The Path Forward
2008 will be recorded in the history of Bhutan as a milestone year. It will mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Bhutan has trod till there under the direct leadership of the wise monarchs. Bhutan saw Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, the Founder of Wangchuck Dynasty, carve out a peaceful nation from a country infested with intrigues, turmoil and civil war. Then came Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuck, the consolidator, who had to shoulder the daunting responsibility of an effective administrative mechanism to ensure the security and sovereignty of the young fragile Kingdom bequeathed in his hands. Next, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Father of Modern Bhutan, took up the helm of the Kingdom and surprised everyone with reforms that propelled Bhutan on the path of economic progress and sowed the seeds of democracy. The Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Man of Vision, transformed Bhutan into a modern country Gross National Happiness as its guiding philosophy. He amazed the world by going into the battlefield. The Man of Vision shocked the Bhutanese by offering them with the invaluable gift of democracy. Bhutan never had such a king and will never have one like Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, so did the Fifth Druk Gyalpo address the nation.
Bhutan is on the threshold of entering into a new era of democracy with a new King and a new government. People are sentimental and sceptical of the new era. Sentimental as they will lose the direct leadership of the King, the dynasty that had steered Bhutan into prosperity and a secure sovereign Nation. Sceptical as they are not confident about the performance of the new government and its leadership. The journey ahead from 2008 lies in the hands of the people. People will now decide their own future, The government chosen by the people will steer the country. The Fifth King has already gained the name of “People’s King.” This clearly indicates that besides being a symbol of unity and Bhutanese identity in the a democratic country, His Majesty will also continue to guide the new government.
However, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck has injected enormous amount of money and energy into educating the people on democracy and the benefits it will bring. This move and transition is not haphazard nut it has been an evolutionary process. The seeds of democracy had already been sown by the Third Druk Gylapo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck with the institution of Tshogdu, National Assembly and Lodroe Tshogde, Royal Advisory Council. Then during the time of Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogchung and the Geog Yargay Tshogchung were instituted to take decision making to the grassroots level. The devolution of power in 1998 is yet another phase in Bhutan’s evolution into a democratic nation. Thus, these different moves are all telling signs of Bhutan’s preparedness to embrace democracy.
The path ahead is a challenge for Bhutan. It is time for the Bhutanese to tread along it with commitment to strive and carve out a strong democratic nation. If Bhutan’s Man of Vision gifted Bhutan with democracy it is the responsibility of the Bhutan’s King and Bhutanese to value this invaluable gift so that the next generation will inherit a stable nation.
Courtesy: Research Unit, Bhutan Times