The Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSR) calls for civil servants to remain apolitical and neutral. As such, most civil servants decide to refrain from attending election debates and forums. But according to the Civil Service Commission, government employees are allowed to attend public debates and common forums and doing so does not make one politically affiliated.
With the country gearing up for the upcoming elections, people will be looking forward to attending the public debates and common forums of the aspiring candidates.
But one section of the society who has mostly remained absent from such events is the civil servants.
According to the BCSR 2018, a civil servant shall be apolitical, non-partisan and not stand for election. The rules further disallow civil servants from canvassing for a political party or a candidate.
A few civil servants who did not want to be named shared their opinions to BBS on the misunderstood clause of the BCSR. “Participating in election campaigns feels like we are going against the rules and regulations of the RCSC. However, as civil servants have the rights to vote, it is necessary that we attend such campaigns,”
“My opinion is that while there is no direct provision in the rule that civil servants can’t attend all these forums, there is a perceived individual fear and latent systematic discouragement for civil servants to attend because you are vulnerable,” shared another civil servant.
“Getting to vote is a privilege, a duty and an individual’s right. So, it is an opportunity to choose the best candidate for the country and us,” commented another civil servant highlighting the importance of making informed decisions during elections.
But according to the RCSC, civil servants abstaining from attending public debates and common forums because it goes against being apolitical is a misconception of the laws.
“Any public forum or public debate which is organized by the ECB in such forums, the civil servants can attend. That’s the only opportunity where the civil servants will be able to identify the potential of the respective candidates but having said that any campaign organized by the party themselves or individual candidates themselves, during such forums we don’t allow civil servants to attend,” said Choki Drakpa, the Chief Legal Officer of the RCSC.
The Constitution also calls for the RCSC to promote and ensure an independent and apolitical civil service that will enable its public duties in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner.
Edited by Yeshi Gyaltshen
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