MB Subba 

The winter session of Parliament, which concluded on December 25, was a successful one, according to Members of Parliament.

They cite the passing of three motions, two of which came from the Opposition Party, as one of the important achievements of the session.

However, the passing of a motion itself does not guarantee its implementation.

One of the Opposition Party’s motions seeks to amend the existing agricultural marketing system into a “productive and efficient” one and establish markets with countries with which Bhutan has bilateral relations.

The other motion moved by the Opposition and passed was to start construction of the south-east-west highways immediately: Nganglam to Dewathang, Gelephu to Panbang, and Lhamoizingkha to Sarpang.

The motion from the Athang Thedtsho MP, Kinley Wangchuk, to lift the ban on issuance of bar licences, was also passed with a large majority.

The motion was moved after the government’s announcement to implement Section 284(g) of the Penal Code of Bhutan, which categorises hiring of business licences as fronting, from January 2022.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering expressed concerns during the debate on one of the motions about the encroachment on the privileges of the Executive by the Legislative.

He highlighted the principles of the separation of powers, saying that the legislative should not “bulldoze” the privileges of the executive. “We should set the right precedent for the future,” he said.

The prime minister, however, added that the government would always make an effort to implement the motions.

Drametse Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that the legislative body moves a motion when the Executive fails to initiate and implement work that needs to be prioritised. He said that it was also part of the legislative function to aid the government.

The government, he said, should implement the motions unless they are unimplementable. “The government will have to report to Parliament and provide justification if a motion is not implemented in the coming sessions.”

The opposition MP said that not all the motions passed in the past were implemented.

Some officials say that a motion is not a law and that it is not binding on the Executive. According to their argument, motions do not follow the procedure of passing a law, as they are passed by a single House.

Kinley Wangchuk said, “If a motion passed has huge budgetary implications to the State and the Executive is in no position to implement it, then they may object to it and not implement it.”

He also said that motions are moved when the Executive delays implementation of an activity indefinitely, where the delay has a huge socio-economic implication.

Members said the session was one of the shortest.

The Deputy Speaker of the National Council (NC), Jigme Wangchuk, said that the upper House had submitted important policy recommendations to the government.

He said that the NC could not accept the amendment to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption that was passed by the lower house. The Bill will be reviewed by a joint committee of Parliament.

The NC submitted recommendations on suicide and mental health issues, State-owned Enterprises and the Anti-Corruption Annual Report 2020-21, among other issues.

The joint sitting has also passed several recommendations on audit issues for the government to implement.

One of the NC members said that there were no controversial issues discussed in the session.

According to observers who followed the winter session, the quality of debates had improved in terms of keeping them short and on the topic.

An observer said the session was not as heated and controversial for the public to watch as the first and second Parliaments.

“I also observed that MPs, including the prime minister, did not use as many Dzongkha proverbs as in the past sessions,” he said.

It was observed that committees’ homework on Bills had improved. In the past sessions, a significant amount of time was spent pointing out clerical errors and mismatches between Dzongkha and English texts.

However, one of the past trends continued: while some MPs rarely take the floor, it was the same MPs who contribute to most of the debates.