Test of our Integrity

It is a nostalgic moment, for it is the last editorial before the 2023 elections. The next will be about the winners and losers, complaints from the latter, and celebrations amidst supporters of the former.

More than nostalgia is a greater and more profound sensitivity that pushes at this very important juncture – the sense of responsibility towards the nation. This snowballs with increasing allegations of electoral malpractice reportedly happening around the country; money changing hands; gifts sent to households under the shadow of darkness, soft threats, and many more. Seeing and hearing the common Bhutanese electorate expressing their hopelessness to take such allegations to concerned agencies, especially because they do not possess the “solid evidence” demanded by the officials and agency, further acts as a catalyst.

Digressing slightly from this theme is an anecdote. Karma (name changed), a junior civil service in Thimphu when asked which party his postal ballot (PB) is going to, said. “I will have to consult my family at home as I do not know my representative. And I want to know which party is throwing money as my vote will not go to that party.” Only if all Bhutanese thought and acted like him!

Most of the PB might have reached Bhutan Post by now. But there is still time to prevent parties that want to win by any means, by resorting to means that are against the law and the universal law of goodness. And this responsibility falls on the literate lot, those that are fortunately sitting in comfortable offices. We and especially our people in the villages feel obligated very fast. They develop misplaced compassion. So, even if a political candidate or a member of a party gives them Nu 500, they feel obligated and to go against is seen and looked at as someone who has no Tha-Damtse. And this is exploited.

Most public servants say it does not matter which government comes to power. They will be doing their daily jobs. But it matters, for some political parties will make their daily jobs a routine job they will look up to. Some will listen to their issues and go beyond their pledges. Some can inspire and make public servants love their profession. Thus, the kind of government that comes to power matters.

In the words of His Majesty The King, there is the quintessential Bhutanese value of Tha-damtsi, or integrity. We were able to succeed in our purpose because of the integrity of the Bhutanese people, and our commitment to serve the people and achieve all our national goals.

If we remain mere spectators, knowing that integrity is chopped in the political slaughterhouses, we are no less than the ones engaging in these devious acts. We ought to raise our voices and like Karma convey a message to those using their economic might that votes cannot be bought. We can do this by calling our folks and telling them not to support parties engaging in such acts. It is an insult to our innate sensibility and the solemnity with which we have always done our jobs.

His Majesty The King has also said: “When I reflect on our achievements, it is evident that our success as a nation can be attributed mainly to the wisdom, foresight and courage of our forefathers to always take the right decision at the right time.” We are proud of our values that have stood the test of time. But being proud only will not suffice. We have to act to strengthen our values. We have to take the right decision. And the time is now; to come together and vote out parties that are basking on the strengths of their bank balances. If not, the poor and underprivileged will never get an opportunity to participate in elections and public trust in democracy will continue to wane.

The 2023 NA elections is more than just another election. It is a test of our integrity.