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It’s simple, not two-thirds majority: Opposition

Assuming all members are present, a simple majority is enough to pass a bill in the National Assembly.

In trying to stress that the opposition had also voted for the pay revision Bill, the foreign minister at a recently held press conference incorrectly mentioned that the government needed a “two-thirds majority, which is 33 votes”.

The press conference was held following the opposition’s criticisms of the pay revision at a separate press conference after the parliament session.

A money Bill, which the pay revision report was, does not go to a joint sitting and can be passed by a simple majority, which is 24 votes, in the assembly.

This means that the government did not require the support of the opposition in passing the pay revision bill as it has 29 members, except the Speaker, who votes only in case of a tie.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said, “So the opposition could have killed the bill, if they wanted to. If all the opposition members opted not to vote with us, the bill would never have been passed.”

The Fourth Pay Commission’s report was first amended by the government and submitted to the 13-member economic and finance committee, which has seven members from the ruling party and six from the opposition.

The pay revision bill received 37 yes votes and two no votes, while five abstained. This means that members of the opposition also voted for the Bill.

“A Bill shall be passed by a simple majority of the total number of members of the respective Houses or by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses present and voting, in case of jointing sitting,” Article 13(4) of the Constitution states.

Although most had voted for the Bill, the opposition members have criticised the pay revision bill.

However, the government maintains that the opposition is party to the pay revision bill. “That’s why we say that speaking one thing in the Parliament and saying something else outside is nothing but an attempt to create distress and disharmony among our people,” Dr Tandi Dorji said.

Meanwhile, parliamentarians from Zhemgang have also raised questions about the legality of the decision to take the proposed tourism flagship programme from Zhemgang to Sarpang, saying that the decision could have undermined the parliament’s decision.

The recently concluded parliament session had endorsed Zhemgang as one of the four dzongkhags chosen for tourism flagship programmes. The annual budget 2019-20 initially allocated Nu 11 million each for Zhemgang, Dagana, Lhuentse and Gasa.

Zhemgang’s National Council member Pema Dakpa in a Facebook comment said he was hoping that the foreign minister, who is the TCB Chairperson, would have to give serious second thought while rejecting the approved Budget Act 2019-20 by the Parliament.

Panbang MP Dorji  Wangdi rejects the government’s clarification that it was a policy decision, which is within the power of the executive. He said that it would be considered a policy matter, if the decision were made before the pay revision was passed as a bill.

The foreign minister argues that both the Constitution and the public finance Act allows the executive to decide on plans and programmes of the country.

A former parliamentarian stated that it was not the first time that a parliament resolution had been ignored.

He cited the decision on Chamkharchhu, which was also not implemented. Similarly, the decision to establish a college in Zhemgang in the 12th Plan was also not implemented.

In another such case, the Royal Civil Service Commission in March had terminated the contract of 74 gaydrungs despite a standing resolution of the National Assembly to retain them.

The government is of the view that such resolutions of the parliament are different from legislative Bills.

MB Subba 

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