratic values and rights and preparing the people for full democracy. He issued numerous Kadoen (Royal Decrees) to the judiciary to ensure that the rule of law protects every citizen, equality before the law and equal protection of the law, the due process of law and laid the foundations of democracy. Despite public reluctance, imposed democracy on the people with one of the best Constitutions in the world where even the King is required to abdicate his throne by age of sixty-five and ensure the protection and conservation of the environment by entrusting every Bhutanese as trustee of our natural resources. 

Today, His Majesty has become a symbol of strength, inspiration, and an exemplary leader for the nation and its people.  The recent reforms and radical changes, including the institution of Gyalsung and the initiation of Civil Service Reforms will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the nation. His Majesty’s repeated emphasis on the importance of adherence to the rule of law and accountability is nothing short of farsightedness in strengthening the democratic values and principles on which the nation’s future must rest. As we celebrate this important occasion, the nation must in unison pray for the long life of our monarchs and thank the Wangchuck dynasty for their peerless service to the nation and the rule of law.  

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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