As the country observed its 105th National Day on December 17, His Majesty the King delivered a very strong address full of important messages.
His Majesty began by emphasizing the challenges that lay ahead of us as we near the second democratic elections in 2013. He urged all citizens to participate in the upcoming elections “as candidates, members of parties and voters” and he emphasized that experience only comes with participation. This is an important message and it comes at a time when our first tryst with democracy has left many citizens dissatisfied and disillusioned with the process, given the performance of the first elected government because of which many are wondering if is worth it to go to the polls in the first place. His Majesty stressed that whether we choose continuity or go for change, we can have it only by going to the polls.
His Majesty applauded the solidarity and the community vitality shown by the people during disasters like when the Wangdue Dzong was destroyed by fire and people came together, leaving all differences aside, in a movement to restore the Dzong to its original glory. His Majesty said that such bond of brotherhood should not only come during disasters but in the process of taking the country forward and such an exercise awaited each one of us in taking part in the upcoming elections.
His Majesty once again reiterated that socio-economic growth is not enough and that growth should be achieved with equity. This is a vision His Majesty has been propagating time and again and it is what he meant when he described the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as nothing else but development with values.
The throne has always stressed on the need to adopt an inclusive development approach by keeping people in the center of the development process. Reiterating it further, His Majesty said that the poor must not be left behind. He said that the less fortunate citizens should also benefit from the opportunities of progress and modernization “at the earliest.” This is also a strong message for the government of the day and to all political parties to get their priorities right and to ensure that the growing income disparity in the country is dealt with utmost urgency.
It is intriguing to note that His Majesty singled out the rupee shortage as a “serious problem” and described it as a “reminder” to “exercise our traditional sense of caution and work harder as we address the challenges of the time.”
His Majesty also spoke out loud by accrediting and giving away numerous awards. Giving away the highest award of Druk Thuksey to institutions like the two political parties, the two parliamentary houses, and the Royal Audit Authority highlighted the importance of institution building at this stage of transition to democracy.
Awarding Druk Thuksey to head of the Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project, the Indian Ambassador and two former Indian Ambassadors for their contribution to furthering Bhutan-India Friendship also went a long way in consolidating the importance of India as a true friend of Bhutan. This gesture from the throne will also put the ongoing debate on Bhutan’s foreign policy to rest. It all began after the prime minister met the Chinese premier along the sidelines of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro in June. It unsettled many power centers with India going almost on a frantic run to understand the new developments.
A very important message was sent by the throne in awarding the coveted red scarf to four distinguished citizens. Apart from crediting two officials for their contribution to the hydropower sector, awarding Dasho Sonam Kinga and Dasho Karma Y Raydi came as a pleasant surprise because this is the first time that the throne has used the coveted accreditation to recognize young future leaders for their potential. It also comes at a time when the country is in dire need of future leaders, the absence of which is felt in many sectors including the formation of new political parties.
His Majesty described Dasho Sonam Kinga as a “sound role model for our youth” and as has been the trademark of His Majesty’s speeches, he highlighted the importance of the youth in his address by reiterating that the youth of Bhutan should receive education which should be complimented with the access to right jobs and responsibilities. Again, the throne did not only stress on the provision of jobs for the younger generation but the importance of giving them the “right” jobs to nurture them into productive citizens. Accrediting 112 teachers furthered the royal conviction of the importance to guide the youth in the right path.
This National Day address was significant for a lot of reasons. It was the last address to the nation before the second democratic elections and the whole nation was listening to what the throne had to say. The address was befitting the occasion and full of important messages.