Rinzin Wangchuk 

The National Assembly (NA) Speaker, Wangchuk Namgyel, expressed gratitude on behalf of Members of Parliament to His Majesty The King for gracing the opening ceremony of the seventh session of the third Parliament yesterday.

The Speaker also thanked His Majesty for tirelessly travelling across the country disregarding his personal safety and health in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. “The people are so grateful for the King’s benevolence and hold it dear to their hearts,” he said.

Even though the Covid-19 restriction around the world has been relaxed, about half the world’s population didn’t get the opportunity to avail of vaccination to shield against Covid-19. Bhutan has a success story, according to the Speaker. “With the graciousness of His Majesty, all the population from young to old have had the opportunity to avail a minimum of three rounds of Covid-19 vaccination,” he said.

With his deep concern for the de-suups in particular and the youth of Bhutan in general, His Majesty has launched massive DeSuung Skilling and Reskilling Programmes across the country to provide gainful employment. His Majesty has personally visited all the Skilling Programmes centres to ensure effectiveness and advised the youth to make the best use of the precious time in the centres and to work towards earning a decent livelihood to serve the nation. “The golden words of advice from His Majesty have been very reassuring and inspirational in building self-confidence,” Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said.

He also said that the instituting Gyalsung National Service has been of higher-order dedicated to nurturing young people. “It is meant to give proper guidance, instil self-discipline and provide professional skills required to succeed in the 21st century and to contribute meaningfully to nation-building,” the Speaker said. 

“Despite the hurdles presented by the global pandemic, the project has been progressing as desired.”

For all these selfless acts for the well-being of the country and the people by His Majesty, the exemplary role model extends beyond Bhutan to the world. “The Parliament, on behalf of the people of Bhutan, would like to offer our utmost admiration and deepest gratitude to His Majesty The King,” he said.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said His Majesty, apart from granting numerous support and welfare to the people of Bhutan, has continued to grant citizenship. This year, 308 people were granted citizenship enabling the citizens to live an honourable and peaceful life.

The Speaker also expressed deep appreciation of Parliament to His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the monastic body for performing numerous prayers and religious activities to prevent and protect against the global pandemic. Bhutan also commemorated the 400th anniversary of the Central Monastic Body’s establishment by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. “The auspicious occasion telecasted through the national television and live-streamed to the general public has enabled the people to pay their homage and facilitated in the reminiscences of past glories,” Tshogpon Wangchuk Namgyel said.

NA to deliberate Bills

Besides the legislative and parliamentary functions including question hours and motions, as conducted in the past, the NA will deliberate on the Budget Appropriation Bill for the Financial Year 2022-2023; the third reading of the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill of Bhutan 2021; Fiscal Incentives (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022; Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022;  Tourism Levy (Amendment) Bill Of Bhutan 2022; Rules of Procedure (Amendment) of the National Assembly of Bhutan 2022; and United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (TIP Protocol).

The House will also deliberate on three follow up reports on the implementation status of the resolutions of the sixth Session; re-deliberate on the Biodiversity Bill of Bhutan 2021; and the Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill 2021 along with deliberations on several other Bills.

Today, the house will deliberate on the Rules of Procedure (Amendment) of the NA 2022  after the questions and answers with the prime minister, ministry of works and human settlement and ministry of information and communications.

The Joint Sitting

Both houses will sit together from June 29 to July 4 to deliberate on the report of the Public Account Committee (PCA); the annual audit report 2020-2021; two performance audit reports of PCA and for the fiscal year 2010-2020; performance audit report on operations of Natural Resource Development Corporation Limited; and follow up report on the implementation status of the resolution.

Disputed Bills

The Joint Sitting will also deliberate on three disputed Bills: Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2021; Civil Society Organizations (Amendment) Bill 2021 and United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Amendment.

The two houses have a dispute over 24 provisions of the CSO Amendment Bill, which was submitted to His Majesty The King for the Royal Command for a joint sitting to resolve the differences between the two houses of the Parliament. The main disputes were on three provisions, which include the board members of the CSO Authority inserting a new provision on small scale CSO and on persons disqualified from being CSO board members. The NC amended the board chair position to be held by the home secretary, but the NA changed it to the home minister.

On the disputed Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill, the NC supported the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) human resource (HR) independence and ACC’s proposal to insert an additional section to the exceptions where the ACC proposed to prosecute cases if the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) returns, withdraws or does not appeal a case without a valid reason. But the NA shot down both proposals.

However, the NA retained section 128(3) of the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) 2011, which provides that the commission may carry out its prosecution or take over the prosecution process when the case is either delayed without valid reasons, manipulated or hampered by interference. A joint committee from both houses was constituted to narrow the differences and recommended retaining section 128(3).

Regarding the UNCAC Amendment, both houses did not agree on whether or not to revoke reservations on article 66(2). The article states that any dispute between two or more countries that cannot be settled through negotiation within a reasonable time shall, at the request of one of those countries be submitted for arbitration in an international court of justice. The NC recommended re-accede to the UNCAC with reservations on the article while NA proposed revoking the reservations.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that the Parliament will ensure deliberations that would enable framing laws that are beneficial to the country, people and implementing agencies.

The seventh session of the Parliament will conclude on July 5.