Sunday, 1 June 2008

Celebrating Constitution Day

31 May, 2008 - Bhutan will celebrate Constitution Day in dedication to His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth Druk Gyalpo. The day will be observed as an annual holiday, on a date that will be proposed by the prime minister, the chief justice, and the speaker of the National Assembly, and approved by His Majesty the King.

The decision came after the parliament made an impassioned submission to sign the finalised Constitution and to declare June 2 as Constitution Day. The chief justice and chairman of the Constitution drafting committee, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, conveyed the royal views to the joint sitting of parliament on May 30.

His Majesty the King said that he was touched by the desire of the nation’s highest legislative body to dedicate the Constitution to the fourth Druk Gyalpo, the Father of the Constitution. But the signing ceremony need not be hurried. The Constitution, which was adopted for the present generation and for posterity, would be signed only once in the country’s history. Therefore, the gatoen and tendryil must be well organized and all the people of Bhutan must share the spirit of occasion.

His Majesty advised that, since parliament will be in session for another month, it would be a better idea to hold the ceremony toward the end of the session, because it would leave enough time to organise such a special and historic event.

His Majesty also advised that the prime minister, the chief justice, and the speaker of the National Assembly discuss the issue and propose a suitable date - either June 2 or November 11 - as Constitution Day or Democracy Day in honour of the His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo.

The chief justice conveyed to the parliamentarians that His Majesty the King was pleased that the deliberations on the Constitution by Parliament had been thorough and of a high quality. His Majesty was very proud and appreciative of the members of Parliament.

Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye noted that, after seven years, the discussions on the draft Constitution had concluded. The draft would be submitted to His Majesty the King.

Members of the parliament responded to the royal views and said that that they were comforted by His Majesty’s remarks on the deliberations on the draft Constitution. The works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said that His Majesty had granted parliament the opportunity to discuss the Constitution and that discussions had been held with the deepest reverence. He added that there should be nationwide celebrations with the finalisation of the Constitution.

The opposition leader, Tshering Tobgay, said that the people were worried when parliament started discussing the provisions of the draft Constitution. “They were worried that we might change the Constitution without understanding the nuances of the provisions,” he said. They had now been reassured and pointed out that the signing of the Constitution would be one of the most significant events in Bhutanese history.

The prime minister, who proposed the celebration of Constitution Day, reminded parliament that Bhutan had stopped celebrating the coronation anniversary of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo. The Constitution, he said, symbolized the translation of His Majesty’s vision into reality.

“When we celebrate this day, we reflect on the peace and tranquillity that we have enjoyed during the reign of the fourth Druk Gyalpo,” he said. “We reflect on the opportunity that His Majesty bestowed upon us – democracy. It is our responsibility now to strengthen the democratic system year by year.”

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