His Majesty the King graced the convocation ceremony of the graduates from eight colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan. His Majesty spoke at length to the graduates and individually awarded degree certificates to 1088 students.
On the start of democracy and its future in Bhutan
On this issue, I can only repeat what I recently told the newly elected Gups recently. Our main priorities are the peace, prosperity, security and sovereignty of Bhutan. Towards these goals, we must all work together in first safeguarding our strong foundation of unity and harmony. In our small society, divisions and cleavages can manifest themselves in very destructive ways. We have seen this in other larger countries and the great price they have had to pay. Ngalop, Sharchop, Lhotshampa, Christians, Hindu, Buddhist, me against you, us against them – some people might resort to such useless and irrelevant classifications in their work and dealings with each other. In today’s world, it is more important that we worry about haves and have-nots – economic disparity. I always say, in the past, we were all equally poor. Today, with growing prosperity, we in Bhutan must be mindful of the threat posed by economic disparities within society. Its unfortunate and lasting effects can be seen in so many nations around the world.
I think the beginnings of democracy in Bhutan have been very successful. However, it will take constant work and commitment to make it a lasting success. It’s a long process during which we must deeply contemplate each step so that we do what is right. Mistakes we make today will be irreversible. We cannot falter on our path to a vibrant democracy with an equal and just society. There is no room for divisions and disparities in society.
We must always remember that the ultimate goal of all Bhutanese is the peace, security and sovereignty of our country. I am not speaking only of the physical defense of the nation. The armed forces, without hesitation, will sacrifice their lives to protect our nation and your security. I am confident of this. I am speaking of the peace and security that comes when we, at all times, are united in our love for our country through an abiding respect for our culture, values, laws and the national interest. This is the unique unifying Bhutanese character as individuals and as a nation, which must be nurtured for all time.
On Kidu for the weakest sections of the population and on Land Kidu
People must feel ownership over democratic growth. Public apathy is a democracy killer. However, for ownership to be nurtured, our people must have a stake in it. Land ownership is the ultimate share or investment that a person has in the success of his or her nation. From this can be built his or her future and the future of their children. It is for this reason that I have since my first address to parliament, always worked on land reforms in rural Bhutan.
For the future, due to the limited land available and growing urbanization, I feel we must shift focus from land ownership to home ownership by families. Creating equal stake in the country for all our people will be the key to the success of democracy.
On the system of Kabneys and Patangs creating inequalities in society
The solution to inequality is not in doing away with the kabney and patang. To understand the system of kabneys and patangs, you must first understand that our nation is a unique, small spiritual nation where our forefathers viewed their responsibilities to their fellow citizen and the nation in a special way. They were deeply connected to each other and to the country. They thought of service for the greater good as their duty. Thus, into such a nation, was born a unique system of kabneys and patangs based on merit. The kabney is the namza of the Buddha, of saints. It serves to remind the bearer of the need to carry out one’s duties with humility, compassion, justice and integrity. The patang is the tool of a warrior signifying the pledge that one has made to sacrifice oneself in the service of the nation. This is the tradition of patang and kabney I believe in, and the one which I hope inspires those who wear them. Being based on merit, kabneys and patangs are important in recognizing duties, achievements and values. The system is fine except for one small problem. In general, kabneys and patangs represent the office and not the individual, yet, some people continue to wear them even when their term in that office is over.
The problem of inequality is a much greater issue which should be addressed through bridging economic disparities at the national level, learning to respect one another irrespective of wealth or status at the individual level, and through the great social equalizer – education.
On the importance of honest and frank communication between young Bhutanese and His Majesty
Your views and thoughts are important to me. I want to know what they are, not change them. And while my advice and guidance to you may not always be pearls of wisdom, they will always be the truth.
On building their future
As young citizens, all of you must be contemplating with excitement, the future ahead for yourself and for Bhutan. The future of the nation rests in the hands of her individual citizens. Each of us must first be able to stand up and realize our own potential as individuals. Then we must fulfill our obligations to build loving, united and strong families.
Further upon these, we then build our higher allegiance and commitment to society and the country. There is complete interdependence in the relationship between these elements of a nation. Whatever goals you set for yourself, as you go out to fulfill them, do so with the right values – values that enrich your own life and the lives of those whom you touch on your journey. Gain the wisdom to achieve your personal goals and ambitions in harmony with others as they strive to achieve theirs. Acquire the right skills and knowledge but remember that learning is a lifelong process. Utilize the experience that comes from your personal efforts as you go but do not forget to use the vast experience that exists in history. I hope these words will be of use to you at the start of this new chapter in your lives.