Sunday, 4 May 2008

New-look National Assembly makeover

The functioning of the elected parliament will be different from the previous National Assembly, according to the assembly secretariat.

The change begins with the very role of the central figure of the National Assembly, the speaker. Unlike in the past, the new speaker will not be allowed to participate in discussions as did earlier speakers, who had the authority to resolve issues.

The National Assembly secretary, Nima Tshering, said that there were not many outspoken chimis and only about 18 members did most of the talking and at great lengths. “This time we have educated members who are expected to actively participate.”

The secretary said that it was a very difficult task for the speaker those days to keep note of what each member said, sum up discussions, get members to paraphrase answers and pass resolutions. “But the decisions made were not democratically done,” he said.

Under the new setup, decisions will be made by members, who will be provided with a voting system to resolve issues, based on majority agreement.

“The speaker will only interfere in Assembly discussions when a member misbehaves or is going out of control,” said Nima Tshering, adding that a speaker’s job was mainly to conclude a decision and get them typed for members, who contributed to the discussion of an issue, for their verification.

Unlike past speakers, who had to ask members to cut short their speeches, the present speaker can do so instantly with a push of a button on his table, which will mute the microphone of the member talking.

But that need should rarely arise because the members would be aware of the time allotted to them and expected to prepare or limit their questions or answers within the given timeframe.

According to the National Assembly secretary, the Assembly would also introduce a question and answer hour like other parliamentary democracies around the world.

“There will be two types of questions, starred and unstarred,” said the secretary. While the first will consist of prepared questions, which will be scrutinized two days before the session by the secretary general and the speaker, to check if they are abiding by the country’s policies and Constitution, for which the answers will also be prepared, the latter will be extemporaneous.

“Most probably, supplementary questions following the prepared Q&A will be limited to two,” Nima Tshering said. “The questions and answers will be subject to time constraints to avoid one member doing all the talking.”

Timing will be allotted depending on the gravity of the issues being discussed. “But each question and answer should not exceed an hour on each subject,” said Nima Tshering.

Even the agenda for discussion at the National Assembly, the secretary said, would be listed on a daily basis, depending on what members felt were important issues requiring immediate attention instead of compiling a booklet of agendas submitted by each dzongkhag.

“It will be tabled for discussion, following an evaluation favouring the issues,” said Nima Tshering.

No comments: