Even as the BKP convention came to an applauding end, with our President leading the most number of leksos (25, according to a Kuensel article), pockets of citizens were still gathered in conversation either among themselves or with party members for hours after the event had officially concluded. This was an incredible sight to behold on our end, considering that one of our mains objectives throughout has been encouraging robust civil dialogue and deepening democracy.
The overwhelming support and participation for the convention came, amidst our best efforts to reach each and every single Bhutanese through open invitations on all of our online platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, YouTube, Twitter), as well as proactive initiatives taken by our party members within their communities. Citizens from various walks of life and from different parts of our country flocked to the registration tables, which had to be eventually skipped as the waiting lines got longer and our schedule got delayed enough; After all, people had gathered to hear about BKP, from BKP itself, unpolluted by rumors and misinformation.
To build a house, the foundation must be strong; Likewise, to eventually build our democracy, we must always keep our heritage, culture and our gratitude to our Monarchs strong and unshakable. The convention kicked off with the Marchang offering, chanting of our National Anthem and a prayer in the form of Gyalpoi Zhapten, after which our Vice President, Mr. Sonam Tobgay delivered the opening remarks:
“It’s not us versus them, our party versus their party; whether we are Sharchop, Ngalop, Lhotshampa, Bumthap, Trongsap, or any other labels, we are Bhutanese first!”.
In addition, the vice president also highlighted the pledge of BKP to never allow our means to justify the end of winning the elections, which he said will either make or break our national sovereignty and self-reliance in the future. He reiterated our three views and concluded his speech by expressing his appreciation and respect for our President, whom he praised as straightforward and a person who still has her tha-damtse intact.
Next, Aum Kesang Choden stepped up to the podium to speak on ‘Women empowerment and Leadership’ where she shone the light on the lack of women in positions of leadership: “We have only one minister and 2 gups within our government”. The solutions she proposed began from a place of simplicity as she spoke about how the change in a more equitable representation must begin at home and eventually extend upwards since intellect and capability knows no predisposed biological advantage.
Mr. Sajan Rai of only 25 years old kicked off his impassioned speech by holding himself as a living example of BKP’s mission to train youths under older seasoned politicians, guided by right values and conduct. Moreover, he highlighted how half of the country’s population comprised of youth under 28 and expressed concern over the rising crime rates as well as the negative tone that are carried with politics. He hopes to do his part in changing both.
Mr. Lam Dorji, who had served as a civil servant mostly within the finance ministry for nearly four decades, did justice to his experience as he spoke about the upcoming 12th 5-year plan and upcoming hydropower projects. He stressed the importance of differentiating projects that come as a natural outcome of the 5-year plan and ones that are as a result of efforts from political parties. This he stated will allow the citizens to make a sober judgement on the performance of any political party. Eventually, he spoke at length about the importance of self-reliance and directed our attention to the rising national debt as an important factor to consider.
After the endorsement of BKP’s office bearers, executive committee and coordinators, came the most awaited moment of the day, the presidential speech by Dasho Neten Zangmo. Throughout her energetic speech filled with lines of humor, one quality kept on being repeatedly uttered: concern. Even describing herself as ‘concerned grandma Neten, who is young at heart’, she made sure that any listener understood how important concern was to democracy and our nation. Drawing from real life examples of her recent tour in the far flung areas of Bhutan, she highlighted how most issues were solvable: good quality seeds, toilets, easier and streamlined bureaucratic procedures. She went on to assure us that, if only we have concern, we can internalize these issues and genuinely work towards innovating solutions.
She also stressed the current understanding of democracy as being in the very preliminary and infantile stage;
people understand democracy only in the procedural sense of voting once every five years.
She reminded us about the need to rethink democracy as drawing its power from the people and its power to make us truly self-reliant. On this topic, she stressed the need to see this goal of self-reliance all the way from the individual household level to the national level. Finally she ended her address with a question that seemed to be very appropriate, considering her mission to encourage concern and deepen people’s understanding of democracy:
“If we don’t look after ourselves, no one will come from the outside to care for us. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”