All well with Bhutan's first national assembly session

THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - The first session of the third Parliament has been exemplary in terms of the conduct of members and in terms of both the ruling party and Opposition working as a team, National Assembly Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel has told Kuensel.

The Speaker lauded the Opposition’s role in the session, saying that it put the national priority at the top of its agenda. “This is how we should move ahead,” he said, expressing satisfaction with the quality of debates and the outcome.

Opposition members chairing five of the nine committees of National Assembly, he said, was one of the examples of the present government being accommodative to the Opposition. He said the role of a Speaker was that of a facilitator of debates in the House.

At the second meet the press, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering also said that both the opposition and the ruling party supported each other’s motion in the House. “It has been exemplary and smooth,” he said.

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the Speaker conducted the session in a non-partisan manner keeping national interests at the top. Every MP, he said, were told to come prepared to the House.

“We can only get better in the coming sessions,” Dr Tandi Dorji said. “We have an experienced Opposition, but we are in no way no less organised.”

The country, he said, was in the process of graduating from the category of least developed countries and that the government needed to work even harder.

Reflecting on the first session, opposition spokesperson Dorji Wangdi said he appreciated the Speaker’s efforts to do the job to his best. “I am satisfied.”

The present government, he said, has repeatedly expressed commitments for the ruling and opposition parties to work as one team. “While there have some good signs of comradeship and improvements in a working relationship (between the two), all actions have not been up to their words,” he said.

Dorji Wangdi said the government had conducted certain things clearly on party lines. “For example, the election of Speaker and Dy. Speaker, presentation of 12th Plan and voting on Community Information Centers (CICs),” he said.

The House had rejected the motion to bring CICs under county administration. The Opposition and the ruling party split along party lines during the debate on the motion and of the 43 MPs, 17 voted for the motion while 24 MPs voted against and two abstained.   

The Opposition, he said, recently learnt that the draft 12th Plan was presented to ruling MPs and NC members before the Cabinet and GNH Commission endorsed it. He lamented that the Opposition MPs were omitted from that presentation and that the presentation to opposition MPs was made much later.

“Such things do not give us good feelings. On our part, we have been consistently objective and professional. We have done our best to contribute and help the government as much as possible in all spheres of functioning, both within and outside the parliament,” he said.

The Panbang MP said that the Opposition felt that there is a huge room for improvement and both must make sincere efforts do so. He added that the Opposition was wholeheartedly committed to supporting the government in all possible ways.

Expressing his satisfaction, Wamrong MP Karma Thinley said that the session was fruitful in terms of promoting regional balance in development.

He cited the National Assembly’s resolution to open entry points for regional tourists at Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Samtse, Nanglam and Panbang.

According to Bji-Kartshog MP Ugyen Tenzin, the session was more satisfactory than that of the first and second Parliaments. “I appreciated the Speaker’s role in conducting the session,” he said.

However, a former NC member said that the NA secretariat needed to conduct a language course for all MPs. He said that using many relevant words while speaking in the House was important for MPs since people looked up to Parliament for the development of Dzongkha (national language).

“MPs should be good in spoken language, if not in writing,” he said

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