Monday, May 12, 2008

Media to monitor government functioning: Bhutan PM

Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigme Y. Thinley has said the media and people of the Himalayan kingdom would play the role of a watchdog to monitor the performance of the government in the absence of a formidable opposition in parliament.
“Our government would be transparent and accountable, and the media would play an important role to provide check and balance to the government,” the prime minister said while addressing the first joint session of parliament here. “Media’s role would be important and we’ll support and promote media.”

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan held its first parliament session Thursday after the isolated Buddhist nation shifted from monarchy to democracy following elections held in March.

There are just two opposition members in the 47 member National Assembly or the lower house in parliament. Forty-five are from the ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party that won a landslide victory against its only rival, the People’s Democratic Party. Thinley said the government’s priorities would be to work towards boosting the economy, besides generating employment and mitigating the woes of the poor.

“To alleviate poverty, we need to boost our economy and to do that we have to develop our private sector. We have to look for all means to create employment,” the prime minister said.

This is the first time that the lawmakers met at the renovated parliament in capital Thimphu after Bhutan made a historic transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy. During the next few weeks the lawmakers are expected to endorse the draft constitution, besides five bills of election, constitution, national assembly, national council and parliamentary entitlement.

According to Kuensel, Bhutan’s national newspaper, the parliament has an inverted C-shaped seating arrangement with seats raised by about six inches from the front row.

“Seating MPs face to face gives an air of aggressiveness. Therefore, to ensure harmony and discourage animosity during assembly meetings, opposition and ruling party MPs will be seated on either side of the Speaker without much partition and many empty spaces between them,” the Kuensel said.

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