Tashi Dema

After extensive deliberation, the National Assembly members yesterday decided to treat the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) at par with Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and Royal Body Guard (RBG) in terms of rank structure, appointment, promotion and removal, positions and tenure, salary, allowances, benefits and other emoluments.

Members cited Article 28 of the Constitution, which specifies RBA and RBP as important parts of the nation’s security forces, to justify why RBP should be treated like RBA and RBG.

During the third reading of the Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021 yesterday, most discussions centred around the insertion of new provision, Section 16A, which specified how police should be treated at par with the two organisations.

Although some members of the social and cultural committee, who were asked to review the Bill, opined that police cannot be treated at par with RBA and RBG, most parliamentarians supported the new provision.

Chokhor-Tang MP Dawa supported the new provision reasoning that it is on benefits and entitlements. “If future governments change and route entitlements through pay commission, RBP might be left behind.”

Mongar MP Karma Lhamo, who is a member of the committee,  claimed she opposed the committee’s proposal. She submitted that the Police Act 2009 has two contradictory provisions that mention service benefits. “Section 166 states police will be entitled for service benefits like RBA and RBG but section 164 states the government could fix the salary, allowances and benefits upon the recommendation of pay commission.”

She said that a previous government left out police while discussing the pay revision. “RBP will be under the home ministry for management but entitlements should be at par with the two organisations.”

Maenbi-Tsenkar MP Choki Gyeltshen, who is also a member of the committee, said some police officers they consulted recommended RBP should be under home ministry.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the existing Act empowered the Prime Minister to recommend the appointment of the Police Chief and also to remove him. “RBP is an important organisation. It should not be politicised. Providing them the benefits and entitlements at par with RBA and RBG will benefit the police.”

However, a member of the committee, Chumey-Ura MP Karma Wangchuk, said treating RBP like RBA and RBG would contradict with other provisions of the Bill which states police should function in line with the Act.

Another committee member, Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji, justified the proposal was based on the main roles of RBP.

He said the committee conducted thorough consultation with police, including non-commissioned officers. “Are we going to frame laws based on future predictions?”

Athang-Thedtsho MP Kinley Wangchuk said that while benefits and entitlement should be like other security forces, police could function in line with the Act.

Opposition Leader Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi submitted the need for a different organisation structure within the three security forces because of their different roles.

Drametse-Ngatsang MP Ugyen Ugyen Wangdi reiterated the need for different organisational structure. “If RBP, RBA and RBG are to be treated the same, there is no need to discuss a different Police Bill.”

He submitted that it should be ‘entitled’ instead of ‘treated’. “It’s important to understand whether all the heads of RBG, RBA and RBP should be of equal ranks.”

Home Minister Ugyen Dorji clarified that the three organisations should be treated at par only in the benefits and entitlements.

Members also discussed who the police chief should report to. While the committee proposed the report should route through the secretary, other MPs said the police chief should report to the minister because of the rank.

NA will deliberate on the Bill today too.

Meanwhile, the committee chairperson reported that Chamgang jail is like a boarding facility and Dawakha open-air prison is like a retreat.