The end of 2012 is not like that of any other year. It is significant because it brings to a close the term of Bhutan’s first democratically elected government, which came into power in 2008. Through the trials and errors, successes and failures of the Druk Puensum Tshogpa party, we hope that politicians thinking of, or hoping to assume office in 2013 will have learned that the Bhutanese people expect much from their elected leaders. It is hoped that they will understand and take seriously their roles and responsibilities as representatives of the people.

DPT’s term in office in the last few years became increasingly mired in cases of corruption, abuse of power, and lack of transparency through accusations brought against them by the media and by critics. This created a very contentious environment between the opposition and some members of the media and the ruling party.  As is normally the case, this also created strong fault lines and divisions within society. Some felt that both sides were dealing with the issues unhealthily, causing concern that Democracy was not really working for us.
This was all brought to a close on National Day in December, when His Majesty the King graciously recognized both the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader for their work in building Bhutan’s fledgling democracy. They were awarded the highest honor – The Druk Thuksey medal – for their contributions.  His Majesty the King, whose speech stirred the nation, was seen as the unifying factor amidst this contentious political climate.  With 2013 here and yet another election upon us, let us not forget the words of His Majesty the King:
“Remember, achieving democracy is not the goal. The real fruits of our efforts should be that democracy brings greater unity, harmony and prosperity to our Nation. Democracy must be able to fulfill the aspirations of our People.”
While political issues are important, so are social ones. The recent death of a two-year old hit by a gate in the park is not a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Neglect and irresponsibility to finish work properly; be it gates, buildings, roads, or bridges, often result in deaths of young children and other innocent citizens. A 5-year old drowning in a pool of water at a construction site, a child falling into a septic tank and drowning, people hit by traffic because there are no stop signs or cross-walks, should all tell us that we need accountability. These are not mere freak accidents, they are caused by neglect and lack of concern that people will get hurt or killed.
With 2013 here, let us take the opportunity do our bit to act, speak, work, and behave responsibly. It is never too late, and we are never too young or old to try. In the words of the Buddha: “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.”
Wishing each and every one of you a Happy New Year!

Sonam Ongmo

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