The Gyaldrung Row

Observers say the National Assembly is not the Parliament

The Opposition Party’s press release on the issue of gaydrungs, titled “Discontinuation of the Post of Gaydrung: The Government must honour the resolution of the Parliament,” has evoked criticism from certain political observers and sections of the people, who say that the said resolution on gaydrungs was passed in the National Assembly (NA) and not the parliament. Quoting Article 10, Section 1 of the Constitution, which says: “There shall be a Parliament for Bhutan in which all legislative powers under this Constitution are vested and which shall consist of the Druk Gyalpo, the National Council and the National Assembly,” critics say such mistakes cannot be committed by a seasoned party and that it would send wrong messages to people and political observers beyond the country.  
The Opposition’s press release and OL’s letter to the PM say gaydrungs had come to appeal to the Opposition, too, which the party says is “as a matter of great surprise” to them. “First, you will recall that after a thorough debate, the National Assembly had, on January 16, 2019, passed a resolution to ‘Retain the post of gaydrung under Gewog Administrations’. As per voting records, all members of the Ruling Party including all members of the Cabinet had voted in favour of the motion,” the Opposition has maintained. 
The Opposition party has further said that they “were given to understand that during the extension of their tenure in April 2019, the Government had committed to base any extension in future on a detailed study of the necessity of their services.” “Subsequently, indeed a study titled ‘Relevance of gaydrungs in Gewog Administration’ was carried out, and among others, it had revealed that 93% of the population felt gaydrungs were critical, 89% were satisfied with their services and 76% of LG members felt that Gewog Administrative Officers and Accounts Personnel could not substitute gaydrungs.”
Having mentioned the above two points, the party has written that in deciding to discontinue the post, “we feel the Government has breached both the resolution of the National Assembly and its subsequent commitment to gaydrungs.” “It is extremely important that the Government honour the resolution of the Parliament, or report back and seek its re-consideration in case of any likely deviation from it,” the press release and letter reads. 
“It was wrong for the Opposition to say that the government has not honoured the Parliament’s resolution as Bhutan’s Parliament consists of the Druk Gyalpo, the National Council and the National Assembly,” a political observer said, adding that a party with 15 years of experience as government and opposition should be very careful in writing press releases or writing to the PM. Moreover the subject of the press release is “Discontinuation of the Post of gaydrung: The Government must honour the resolution of the Parliament,” he said, which can mislead people. “Some will not read the entire press release and conclude that the government has not honoured a resolution passed in unison including His Majesty and the NC, which will not just dampen the governments image but the country’s too, as one where democracy is deepening.  
Sonam, another political observer, and aspiring politician, said everyone will not be aware of Article 10, Section 1. “And when such a press release is issued, those unaware will think that the government is not honouring what was discussed and passed. Apart from people within the country, we have to think of the international community, our bilateral and multilateral partners, democracy watchdogs and others, who also may not be aware of Article 10, Section 1. Their conclusion about Bhutanese democracy will be soiled,” he said. When said this could be a mistake, Sonam said there are no rooms for mistakes in such cases. “If it was a mistake, the party should have immediately issued another press release stating that they had made a mistake, which I have not seen or heard about,” he added. 
“I have read the Constitution and know that the National Assembly is one component of the Parliament and not equivalent to it. Legally, I see that the resolution quoted by the opposition is an expression of the NA’s opinion, which is not binding to the Executive,” he said. 
Asking not to be named, a civil servant who will be contesting for the NC’s post in the 2023 elections said, the government is not bound by the resolutions passed by the National Assembly on a matter which is the policy mandate of the Executive. “As a matter of fact, such resolutions amount to encroachment by the Legislature over the Executive functions of the government. The Constitution clearly stipulates that there shall be an Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, and emphasizes on separation of powers, underling no encroachment is allowed except as permitted by this Constitution,” he said.  
“Everyone is free to express their opinions and I also found something contradictory in what the opposition said. Maintaining that they stand firm by the decision to retain the post of gaydrung, they have urged the Government to seriously look into their recent submissions on reasonable extension of tenure and compensations. The contradiction is in saying they want to retain the post of gaydrungs but also adding and saying the government should compensate them,” he said. 
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the party is concerned about the hundreds of gaydrungs who have lost their jobs and the hardships they are experiencing. Gaydrungs have provided good gewog-level public services fulfilling critical roles and responsibilities. “This is a complete dichotomy between what the government say and what they practice about unemployment problem. Further, the PDP is concerned about the blatant disregard for National Assembly resolutions passed with a landslide 40 to 42 vote majority,” the party said.  
The government decided to discontinue the post of gaydrungs permanently on April 6 , 2022 after the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) also rejected proposal to recruit them on a consolidated contract under the civil service to retain the post. In the executive order released by the government, it was stated that despite numerous requests for extension, the decision was arrived at after deliberations among Cabinet members and consultation with relevant agencies like the home and culture affairs ministry and the RCSC.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has also released minutes of the “Motion to retain the post of Gaydrungs under Gewog Administration,” which was submitted by Tshewang Lhamo, NA MP, Bongo-Chapcha on January 16, 2019. It is said that the Member from Bongo-Chapcha Constituency moved the motion to retain the post of Gaydrungs under Gewog Administration. “The Member submitted that, the Gyadrungs provided effective services to the people under Gups and Mangmis, when they were occupied in various activities of planning. Thus, people raised concerns in receiving those services if the Gyadrungs are removed,” the minutes released states. The Member submitted that issue on Gaydrung has been deliberated intensively in the previous sessions and have had discussions with Royal Civil Service Commission. However it has concluded with no fruitful results. It was reported that the announcement to do away with the Post of Gaydrung commencing from March 05, 2019 has left local people and the Gaydrungs worried. The Member urged the House to support on following two recommendations: to retain the post of Gaydrungs in the Gewog Administration and if possible, to include the Gaydrungs as Civil Servants. 
It is said that after an extensive deliberation, while ascertaining the support on the first motion regarding the retaining of Gaydrungs in Gewog Administration, 40 Members voted “Yes” and 2 Members abstained out of 42 Members present and voting and accordingly passed the motion with Majority support of the House.  
The minutes released further says that while ascertaining the support on the second Motion regarding the possibility of regularization of the Gaydrungs under Civil Service, 25 Members voted “Yes”, 8 Members voted “No” and 9 Members Abstained, and passed the motion. However, as the authority for regularization of Gaydrungs lies with the RCSC, it was decided that any strategic measures implemented by the RCSC could suffice on the matter and the deliberations concluded.