Given the debate the Bhutanese society is engaging in today, the Zhemgang issue, as it is now known as, is not likely to go away soon.
The government remains firm on its decision to replace Zhemgang with Sarpang for the tourism flagship programme. The Office of the Attorney General has given legal reasoning supporting the decision. The National Council, the Opposition and the Speaker of the National Assembly believe otherwise and remain adamant that the government has violated laws.
From the accusations of politicisation to legality to questioning the powers of the executive and the parliament, we are seeing the society and institutions of democracy share their understanding on the processes involved in crafting democracy. With the debate spilling over social media, the Zhemgang issue has compelled us all to think and reason more on the processes and implications of decision-making.
While the issue hinges on a dzongkhag and confined to a tourism flagship programme worth Nu 11 million of the Nu 1 billion allocated for tourism, it has started a debate on the role of institutions that comprise our fledgling democracy. The lively exchange between the members of these institutions is a good development because such discourse will make us understand our responsibilities in the political process.
With the issue reaching a stalemate, and according to the process, it could ultimately reach the court of law for a final decision. The Supreme Court was instituted to uphold the rule of law, as the guardian and the final interpreter of the Constitution. It would also play its part in the discourse and give clarity to the roles of each institution.
The government, which has the mandate of the people, is aware that its decisions must benefit the people. It has acknowledged the concerns raised by the Opposition and the National Council while also calling on them for a dialogue. While the court remains the last option, our parliamentarians, all of them representing the people should try having a conversation on the issue first. If the individual stands of the institutions do not benefit the people, the real beneficiaries of the activities and plans, we would have all lost.
As tempting as it may be, we have all learnt that politicising an issue, a dzongkhag or a region has not helped any government. The people know that if the government does not perform, they don’t last. While we are questioning the powers of the parliament and the executive, we must not forget that it is the people who are the empowered.
In the end, the people need to understand the process we are crafting.