Of pol­i­tics, par­ties & politi­ciza­tion

Business Bhutan - - Editorial -

The on­go­ing de­bate on cen­tral school sparked by Druk Nyam­rup Tshogpa is tak­ing a rather dif­fer­ent course. From the core ar­gu­ment on whether the idea of cen­tral school is a rea­son­ably good po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion or if at all cen­tral school is the way for­ward in terms of ed­u­ca­tional re­forms, the dis­cus­sion has now di­gressed to whether po­lit­i­cal par­ties should politi­cize each and ev­ery gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion or whether civil ser­vants should be al­lowed to com­ment on po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions as this one.

There is plenty of fod­der to ru­mi­nate over even as the real cen­tral school de­bate takes a back seat.

First, po­lit­i­cal par­ties sit­ting in par­lia­ment and those out­side, the so-called reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties, can and should raise their voice for or against any gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion. This is as sim­ple as how a multi-party demo­cratic sys­tem func­tions, any­where in the world. Re­sis­tance, ob­jec­tion and crit­i­cism to de­ci­sions made by the gov­ern­ment or any elected pub­lic of­fice can­not be nul­li­fied as po­lit­i­cal par­ties cry­ing foul with­out any rea­son or rhyme. Such stance is un­demo­cratic.

The rul­ing gov­ern­ment needs to be tol­er­ant to crit­i­cisms from across po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and the so­ci­ety at large. Or at best, it must be will­ing to em­brace crit­i­cisms and work on them. A gov­ern­ment that lis­tens to pub­lic crit­i­cisms, an­a­lyzes them and im­proves on its gov­er­nance is some­thing that is im­por­tant for a young democ­racy.

In the same vein, as much as they ex­er­cise their po­lit­i­cal rights to ques­tion the gov­ern­ment, po­lit­i­cal par­ties can­not deny that very right to cit­i­zens in­clud­ing civil ser­vants to counter-ques­tion and de­fend al­le­ga­tions made against an ob­vi­ously po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated de­ci­sion like cen­tral school but im­ple­mented by civil ser­vants.

Ev­ery gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion is po­lit­i­cal in na­ture, for a sim­ple fact that the de­ci­sion has been taken by an elected gov­ern­ment with a po­lit­i­cal mo­tive, like it or not. Since civil ser­vants ex­e­cute all these de­ci­sions, would this make civil ser­vants any more or less po­lit­i­cal? Be­fore the term ‘apo­lit­i­cal’ be­comes a po­lit­i­cal tool to sti­fle crit­i­cism within the civil ser­vice – which has been used quite suc­cess­fully un­til now – there is a good rea­son that we should get to the real mean­ing of the word. The irony is, a po­lit­i­cal party that is ques­tion­ing the gov­ern­ment on cen­tral school finds it rather of­fended by the fact that a civil ser­vant should de­fend those al­le­ga­tions and ques­tion that party’s in­ten­tion.

These two is­sues can­not be seen in iso­la­tion. It is not about whether a reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal party has the right to cri­tique the gov­ern­ment. It is about the right of a pub­lic ser­vant to re­spond to such crit­i­cisms, with­out hav­ing to pan­der to any po­lit­i­cal party or pres­sures from within or with­out the or­ga­ni­za­tion that he or she works for. No other laws, by-laws or reg­u­la­tions can su­per­sede the fun­da­men­tal right of a ci­ti­zen to free speech and opin­ion.

Com­ing to the de­bate on cen­tral school – there is ob­vi­ously a need for a study to as­sess its vi­a­bil­ity, im­pact and im­pli­ca­tions on qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion and gov­ern­ment spend­ing. Pool­ing re­sources into a cen­tral sys­tem can have it ad­van­tages but it will have its down­sides too. We need to look at both the pros and cons.

In this clash of ideas, those in power must en­sure that the in­ter­est of the chil­dren is pro­tected. The gov­ern­ment must en­sure that such ini­tia­tives do not make us more de­pen­dent on state sup­port. We must re­mind our­selves that our na­tional goal is to achieve self-re­liance, not to deepen de­pen­dency on the state for ev­ery small bit of our needs and wants.

But the de­bate must go on…

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