Bhutan Speaker Jigme Zangpo has said that the foreign ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) should be relocated so that Members of Parliament can move into the National Assembly (NA) building, Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel has reported.
The building has not yet been vacated and the MPs’ office is currently housed in a private building at Langjophaka in Thimphu. The Speaker said that it would be convenient for both MPs and the secretariat to work if their office is housed in the NA building.
“They should move here into the NA building. This is their office,” he said.
The Speaker said the OPM and the foreign ministry, which is housed in the NA building, should have been relocated years back to another place.
“After I joined office as Speaker, I wrote to the prime minister stating that both the foreign ministry and the OPM should be relocated from the building,” he said.
He said that the foreign ministry was looking for space to construct a new office.
The construction of a new office for the foreign ministry is expected to begin in the 12th Plan, according to the Speaker. This means that it would take at least few years before MPs move into the NA building, unless the office relocates temporarily.
Dissatisfaction among members of the House Committee and MPs on the lack of a proper office and related facilities was one of the issues that had led to the dissolution of the NA’s committee in July this year.
According to members of the committee, lack of individual office spaces for MPs and a proper parking lot has been a problem.
Lack of security for MPs while they are in office was also one of the concerns raised. They said that although no unfortunate incidents have occurred, they couldn’t be complacent on the safety of MPs.
MPs say that the issue has remained despite repeated requests to the NA Secretariat.
In the current setup, two MPs occupy a room at the MPs’ office. MPs say that if a visitor comes to see his or her MP, one of the two MPs has to leave his office room.
General Secretary of NA, Sangay Duba, said the secretariat had requested the foreign ministry to look for an alternative place so that members of the next parliament would be able to move into the NA building.
“But we also know that the foreign ministry also deserves a proper office since important dignitaries would have to visit the office,” Sangay Duba said. He added that the secretariat would be able to accommodate MPs if the foreign ministry alone moves out.
He said that the Gross National Happiness Commission has been asked to allocate budget for the construction of a new building for the foreign ministry in the 12th Plan.
“The foreign ministry is looking for a new plot for construction,” he said.
A member of the House Committee, Ritu Raj Chhetri, said that MPs and the committee are yet to hear from the secretariat.
Foreign secretary Sonam Tshong said that the ministry was looking for a plot for the construction of its new office. “We will inform the media once we find one,” he said.