Orienting new members to parliamentary conventions, familiarising them with national issues and establishing committees for the house to begin functioning are what the new National Council chairperson intends to do on assuming his office.
Trashigang council member Dasho Sonam Kinga yesterday was elected the new National Council chairperson, securing 15 votes of the 25 the members cast.
Two other councilors, who competed for the post, Gasa’s Sangay Khandu and Pemagatshel’s Jigme Rinzin won eight and two votes respectively.
No sooner than the results were declared, for the next almost one-hour tea break after the election, calls poured in on the chairman-elect’s mobile phone from friends, relatives and well wishers and, as he responded, he did so moseying around the lawn outside the National Council hall, the phone glued to his ear.
All the while, some of his colleagues waited around him to wish him.
The chairman, who said the outcome of the election was approximate to his calculations and assessments, occasionally moved into his office to receive more calls.
While in his office, many council members said that was how their phones rang the night before the elections yesterday.
“The three candidates were calling us to support them and called a couple of times again to reconfirm our support,” one member said. “After a while, I had to switch off my phone and it wasn’t until the election this morning that I turned it on again,” said another.
Many said they voted, based on what the candidates pledged for the institution and its members, besides their oratory skills.
As the new chairman, Dasho Sonam Kinga said some of the immediate tasks ahead were, besides orienting members to parliamentary procedures, acquainting them with the committee practices.
That, he said would be followed by a series of policy orientations, where new members would be familiarised with national issues and existing policies that deal with them.
“Thereafter, we also need to immediately institute our committees because National Council as much as the National Assembly functions through its committees,” he said, adding formation of committees, electing its chairs, finalising its members, and delegating specific tasks to the committees collectively would be a major preoccupation.
“The reason why we need to do this is to prepare for the first parliament session,” he said.
The proceedings in the hall, he said, needed to be rethought, streamlined and strengthened, which entailed revisiting the way the house carried out consultative process for any bills, in terms of policy reviews and committee works.
“Each of these tasks have their strengths and loopholes that need to be addressed,” he said.
Although he chose not to specify the strengths to build on and loopholes to address, he said people just needed to watch while they did it.
The deputy chairperson, Haa council representative Tshering Dorji, who was unanimously elected with all 25 ‘yes’ votes, said his first task was to help organise the house, orient members of the review functions and the NC Act.
The first issue they had to get down to, he said, was the council’s continuity.
“There was some ambiguity in the interpretation of whether the council should be a continuous house of if members should resign to re-contest,” he said. “The new members have to tell us what they think about this issue, come to a consensus and decide the outcome that is best in the interest of the country.”
Members also took oath of office, while the chairperson along with the deputy took oath of secrecy with the interim government chief advisor and Supreme Court chief justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.
By Samten Wangchuk | Thimphu