I caught a small bit of the NA proceedings yesterday and saw an MP comment that NC members do not deserve money for constituency visits because ‘NC members are apolitical’.
Now, because I did not watch the entire proceedings where the members of the National Assembly deliberated on the role of NC and NA, I will not comment on the need for such a budget or who has a right to veto financial bills or make changes- these are long standing arguments that need another post and a lot of thought.
But I am surprised that the NA members consider only themselves ‘political’ and think that the NC members, and the local leaders, who have been elected in almost the same manner, are not.
I don’t know on what basis the NA members make this difference. If they are going by the constitution, then I must say I think they have misread it.
The constitution says that National Council elects will not belong to or affiliate with any political party. I do not see the word ‘apolitical’ used.
Now politics is not limited to political parties. There are different types of politicians. there are people who belong to political parties, and there are individual politicians, and in my understanding, in Bhutan we have both. We have parties, and it is vital that politicians in other decision making bodies, such as the local government and the National Council, do not belong to or affiliate themselves with any party, because this could severely hamper the democratic process and render the entire setup useless.
But NC members who have been elected by the people of their constituencies, and local leaders who have done the same are politicians as well.
They have been chosen by the people in the hope that they will, in a position of power, make decisions that benefit the public who have voted for them. They too have contested in elections with rival candidates, and have worked to convince the public that they are the right person to sit in the decision making bodies representing the people. And they too are answerable to the people who have voted for them. This makes them as ‘political’ as any NA member.
Revision- 11 July 2011: Tharchen started blogging, his first post is about how he became a dairy farmer.
I was reading Bhutan Today the other day and the front page carried some article about Bhutan’s UN Security Council hopes. I think this is an important bit of news because it is a significant indicator of our growth as a nation that is looking to be more active in world politics. There was something about it last Saturday in Business Bhutan, but of course when we have 8 newspapers in the country we will expect to read the same topics hopefully with more information and a different take, or as the newspeople say, ‘angle’ to it.
The article in Bhutan Today made me cringe a little because in the first paragraph it quoted a Nepal newspaper as it’s source on the information regarding what the Bhutan officials were doing abroad.
I see so much wrong in this. Firstly it doesn’t look good for the paper to have to source information about our own country from papers based outside. Second I have learnt in my stint as a reporter that a lot of the stuff we find online are not reliable, second sources are always a big risk. I don’t blame the reporter, much, anyway. A journalist’s job is to look for the news on their own, but since this reporter was not with the said officials at that time, I can see how he would have a hard time reporting. Add to that the fact that our people in the government are not exactly accessible, especially when abroad. I understand that they are busy with the conference.
But I also wish they would understand that whatever is being said on behalf of the country in international forum is important news back home and it is their duty to see to it that the right information reaches the papers back home so that they do not have to resort to trawling the internet and seeking second hand information from foreign publications. The journalists should attempt to contact the right people but these people should also be forthcoming about the developments, especially since it is important that the country hears whats going on from our own representatives.
This is old news, the whole BICMA regulations or guidelines or whatever they are calling it, on films. There have already been a lot of smart responses, but I’d like to add some views of my own.
I don’t know how strictly they are going to enforce the ‘guidelines’, but I don’t see any point in making guidelines if they are not to be implemented- that’s just a waste of time and resources. I read somewhere about the new set of guidelines being just that- guidelines, which will not necessarily have to be followed- pointless, so maybe I misunderstood.
If these are to be enforced, though, I see problems. If BICMA’s goal is to promote culture and language in the country, I would advise them to let the movies be. Our movies in general are not that great, even the filmmakers admit that. Mostly they are borrowed bollywood themes with a convoluted storyline and song sequences. But the producers and directors argue that this is the kind of movies that people want, and if that is the case, I say fair enough. Quality could be improved with awards, which could also include culture and language (oh, that’s already there).
In my view, the more dzongkha movies we have, the more popular they are, the more popular the songs are, the more people learn the language.An example is the new ‘Sharchokpa Zamin’ which is full of western outfits, but was a huge hit. The songs were so popular even people who are not into dzongkha songs were humming them. That’s good I say. Let the filmmakers do their thing, let them do what they think will make their films popular, because popular dzongkha movies will draw in those people who are not into dzongkha, and they will learn.
Besides that, of course movies should be allowed to portray life as it is, not what BICMA thinks is appropriate.
What about violence, nudity, profanity, and the like, then, and the impact such content will have on our young impressionable minds? Well, there is an answer to that, and it is called film ratings. If BICMA really wants to lookout for young impressionable minds, they can start rating films based on their content and allotting age appropriate ratings. Then the theatres can ensure that the young people are not watching what they should not. An attempt to completely block such content from this section of the population is impossible- there is the internet and TV full of unregulated content. All we can hope for is that the adults take responsibility and monitor the children’s intake of media in whatever form.
And for adults, well, is the BICMA trying to protect the adults from violent and sexual content in media? Honestly?
Recently, a ban on the muslim veil, burqua, came into force in France. This means that Muslim women in France can no longer wear the burqua.
My first reaction to this news, last year when the legislation was passed, was of disagreement. An average Bhutanese like me is already averse to bans in all its forms, I suppose. We have had our fill, with plastic and meat and now tobacco and perhaps, soon, alcohol.
So without a second thought, I made up my mind that this ban was wrong. Then I watched on TV a muslim woman who had this to say, “What kind of woman will want to cover her face at all times? It is hard to get by in a modern city with a thick cloth covering your face. No woman actually wants it, it is the men in their families who want them to cover their faces. This law liberates the women who want to lead normal lives but cannot, because of the dominating men in their family who force them to wear these veils. I welcome this legislation.”
Well, that’s a new way of thinking about it. I wondered if it was true- did women really not want to wear these veils, in cities like Paris, but were forced by the orthodox and dominating fathers, brothers, husbands and sons to do so? It sounded plausible to me, after all, like the woman said, why would anyone want to cover their faces at all times? If that was true, then all these women who never had the courage to fight back were now freed from wearing a veil, thanks to this law.
I was wondering about this, but still uncomfortable that this conculsion was not the right one. In my head I was drawing comparisions to the suttee system in India long back- How widows had to sit on their husband’s funeral pyre and die. That was wrong, and it was outlawed, rightly. Was this the same?
Perhaps there are women who want to be freed of wearing a veil at all times throughout their lives- and are secretly happy that now they can.
But on thinking about this for a while, I come to the conclusion that this law is still wrong. Because my leaning towards this law is based on the assumption that the women actually don’t want the veil, but are being forced into wearing it by their men. But this is an assumption. I am sure there are a lot of muslim women in France. Some may not want to wear the veil, but are being forced to by their family. Some, however inconceivable it may seem to us, may want to wear it! And if a single woman in France wants to wear a veil, she has every right to do so. Having a law that denies her this right is wrong.
We may not agree with this woman, we may think she is pushing back women’s rights and feminism, we may wonder why she would want to cover her face at all times in public. But we cannot deny that she has every right to wear whatever she wants to.
And if what the woman said was true, it is indeed sad for many women who are being opressed. We can hope that they become braver. Or perhaps the law can be tweaked to say that no one can force another to wear a veil. And hope that these women who don’t want the veil can stand up to those who opress them, when backed by the law. Because no one can tell someone else what to wear or what not to wear. Not the men, not the social circle, and not the government.
And of course this conclusion also underscores the wrong of our own bans. Ban on something personal as clothing, or smoking, is wrong.
Our legislators know this, which is why smoking, or consumption of tobacco per se is not illegal in Bhutan, they will argue. As long as you buy your cigarettes or khaini legally, you can continue with your vice. True.
But Tobacco is a habit that people cannot just shake off easily, and when it is too hard to do something legally, then people tend to turn to the illegal. Some laws encourage criminal behaviour, just by making everyday things people do a criminal activity. People have their own moral compass. And although we see a lot of crimes being committed, these are only a small percentage of the society. When a large section of the society are breaking laws, when otherwise straight people are committing crimes, then we know the problem is with the law.
Getting cigarettes or khaini legally is just too hard in Bhutan. So the people, bound to their habits, break the law. And then the punishment is just too harsh, way off balance when compared to the crime. And worse, only a small percentage of those who break the law are punished, perhaps because of the incompetence of the enforcers, perhaps because the law is so twisted it’s impossible to enforce fairly anyway.
I have heard people speak about making sacrifices for the greater good. they sympathise with those who are caught and face 3 years of jail time, but say that this law needs to be there ‘for the greater good’.
But sacrifices are never justified, unless they are voluntary. God is in the details, they say. And when the details are wrong there can never be a greater good.
All bans are wrong when they tread on your personal freedom. The ban on veils in France, and the ban on sale of tobacco in Bhutan.
So the monk who was caught with some packets of BABA kahini gets three years in jail. I am waiting for the uproar. Although I don’t understand why we had to wait for a person to go through all this to make a noise about just how wrong the tobacco control act is. Why did we have to put a monk into prison, to start stopping something terrible.
Why didn’t people say something when this act was passed? The fact that we let this happen fills me with dread. What other things are we going to allow in our country?
It amazes me that people still need to hear the debate about whether the TCA is right or not, and for MPs to defend the act.
Let me tell you why this law is wrong. First of all, take the monk’s case. He was unlucky. There have been many people who have been caught with ‘illegal’ cigarettes, but who have been let off with a warning. Sonam was unlucky that whoever caught him wasn’t in the mood to give him another chance. It was also unfair that other people should get a warning and Sonam should get three years.
When I was working for the papers, I knew all the other journalists, and let me tell you, 90 percent of the journalists smoked. I don’t know how many gave up after the ban. I wouldn’t put my money on the odds of even a single person to have given up, though. I know that there are a lot of smokers in Bhutan. Almost every other person I know smokes. And they haven’t stopped smoking after the ban. And it’s too hard to get the receipt. Most of the smokers today smoke ‘illegally’, and everyone must have broken that law at least once. If the enforcers really do their job our jails will be full and there will still be more ‘criminals’ outside. Yes, if we caught all the ‘criminals’ in Bhutan, ours will be the biggest crime rate in the world, thanks to the TCA.
The laws of a country are sacred, and they are to be framed after very careful thought. Yes, we don’t want our people to smoke or consume tobacco. But is this the right way of going about it? How is it that we, the Bhutanese, who are known for GNH and Buddhism, chose the path of punishment rather than compassion and teaching? The end should not justify the means. The law should only step in when we cause harm to someone else. When a father drinks and beats his wife and children, the country should think of stepping in to improve the lives of the victims.
Our lawmakers need to look seriously at their jobs and their responsibility. Spiderman was told that with great power comes great responsibilities. I would like to remind our MPs of this. It is a great responsibility to decide the laws of the land. We chose you to shoulder this responsibility, for some reason or the other, whether you really were deserving of this responsibility or not. Please prove to yourselves and to us that we were right in choosing you.
Someone once told me that if there is a law that many of the people in the country are not following, then it must be a bad law. I think it was the Chief Justice. This law makes criminals out of people.
The court said today that the monk broke the law, and the law says that he should serve three years prison term. But this law is wrong. And it should be changed before it can do any more damage.
Surely there is a better way for us to stop people in our country from smoking. A way that is more suited to the image that Bhutan projects to the outside world.