Of politics, parties & politicization
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…