19 July, 2008 - The process was simple. On July 18, the 15th day of the fifth month of the Bhutanese calendar, His Majesty the King, elected representatives of all 47 constituencies in the National Assembly, and members of the National Council signed the historic document. His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, the monk body, the royal family, government leaders, members of the international community, and representatives from all sections of Bhutanese society witnessed the historic occasion.
The ceremony was symbolic. It was held in the Kuenrey of Tashichhodzong, the heart of the nations capital, under the gaze of the images of Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The Constitution, lettered in gold, was kept overnight at the Goenkhang to seek the blessings of the nations guardian deities.
The historical significance was profound. The validation of the law of all laws was an important step in the evolution of the Bhutanese polity. With the Chayi Chhenmo (Zhabdrungs first written law, passed in 1619) placed with the Constitution at the altar, the ceremony was reminiscent of 1907, when the clergy, government, and people reposed the will of the people in the Kings by enthroning Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck.
The change took place within tradition. The new polity was validated with the adoption of the Constitution, but this icon of secular power was strengthened by spiritual faith. The Constitution was signed on the choethri, an ornate traditional stand, that was passed down from King to King and now kept as the place of offering in the throne room. The lopons of the dratshang recited the tashipai tsig, a prayer for the prosperity of the nation and the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Bhutanese people. Members and guests recited the deshek tenpa, a special prayer dedicated to Lord Buddha for eternal peace, prosperity, security, sovereignty and the well being of the people.
In his royal address, His Majesty the King said that the people and the King, on such a day of destiny, resolved to bring into effect the root and foundation - the very source - of all law in the nation. His Majesty said that the Constitution would inspire the people because it stood as a testimony to selfless and extraordinary leadership. The Constitution was placed before the people of the 20 dzongkhags by the King and each word had, therefore, earned its sacred place with the blessings of every citizen in our nation. This is the Peoples Constitution, His Majesty said.
The uniqueness and the unprecedented nature of the introduction of democracy in Bhutan were symbolized in the words of His Majesty the King as he signed the Constitution.
Today, through this, my Hand and Seal, I affix on to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the hopes and prayers of my people.
The entire ceremony was broadcast live and the signed Constitution itself was opened for public viewing and then escorted to the National Assembly hall where it was placed before the Golden Throne.
The chief justice said, Democracy in Bhutan is truly a result of the desire, aspiration and complete commitment of the monarchy to the well-being of the people and country.
The prime minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley, said that he prayed that he would be able to fulfill the wishes of the kings and the people as the first democratically elected prime minister of Bhutan.
A dzongkhag drangpon said that he had prayed that the Constitution, with each word inscribed in golden letters, be inviolable for centuries and that it would be the guardian of our hope, unity, peace, progress, inspirations and the source of justice.
For a MP it was the culmination of a series of decentralization activities initiated by the monarchy in the long interest of the country and the people. A corporate employee said that he had brought his children to the event so that they would be able to tell the story of this historic day to their children.
A Trashiyangtse scholar said that even nature was shaken up on such a day as Thimphu saw in the heavy rain and Tango flood a day before the signing.
The Charge de Affaires of the Embassy of India, T Darlong, said that the signing of the Constitution was a very historic occasion. We would like to congratulate the people of Bhutan on this occasion, he told Kuensel.
A Chang Jalu farmer said that she had come to see His Majesty the King. I heard that, from today, we will be ruled by a democratic government so, with deep sadness, I told my husband Take me to see our beloved King, she said.
While the atmosphere in the Kuenrey was charged with emotion and people around the county were absorbed in the ceremony, that was broadcast live on television, many people who milled around the courtyard of the dzong were not perturbed.
They said that they had come to receive blessings from the rare thongdroels on display. They were confident that the blessings of Lord Buddha and Guru Rinpoche and the guidance of the King would always protect the nation and the people.
By Kinley Dorji with Ugyen Penjore and Rinzin Wangchuk