|Art by Ugyen Wangdi (STCBL)|
November 11 is finally here. It is that time of the year when Bhutanese people think in the same wavelength of thoughts and that time of the year when gratitude finds natural flow in all our hearts. And for people of remote Shingkhar Gewog in Zhemgang, November 11, 2015, bears special significance for their lives will never be the same again as they welcome electricity for the first time in their lives on this day. That will forever brighten their dark lives. And what a fitting and historic time to rejoice the coming of the light in the darkness! For this happiness and more, we would like to thank the selfless Monarch, who brought lights in the darkness. Thank you, Your Majesty! (Below, I share with you the tribute to His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan that I have contributed to the November-December 2015 edition of Tashi Delek, the in-flight magazine of Drukair- Royal Bhutan National Airlines.)
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the twenty-first-century leader, a true Buddhist King, and an exemplary leader. His Majesty is a special person, who finds special places in the hearts and minds of all Bhutanese. He is a king, who moved the world by renouncing his power when elsewhere people die for it and are unwilling to give up or share their powers. But Bhutanese people are fortunate because we live in the age of Bodhisattva kings for whom people's welfare and happiness are the top priorities.
His Majesty is a monarch to whom the security and sovereignty of the nation means more than his personal safety. He is a king who understood the concept of impermanence and had carefully nurtured democracy in the country. In fact, His Majesty had gifted the people with democracy when people adamantly refused it.
That way we are a blessed nation of blessed people. Like all Bhutanese, my chest swells with pride knowing that I was born in this magical place called Bhutan and share this great country with the fortunate fellow Bhutanese.
2003 was a testing time for Bhutan and her people. That was a painful memory. But we will never forget the King, who put his life on the line in order to safeguard ours. His Majesty the Fourth King against the wishes of all concerned citizens decided to lead the armed forces personally to the battleground and justified, “When I say that I will put my life before my men, I don’t say it because it sounds beautiful, I say it because I genuinely mean it from the core of my heart.”
Normally, we hear and read of a country’s leader ordering the forces, but our His Majesty chose to be at the forefront. Two days prior to the military operation, His Majesty addressed his soldiers, “I will not be in the capital and give out orders. I hold the responsibility of safeguarding the security and independence of our nation. I am here today, to look after the safety and welfare of our soldiers because I worry for you from my heart, for you are like my own children. This is my true duty and responsibility.”
Nothing captures that moment and what it all entailed better than Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangchuck’s rendition of living history at Dochula, which is now dotted with 108 chortens erected to commemorate Bhutan’s success in flushing out the Indian militants from the Bhutanese soil, under the leadership of His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan and to remember those soldiers, who had to give up their lives for the nation.
The Druk Wangyel Lhakhang built under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck honours the King, who personally led the troops to the battlefield and bravely removed the insurgents. The majestically towering Lhakhang is a beautiful blend of our rich tradition and modernity. The temple is a living museum of beautiful Bhutanese architecture and craftsmanship. The colorfully painted murals for example, eternally depict scenes from that historic chapter in 2003. Her Majesty also established Dochula Druk Wangyel Tshechu in 2011 (which is now held on December 13 every year), which, in essence captures the heroic deeds of His Majesty in the defense of the Kingdom’s sovereignty. It is a fitting tribute to the invaluable deeds of His Majesty the King.
Although most would believe that democracy was introduced in the country only in 2008 His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck had sown a true seed of democracy in the Land of the Thunder Dragon way back in 1981. His Majesty announced the establishment of Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (DYT), a district development committee in each Dzongkhag that would be responsible for the formulation of development plans and coordination of activities and further His Majesty strengthened the process by taking it to the grassroots with the establishment of Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (GYT) in 1991.
The decentralization process gave the local leaders opportunities to plan and implement their own development agenda in consultation with the people, who elected them. The community members had the power to choose their leaders to represent them at the GYT, DYT and the National Assembly. In the process, people were increasingly involved in planning their development agenda.
As early as 2001, His Majesty initiated the drafting of written Constitution for Bhutan and the Draft Constitution was distributed to the people for review and comments in 2005. His Majesty and the Crown Prince personally consulted with the people and intently listened to their views and recommendations. This was done against the backdrop of people requesting the King to defer the democratic process itself reasoning that the nation was not ready for it. But His Majesty declared, “During my consultations on the Constitution in different Dzongkhags, the main concern of our people is that it is too early to introduce parliamentary democracy in Bhutan…. After 26 years of the process of decentralization and devolution of powers to the people, I have every confidence that people will be able to choose the best political party that can provide good governance and serve the interest of the nation.”
His Majesty said, “It is my duty, as the King, to strengthen the nation so that the people, and the nation becomes more prosperous and secure than before. During the past years of my reign, I have made constant efforts to empower the people by delegating authority, resources and responsibility to them. Reforms on decentralization and devolution of power have been quiet but continuous.”
But more historically, in 1998 His Majesty said that it was time to promote ‘even greater people’s participation in the decision-making process’. He declared, “Our country must be ensured to always have a system of government which enjoys the mandate of the people and also has an inbuilt mechanism of checks and balance to safeguard our national interest and security.”
In the manner befitting a true Buddhist, His Majesty selflessly passed down all his executive powers to the newly elected Council of Ministers while he assumed as the head of the State only. His Majesty declared that he was abdicating the Throne and that we would have parliamentary elections in 2008. This benumbed a nation, but the King further surprised his citizens by abdicating the Throne in 2006. His Majesty was only 51 years old and perfectly fit to lead the nation. This can only happen in Bhutan.
As scripted by His Majesty the Fourth King, Bhutan adopted a written Constitution in 2008 and ushered in a new era of democracy with the elected government in place.
In his speeches to the students, His Majesty had always maintained that the young people are the future of the country and he had always attached great importance to them.
By abdicating the Throne while still young, His Majesty gifted us the Fifth King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, a king, who finds joy in meeting his people and talking to them; a king who is usually the first to console his people and lend them moral support when something tragic happens and a king who treasures the nation’s young people.
Thank you, Your Majesty for gifting us a king who finds pleasure in walking the length and breadth of this country to be with his people and hear their plights, a king who finds time to share moments with the young graduates entering the job market, a king who goes out of his way to inspire our leaders with his precious wisdom, which is matured beyond his age; a king who finds time to play with his people; a king who finds pleasure in cooking meals to his subjects and sharing wonderful moments with them. Jigme Khesar is truly the People’s King!
In his 34 years of leadership, the Fourth King had transformed this unheard village-like country to a modern nation in sync with the process of modernization while also safeguarding our age-old traditions and rich cultural legacy. And more importantly, His Majesty will always be remembered for propounding to the outside world that for Bhutan, “Gross National Happiness is more important than the Gross Domestic Product”.
As the nation comes together to celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty this year, I humbly would like to pray and wish His Majesty the best of health and long and fulfilling life. On this historic moment, I offer my sincerest prayers for ever-lasting peace, happiness and steady progress for this nation.
I would like to convey my heartiest Tashi Delek and congratulations to all the people of Bhutan for having had the fortune of serving a Bodhisattva King.
Thank You, Your Majesty!
Happy birthday Your Majesty.
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