In an unprecedented and historic gesture, His Majesty the King granted dhar and kabney to the 190 Gups who were elected in the first historic local government elections of 27 June 2011. The award of kabney to Gups by His Majesty is unprecedented and symbolises the importance and apolitical nature of local governments in the new governance era.
His Majesty the King’s Address to the Gups:
I say, with happiness and great satisfaction, that in the few years since 2008, we have conducted the general elections, adopted the Constitution, and formed the houses of Parliament, constitutional bodies, and the Supreme Court. And today we have accomplished yet another milestone, in establishing the first local governments under democracy. We have, therefore, laid all the founding pillars of democracy in Bhutan so early in my reign, as I fulfill the vision of my father, His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, of a vibrant democracy.
Today on this most auspicious occasion, let me take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you.
It gives me immense pleasure to congratulate the representatives of the gewogs of the 20 dzongkhags and to thank them for having come forward to serve their communities. I am also grateful to the Election Commission of Bhutan, civil servants, armed forces and volunteers. With your hard work and the prayers of the Dratshang, we have conducted the historic first local government elections under democracy. I appreciate the efforts made by many people to travel and vote in their constituencies, in the spirit of democratic participation.
As a symbol of the independence and importance of local government, I am awarding your kabneys from the Throne. However, as you carry out your duties, remember you are not there to seek status, wealth or fame. Your primary goal is to serve the people without prejudice and bias and to always hold the interest of the nation above all. As citizens of a spiritual nation, be compassionate and fulfill the aspirations of the people with the highest standards of integrity.
We – elected officials, government and the King – are all here to serve our nation and people.
I must remind you that in democracy there are no winners and losers. Those who are capable and desirous of serving their country and people should come forward and stand for elections. Those, whom the people choose, must then serve without fear or favour. If we can do this, then democracy succeeds and the nation wins.
Democracy did not come to us overnight. It was a carefully planned process full of hard work and sacrifice, led by His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo. Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdus were established as far back as 1980 and Gewog Yargay Tshogchungs in 1990. Decentralization and empowerment of the grassroots has been a constant process, culminating in the transfer of powers from the Throne to the people under democracy. In the exercise of these powers, local governments are invaluable to the people.
That is why, first of all, I want to dispel a false perception. Local government is NOT the lowest level of government; it is the nearest and closest level of government for our people. For rural Bhutanese, local governments are indispensible avenues for participation in democracy and development. In the long run, the success of democracy in Bhutan will be determined by the success of local governments.
We are a small landlocked country, and our highest goals are the peace, prosperity, security and sovereignty of our nation. It is an important responsibility of Gups to ensure a harmonious and united society. In standing for elections, you sought the votes of the majority. In carrying out your duties you must gain the trust and faith of all the people. You must have intimate knowledge of the daily lives of the people in your constituencies; work in constant and close interaction with them and nurture cooperation, consensus and close-knit communities. In a largely rural country you are important not just in carrying out vital duties towards achieving development objectives of the people, but also in bringing about a harmonious and united society.
You might think that I have detailed your duties and responsibilities and the importance of local government, but have said few words of felicitation and praise for your success in the elections. Your work is yet to begin, and praise will not solve any of the problems facing our people. If, after five years, I find that you have served your constituencies well, that you have worked hard and without prejudice, and that above all, you have not hurt the sentiments of my people, I will be the first to commend and praise your achievements.