Plenty of heat in Parliament

Yearender/Parliament: If beauty of democracy is disagreement, the Parliament of Bhutan had a plenty of issues to disagree.

Bills, international conventions and agreements faced deadlocks in the Parliament when the National Council (NC) rejected some of them. However, the most controversial of all the issues was the Paro dzongkhag thromde boundary, which the people said threatened their livelihood.

Backed by the opposition members, the local government requested the Speaker and the Prime Minister to redraw the boundary that was endorsed during the 5th fifth session. It was claimed that about 500 acres of paddy would be lost to the thromde if the parliament did not backtrack from its earlier decision.

The heat was felt when Gasa MP Pema Dukpa accused NC members of siding with political parties. The MP however, had to apologize after the NC members protested against the MP’s comment.

The argument of the people of Paro finally prevailed. The joint sitting resolved that the government in consultation with the Paro dzongkhag tshogdu would submit the issues pertaining to thromde for re-deliberation in the upcoming summer session.

The 6th session also broke the deadlock on the dzongkhag for Pemagatshel with the endorsement of Nganglam as the dzongkhag thromde. Most of the thromdes were endorsed in the 5th session, but the parliament’s inability to choose from among Nganglam and Denchi had stunned the people.

Calculation of a simple majority in the Parliament was redefined when the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal transport agreement was revoked by the National Assembly after opposition members contested that the bill had not secured a majority. The agreement was passed with 22 “Yes” votes among the 39 members present, but it was latter agreed that 24 members were required to endorse a bill.

This means that a simple majority will now be counted based on the total number of members of the house, and not on the total number of members present during the voting.

Another significant legislative moves from the last session was the NC’s resolution to amend the election Act during the upcoming session.

This came despite the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB)’s repeated argument that it was too early to amend the Act. The ECB felt that amending the election rules could solve any anomalies in the implementation of the Act.

However, the need to amend the election Act was felt when inconsistencies in the Constitution and the election Act marred the recently concluded thromde elections.

For instance, while, Section 196 the election Act states that elections to a local government should he held before the expiry of the term of the incumbent members, the Constitution mandates that elections to a local government should be held only after the completion of term unless dissolved prematurely.

The NC’s decision to withdraw the Enterprise Registration Bill and the European Investment Bank Framework Agreement raised eyebrows in the National Assembly. The Council reasoned that the framework agreement was not in consonance with the country’s external commercial borrowing guidelines and that it could undermine Bhutan’s sovereignty.

The Assembly also re-deliberated on the Jabmi (Amendment) Bill, Companies Bill and the Framework Agreement with the European Investment Bank. However, since consensus could not be reached on some of the sections in these three agenda, they have been submitted to submission has His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo for the royal consent for deliberation in a joint sitting.

MB Subba

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