I just wonder how and why there are such strong forces to chip away the formative rock of Constitution of Bhutanese democracy ?
In a span of a week this month, two mighty institutions the RCSC and the Ecclesiastical Body have probed the spine of democracy.
1. The Chairman of Royal Civil Service Commission ( RCSC) has called upon the Law Makers to soon frame a law to outlaw for 3 years the participation in democratic election process by those civil servants and office bearers of apolitical offices after their resignation from such Posts.
This is deliberately aimed at subverting participation in democratic process by those experienced and well known personalities. Such anti democracy laws if enacted would ensure that Political Parties would always remain weak not just financially as is the present situation but also in future remain much weaker in terms of able human resources. ( refer Kuensel issue of 9th May,2015 under article on Cooling Off period ).
2. The highly regarded and respected Ecclesiastical Central Monastic Body has opposed the Slaughter and Meat Processing Project undertaken by the Government to meet the demand of quality meat products of beef, pork, chicken and fish. The objection is based on Buddhist religion and sentiments.
As a Buddhist , it is just not conscientiously possible to fault the demand of the Central Monastic Body. Therefore with due respect I shall simply present the other side of outlook from the point of livelihood and economic sustainability and constitution aspects.
1. This is not the first slaughter house project in the Buddhist Kingdom. Many years back, a slaughter house for supply of beef was established in Phuentsholing. It died a commercial death within a short duration. The slaughter house could not compete in price with the beef supply from butcher shops that got their beef supplies directly from India.
The irony is that in the later years the Central Monastic Body had constructed a huge complex in what used to be a market area for vegetable vendors and butcher shops in Phuentsholing town. And few of the tenants were butcher shopkeepers selling beef, pork, chicken and fish.
Bhutan imports a huge quantity of raw meat and processed meat products from India and other Countries. This huge import cost is a drain on the scarce foreign currencies especially Indian Rupees. The slaughter and meat processing product project does hurt the national Buddhist sentiment. A Buddhist cannot defend this project without casting the eyes down upon the feet in moral and spiritual shame. And for me who have worshipped the ecclesiastical body so deeply and truly, it is doubly heart wrenching.
But what about national economic sustainability goal, the need to develop agro industries and create jobs in construction, on farms, in manufacturing, packaging, transport and transportation, marketing and retailing ? Today the numerous egg farms in Bhutan have reduced dependence on imported eggs and so would the meat processing plant if the same is accepted.
Bhutanese have traditionally lived off the land and domestic animals. Slaughtering animal for basic dietary requirement is not a new present day trend. This existed along with practice of Bon and Buddhism Beliefs. Only in the last several years ,the culture of Tsethar was so forcefully propagated
to the detriment of the livelihood of the yak herders. In the near future , yak herding will be a story of the past thanks to the stigma imposed by narrow tsether minds.
Monks and laymen have harmoniously lived not just side by side but mingled interdependently for so many centuries in understanding tolerance of each others livelihood needs and spiritual essence. Must transgressions and dominance be promoted in this present age?
The Constitution of Bhutan states that Bhutan is a Secular Kingdom. Many voices appealed for the nation to preserve Buddhism as the State Religion during the public consultation of the draft constitution. I submitted a written appeal to the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee in addition to making a public appeal to His Majesty during consultation in Haa Dzongkhag.
I submitted that international community would understand and accept for a known Buddhist Kingdom the right to preserve its age old tradition of Buddhism as state religion even under constitutional monarchy democratic system. The new system need only to permit religious freedom to those of other faiths. I also appealed for preservation of traditional political participatory role of the Central Monastic Body. However, the approved Constitution did away with the centuries old tradition of central monastic role in national politics and Buddhism as state religion. Monks are not even allowed to vote let alone exercise say. So how would the nation address this appeal by the ecclesiastical body ?
Now how does the Parliament or the Government deal with the letter of appeal from the Central Monastic Body demanding the scrapping of the slaughter house project on grounds of compassion for sentient beings ?
The Government can of course scrap the project and fulfill the ecclesiastical wish of the Dratsang to whom the whole nation turn to whenever faced with national crisis and natural calamity. The appeal letter has already warned of the wrath of the Providence. In terms of economic calculation this meat project is peanuts compared to the economic and sovereign fallouts that the nation suffers from the scrapping of the South Bhutan Highways.
Maybe the constitutional democratic leaderships of Bhutan can close both their eyes to the principles of the Constitution and national sovereignty. And if the intent of RCSC Chairman is legislated by the Parliament,the principal of democracy too will become a blind man light.