His Majesty The King graced the opening ceremony of the fifth session of the third Parliament yesterday.

Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, members of the Royal family, senior government officials, and foreign diplomats and dignitaries also attended the opening ceremony.

In his inaugural address, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel highlighted that the Covid-19 pandemic created havoc around the world and did not spare Bhutan. Amid the pandemic, according to the Speaker, His Majesty The King has always shown great love and compassion to the people. “His Majesty has tirelessly visited southern borders to ensure peace, tranquillity and happiness for the people,” he said.

“While we enjoy the safety and are free from worries with our beloved families and loved ones, His Majesty The King has been working endless days and nights and sacrificing rests and meals,” the speaker said. “His Majesty has been constantly monitoring the situation, providing strategic directions and counsels on the prevention and overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic to the Covid-19 task force and to our people.”

His Majesty has provided free medical services to the people affected by the pandemic and provided free vaccines to the people. “This love and care is possible only with the exemplary leadership of His Majesty The King. The Parliament, therefore, would like to express our deepest gratitude to His Majesty The King,” Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said.

The speaker said that the Desuung programme initiated by His Majesty has benefitted numerous civil servants, public servants, and youth across the country with useful skills and experiences. “The programme has provided good opportunity to support the army and police personnels, employment for the youth, and improvement of livelihood for people of rural areas through rural water service projects,” he said.

His Majesty also granted approval to continue providing financial support to the individuals affected by the global pandemic for 15 months through His Majesty’s monetary and financial relief programme. “This benevolence is beyond our imagination,” the speaker said.

The speaker on behalf of the Parliament also expressed their gratitude to His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the religious institutions for performing numerous prayers and religious activities for the prevention of the global pandemic and during the time of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccine campaign in the country.

He also expressed sincere gratitude to the Government of India for supporting free doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Bhutan. “It is also to be noted that such generosity has been extended when India herself needed the vaccine much more,” the speaker said, adding that the Parliament would like to extend condolences to the people of India who are affected by the pandemic.

The Parliament also shared their sympathy to Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen from Mongar Constituency and also former Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs on his resignation as a member of Parliament after his two and half years of service. The Parliament also mourned and shared their deepest sympathy on the untimely demise of Choida Jamtsho, who was a Member of Parliament from Nganglam constituency.

The other members absent during the inaugural ceremony were Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, who is attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, and MP of Khamdang-Ramjar constituency in Trashiyangtse, Kuenga Loday, who is detained in connection with the illegal construction of the road. MP Kuenga Loday was earlier released on bail after the death of his relatives.

The finance minister will present the annual budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022 today. The other agendas that are going to be deliberated during this session incudes Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill 2021; Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2021; Biodiversity Bill of Bhutan 2021; Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill 2021; the Customs (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021; and third Reading of the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2019.

The House will also ratify the Preferential Trade Agreement between the Royal Government of Bhutan and Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) (Amendment) Bill of 2021; along with the Annual Anti-Corruption Commission Review Report 2019, and deliberate on the implementation report on the Resolutions of the previous sessions.

The Joint Sitting of the Parliament will deliberate five Performance Audit Reports of the Public Accounts Committee; the Disputed Clauses between the two Houses on the Mines and Minerals Bill of Bhutan 2020, and Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of Bhutan 2020.

The summer session will end on June 30.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

Edited by Tshering Palden