Dorji Khandu

Journal of a Young Parliamentarian

The NA endorsed Supplementary Budget of 5M; it’s purely conflicting and a wrong precedence

I raised my concerns during the 5th sitting of the 25th session of National Council regarding the supplementary budget appropriation of Nu. 5M, proposed and approved by the National Assembly on 11th February 2020 with 44 Yes votes.

The same budget was presented again in the first week of June, that the National Assembly is returning the amount to the finance ministry. That is just a drama and for publicity to make up with their wrongdoings. The fact is that the Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill for the Financial year 2019-20 that has been passed before the first case of COVID-19 has never been endorsed for implementation.

Moreover, there is no need for the government to return, this is a norm for all sectors when it’s the financial closing time. If the fund is not used, the return is mandated and the responsibility of all the sectors.

Appropriating the supplementary budget for the parliamentary committee and secretariat services came without prior scrutiny from the finance ministry and violated the budget process and the Public Finance Act 2007. Any kind of supplementary budget should root through relevant ministry which is then forwarded to the Finance Ministry for approval.

The other supplementary budget for Royal Bhutan Police (for revised pay and allowances), Khesar Gyelpo University of Medical Sciences (for revised pay and allowances, students stipend),  similarly for the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law and State-Owned Enterprise subsidy all came through a proper proceeding.

It was surprising to learn how the most important institution of the nation turned deaf to the National Council’s recommendations.

The precedent was unhealthy for a democracy like ours that undergoes constant evolution with days. The views expressed from NC were a waste of time because they went ahead with the budget and approved it.

My colleagues in the house shared the same concerns; the legitimacy and the conflict of interest of the bill proposed to meet the shortages at the parliamentary committee and secretariat services. Consequently, the House decided to repeal the section with recommendations.

The national council also experienced the same shortage of resources. Do we follow the same trend? Should the future government do the same and keep increasing the supplementary budget appropriation ceiling.

NC members shared appropriating such a supplementary budget to overcome shortage each time would violate existing norms and set the wrong precedent.

We also questioned if the procedure followed to approve the budget was right and whether it was in line with the existing norm. However, the appropriation was approved and later returned as claimed. The way the national assembly approved the budget was unexpected and disrespectful. This also reflects the integrity of the people’s representatives in the august hall.

Our recommendation should have been heard well, especially in times like today where the government’s coffer is taking an unexpected pinch. We should all aspire to listen to one another and work firmly together with integrity.

I wish that the wisdom of the highest legislative body should prevail to abide by the laws and avoid the conflict of interests henceforth.


Reflections of two years in the Parliament of Bhutan

Two years representing the people of Gasa Dzongkhag was a journey that kept me moving close to the heart of this nation, more than ever. I have come to know more about the community and myself.

The first two years have been overwhelming and adventurous after signing Oath of Office and pledging to work tirelessly in fulfilling the sacred mandate of the great institution, the great visions of monarchs, and the dreams of the people.

 

With Elderly Constituents of Gasa

The job of a Member of Parliament is unlike any other professions one would have previously experienced. You are expected to be an advocate, social worker, orator, negotiator, mediator, sociable, social convener, and a lawyer. This versatile need of the profession has questioned and pushed me hard to become a better one always.

 

Crossing Ganglakarchung (5472 m)

I got an opportunity to visit the places located at the highest elevation in the country, enduring the harshest weather because it mattered the most to the people and the country. The experience among glaciers and clouds were awakening. This is the latest moment I cherish as the representative of the people.

One day I was amongst the high ranking delegate and officials, the other days I was with the people and youth of my constituency. In attending both functions, I always kept my true colours close to my heart. This kept me talking about my people and the country with almost all the people and in the places I have been to in the past two years. I will continue to let the world hear about my people and the country.

 

Interacting with farmers

I come from a constituency where people are least aware of our works as their representative. I made sure people understand, the basics of what we were doing in the Parliament. This would go a long way and I am more prepared to shoulder them with the best ability of mine.

Among the communities that are least developed in Bhutan, I started a welfare scheme, a personal initiative that caters to the need of my constituents today.

 

While travelling to the Constituency

The initiative came from my own experience and situation. The struggles and the unfortunate circumstances are uncertain in times like today. I wanted to shoulder my people in a time of bereavement. Today I am happy that this has become a reality.

For the welfare scheme, I surrendered my annual discretionary allowance entitled to the Member of Parliament in the country, the first to do so from among the parliamentarians in the country. Positive precedence I feel optimistic about as a young parliamentarian.

In the parliament so far, I have opposed the views shared by the government and supported where it is due. The decision that would impact my people was least welcome and critiqued on behalf of people.

 

During Committee Discussions

Despite being a regular and active participant in the committee meetings, and during debates in the Parliament, I made sure that the issue concerning my people in the ground is heard and discussed at all levels.

The journey took me to different parts of the country and also to the parts of the world that helped me realize and learn about the fast-changing world.

 

Attending the 19th APPCED

My work in parliament also involved representing Bhutan in the important international and regional forums like the 19th General Assembly of the APPCED in South Korea in December 2019 and 140th IPU Assembly meeting in Qatar in April 2019.

I was in India, speaking to the professors and faculty at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai about my country. Many of them had the experience of working in media for more than a decade. I was also given an opportunity to share my views on the Role of Young Parliamentarians in the Regional Cooperation during the 4th Memorial Lecture of the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Madanjeet Singh at Pondicherry University in India in April 2019.

 

With Indian Professors & Scholars

Many a time, the experiences and works in the Parliament were unceasing and limitless. However, the need and expectations from the people kept me moving and made me stronger day by day; turning me into a representative they always saw in me.

As important as it was, working with the parliamentary group was challenging and learning. It was difficult to balance individual views and the concerns of the constituents with the discipline and platform of the parliamentary group that may share contradictory views.

While working with the dedication and determination, my two years journey in Parliament tested both my strength and weaknesses. Sometimes it kept me awake beyond midnight, learning and hearing the voices of the people. But I have always had my constituents and nation in my heart that kept me pushing until today.

With Constituents of Gasa

Getting into parliament was the best option to be part of the solution. However, more needs to be done to solve issues concerning the daily lives of my people and the country at large.

Last, but not the least, I remain forever grateful to His Majesty for what we have today and for steering the Nation towards the 21st Century with assured peace, security and prosperity. Moreover, our heartfelt gratitude to our His Majesty the King for tirelessly leading our country’s effort to combat COVID-19 pandemic and granting unprecedented Kidu to all the affected citizens.

Thank you.


Shama Foundation brings smile among little Highlanders

Lungo Extended Classroom (ECR) is one of the most remote and northernmost schools located at an elevation of more than 4000 meters above sea level; high up in the Himalayas in Gasa dzongkhag. Laya Central School is the parent school of the ECR. The school benefited the localities of Lungo Chiwog over the years.

Currently, 24 students are studying under Lungo ECR with two teachers and three Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD) facilitators. The school remains closed for almost four months in a year because of the short summer and long winter season.
The government of Bhutan fully funded the ECR; thus, providing free education to the children of Lungo. However, the ECR was not equipped with necessities for years.

With help from UNICEF, they could set up a safe playground for the ECCD students and brought toys for the class in 2018; the heating system in the classroom for the children remained as one of the significant challenges.

Due to its unfavourable geographical location and weather, at Lungo ECR, the temperature during the peak summer season climbs hardly above 10 degree Celsius. The students have to carry their pack lunch, and during lunchtime, one can see students taking cold packed lunch, which was prepared early in the morning by their parents back home.

It’s a problem faced by every student studying in the ECR, and also a major challenge for the kids enrolled in ECCD (children from the age of 3-5) without a proper heating system in the classroom, making it difficult for both children and the facilitator to run the centre.
Thus, to overcome these challenges, we wrote a letter to Shama Foundation seeking support to purchase micro-oven that can be used for heating pack lunch and a panel heater for the ECCD classroom.

Shama Foundation is a Non-profit Organisation dedicated to the cause of social welfare, education, and health care. The foundation has benefited the needy societies in Bhutan with an immediate response.

As per our request, Shama Foundation provided financial support to purchase two Panel Heaters and a Microwave oven for the ECCD centre in July 2019. We bought the items from Thinley Norbu Enterprise, Olakha, Thimphu and delivered to Gasa. However, the parcel was stranded in Gasa for weeks due to heavy monsoon that made mule tracks unsafe for travel.

In the last week of August 2019, with the help of Lungo Tshogpa, panel heaters and oven could finally make its way to Lungo ECR. When we see small kids with cute happy smiles worn on their faces enjoying the warm atmosphere of the classroom; it does not doubt bringing happiness in the hearts of people who are involved in making this miracle happen.

We are very much obliged to the founder of Shama Foundation, Mr Surya and his wife, the representative of Shama Foundation in Bhutan, Ms Dorji Wangmo and Lungo Tshogpa for helping us with the transportation.

I am overwhelmed in all humbleness and gratefulness to acknowledge with my sincere appreciation to all those who were involved in making this project happen in Lungo Extended Classroom in Laya, Gasa.


Writing a Research Proposal

The main purpose of a research proposal is to tell others that you have a worthwhile project to conduct and possess the necessary competence to carry it out. In other words, you have to tell people what you plan to do, why you want to do it, and how you are going to do it. You need to convince your reader that you have an exciting research idea and that you have a good grasp of the relevant literature, the major issues involved, and the appropriate methodologies. A good proposal need not be long. Typically, a research proposal comes in two forms,

  • A short proposal – a short paragraph to identify the project
  • A long proposal – a formal, multiple page-report that provides background information, your rationale for conducting the study, a review of literature, methods, and conclusions. This type of a proposal runs anywhere between 20 to 40 double-spaced pages.

 

The Short Proposal

 This identifies the following,

  • The specific topic
  • The preliminary thesis sentence or opening hypothesis (research need), intended audience (general or specialized)
  • The purpose of the proposed work (explain, analyze and argue)
  • The outcome and the constraints

 

The Long Proposal

Cover Page:

This is optional depending on the length of the report. This should include the title, your name, and the person or agency to whom you are submitting the proposal. Also, the date of submission has to be clearly stated.

Title:

It should be concise and descriptive. For example, the phrase, “An investigation of . . .” could be omitted. Try to make the title catchy; a good title not only pricks the reader’s interest, but also predisposes him/her favourably towards the proposal.

Abstract:

It is a brief summary of approximately 300 words. It should include the research question, the rationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any), and the method. Descriptions of the method should include the design, procedures, the sample, and any instruments that will be used.

Introduction:

The main purpose of the introduction is to define the context and boundaries of your proposed research. Therefore, it will begin with a general statement of the problem area and conclude with a specific research question (purpose statement). You need to explain why you are interested in selecting a particular topic. The introduction should cover the following elements:

  • A general statement or description of the research problem, which could be an empirical or theoretical issue. It could also be a technical or non-technical problem. The best approach is to ask a single, important question that can be answered through the proposed research.
  • The background of the problem. It should set the stage or provide the context of the research problem. It should provide both the historical background and the contemporary scene, encompassing all the key players and their major publications. In other words, it should paint the research question in broad brushes and cite representative studies.
  • A brief description of the major theoretical models related to the research problem, indicating the theoretical perspective you have chosen or developed for your study.
  • Identification of the key independent and dependent variables.
  • A clear statement of the purpose and rationale of your research, indicating why the study is worth doing.
  • A statement of hypotheses and an explanation for your predictions. However, for exploratory or experiential types of research, you may not have any hypotheses.

Literature Review:

This is optional. This may be incorporated within the introduction if the report is not very long and descriptive. This section provides a more detailed and critical review of the literature directly bearing on the proposed research. For example, you should evaluate various theories in the light of available research findings. You should also examine the relevant literature related to the key variables, research instruments. Your scholarship will be in question if you fail to cite some of the influential studies or misread the papers you have cited.

Try to use sub-headings to organize your literature review in a logical and meaningful way. For example, having established the importance of your research area and its current state of development, you may devote several subsections to such issues as: theoretical models, measuring instruments, gender differences, etc. Each subsection should represent a major aspect of your proposed research. For each segment, you need to critically examine relevant literature. The purpose of the literature review is to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the problem area, as well as justify your study. You need to convince your reader that your proposed research will make a significant and substantial contribution to the field (i.e. resolve an important theoretical issue or fill a gap in the literature).

Methods:

  1. Describes the design of the proposed study.
  2. Describes your population and sampling procedure.
  3. Describes the measuring instrument to be used.
  4. Describes the procedure and the time frame of data collection.
  5. Describes how you will analyze the data.

You need to demonstrate your knowledge of alternative methods and make the case that your approach is most appropriate for your research question. You also need to explain why you choose a particular sample of subjects.

Please note that your research question may be best answered by qualitative research. Since there are no well-established canons in qualitative analysis, your method section needs to be more elaborate than what is required for traditional quantitative research.

Discussion:

States both the significance and limitations of the proposed research. You need to communicate a sense of enthusiasm without exaggerating the merits of your proposal.

 

Common Mistakes in Proposal Writing

  1. Failure to provide the proper context to frame the research question.
  2. Failure to delimit the boundary conditions for your research.
  3. Failure to cite landmark studies.
  4. Failure to accurately present the theoretical and empirical contributions by other researchers.
  5. Failure to stay focused on the research question.
  6. Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research.
  7. Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on the essentials.
  8. The proposal is not well-organized. For example, some materials are mentioned two or three times in different sections of the proposal. The most common organizational weakness is that the proposal goes “all over the map” without a clear sense of direction. The best proposals move forward with ease and grace like a seamless river.
  9. The writing is neither clear nor concise.

Legal Protection of Indigents, a Constitutional Mandate

“A just society is the one where justice prevails throughout alike. To have equal right to approach the court is rendered useless if the right can’t be exercised. It is then, nothing more than a paper promise. The rich and influential can approach the courts because they have means, but the poor have to face injustice simply because they have no money to hire a lawyer. It is therefore in the interest of justice to establish a social order when the poor not only have the right but also the means to seek justice. The idea of legal aid to the poor is, thus a step in this direction”.

Monish Arora, Short Essays & Paragraphs on Law (University Law Publishing Co., Delhi, 2nd Ed., 2006) 75

What do you all think about the legal aid services? I rose to speak, for my heart cried as I effortlessly connected my past and present to the concern that can potentially bring voices to the voiceless should there be this so-called ‘legal aid service’. Displeasing at times, for many of us are barely aware of who an indigent person is. Well, we would have known this noblest idea had it not been cocooned by institutions that can potentially give life to the Council’s proposal.

Well, according to the legislative committee of the NC, an indigent person is a person who is poor, helpless and needy who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding.

In 2014, the then Member of Parliament, Gasa Dzongkhag, Dasho Sangay Khandu, first raised the Legal aid service to an indigent person in Parliament. Following this, the need for providing legal aid services to indigent persons have been discussed in different sessions of the National Council, particularly during the deliberations on the annual budget and appropriation bill. This was because a small amount of budget for this purpose was allocated every year but had never been utilized. Further, the concern was debated during the amendment of the Jabmi Act 2016. A new clause related to the provision of Legal aid was incorporated with the intent of assuring such services to the needy people. The National Council, during its strategic workshop held in Paro from June 25-26, 2017, once again deliberated it weighing in the merit of the concern and decided to undertake a comprehensive review. The Legislative Committee (LC) was assigned the task of conducting the analysis and reporting its findings and recommendation to the House.

The Legislative Committee adopted the following methodology;

  • Review of relevant laws and literature
  • Consultative meetings with relevant stakeholders
  • Learning visit to two countries in Asia

The Legislative Committee (LC) continued its third consultative meeting on the “Policy Review of Legal Aid to Indigent Person” with the Drangpons (Judges) from the Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI).

The Drangpons from BNLI shared that though the State provides an annual budget for legal aid. That different laws have different provisions under legal aid, and no agency has been identified/authorized by any of the existing legislation with the responsibility for implementing the provisions on Legal aid. There are no procedural guidelines for availing legal aid. Furthermore, people are unaware of the existence of such legal aid services provided by the State. They pointed out that the main aim of such provision is to provide access to justice; however, an appropriate agency to lead such crucial services could not be identified. One of the highlights of the meeting was the need for a clear definition as to who should qualify as an indigent person and who is eligible to receive such a legal aid.

Deliberations were held with regard to the possibility of creating a small interim cell mandated to evaluate the provisions of legal aid to indigent persons within the jurisdictions of Judiciary (such as Supreme Court) or whether the Bar Council would be the appropriate agency to provide legal aid instead of the establishment of a separate agency. It was found that Bar Council had a mandate of providing pro bono services to indigent persons but did not have the mandate to spearhead the legal aid services.

The National Council (NC) members with a show of hands endorsed all the provisions of the final resolutions on legal aid services and legal aid to an indigent person on November 28, 2017. The resolution has been forwarded to the Government in the hope of endorsement.

The crux of resolution was that the existing institutions such as the Office of Attorney General (OAG), Judiciary, Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI), the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Bar Council do not seem appropriate to initiate such legal aid in the country due to conflicts of interest and differing mandates.

Moreover, pertaining to civil matters, due caution should be exercised right from the beginning to prioritize the nature of cases such as those concerning family (matrimonial), children, domestic violence, monetary matters, land or property issues and issues arising from the infringement of constitutional rights to provide legal aid to indigent persons.

“The legal aid services and legal aid to an indigent person are available from the time the accused is held in custody to facilitate sufficient means to fairer judicial determinations,” the resolution stated.

The legal aid to an indigent person according to the resolution, should be eligible to persons with an income of Nu. 39,000 in a year based on the national minimum wage of Nu. 125 per day (Nu. 3,250 per month), or Nu. 69,648 in a year for urban areas and Nu. 39,012 in a year for rural areas based on the mean monthly per capita household expenditure of 2012.

Furthermore, it also mandates educational and awareness programme to raise awareness of the importance and availability of legal aid services to the general public and in particular, among police, courts and community functionaries.

Should indigent proposal come through and the Government of the day embraces the pros over insignificant cons in adopting the noblest idea, I’m in total agreement with some of the concerns raised by the then MPs that the legal aid service outlets should be only accessible to only the needy and voiceless – so-called ‘kha-med chey-med’. And yes, this should not open a floodgate for state fund. Stringent criteria must be adopted, and common ground must be found.

Marking a set back to the Council’s proposal, recently the Government has responded positively to the 20th Session’s resolution on providing legal aid to indigent persons. In fact, the response from the Government came lately towards the end of the 21st Session after the Council’s re-deliberation on the Government’s lack of response to its resolution. Nonetheless, the election of the National Assembly is around the corner and we hope the upcoming Government will continue to implement the resolution as stated in the response letter dated 25/06/2018. By doing so, it will uphold the Constitutional clauses that states, “The State shall endeavour to provide legal aid to secure justice, which shall not be denied to any person by reason of economic or other disabilities” and “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal and effective protection of the law and shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion, politics or other status”.

“The State shall endeavour to provide legal aid to secure justice, which shall not be denied to any person by reason of economic or other disabilities”

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal and effective protection of the law and shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion, politics or other status”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in here are self-authored based on existing literature and do not necessarily reflect the national council’s stance.