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Speech by Ambassador Sonam Tobgay during the community celebration of the 67th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo in Canberra on 11 November 2022

I thank President Dorji Tshering of ABAC, and its Executive Members, for taking the initiative to organize today’s special event, to celebrate the 67th birth anniversary of our beloved Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

I am deeply honored by this opportunity to join the gathering today in paying special tribute to an exceptional and extraordinary leader of Bhutan.

It is hard to imagine that His Majesty became King at the tender age of 17. At an age when most of us would have been carefree immature juveniles, His Majesty assumed the reins of leadership of the country and began undertaking the heavy and full burden of building a nation that was faced with enormous challenges. Although young, His Majesty displayed maturity far beyond his age and inspired great confidence among the Bhutanese people, and also gained the respect and admiration of leaders around the world.

During His Majesty’s reign of 34 years from 1972 to 2006, Bhutan witnessed profound changes that significantly transformed the lives of the Bhutanese people. His Majesty established modern institutions that empowered the people, built a modern economy, strengthened our sovereignty, preserved our culture and traditions, protected our natural environment, as well as built a modern bureaucracy. His Majesty pursued these policies in Bhutan long before some of them became fashionable in international discourse.

Shortly after He became King, His Majesty also captured the imagination of the world when he declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. Today, Bhutan is known globally for GNH and the concept is widely recognized as offering a more holistic approach to development.

Contrary to what would be expected of a Monarch, His Majesty firmly believed in the merits of democracy and the strength of institutions. Therefore, He initiated the drafting of a Constitution, and having built democratic institutions and the capacity of His citizens, His Majesty introduced democracy against the wishes of the people. Bhutan will in fact be the only country where such a rare thing has occurred – democracy being presented to the people.

At a humane level, His Majesty displayed qualities of genuine humility and selflessness. And He led by example. Service to the country and national interests were his priorities. He loved his people deeply and was always concerned for their wellbeing. It is, therefore, no surprise that when I had the honor of receiving a Royal Audience by His Majesty before my departure for Australia, He repeatedly commanded that I must take good care of the Bhutanese people in Australia. I attach the highest importance to this command and will endeavor to do my best to fulfill this important responsibility throughout my tenure.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the qualities of courage, wisdom, action and selflessness that are described in the different literature about an ideal leader were all embodied by His Majesty. His abdication, at the height of his power, at the age of just 52, epitomizes selflessness and yet another true act of leadership rarely seen in the world.

We, the Bhutanese people, were indeed blessed with such exemplary leadership for over three decades. Fully imbibing all these extraordinary qualities of His Father, we are fortunate to have another great King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, under whose dynamic leadership Bhutan is poised for an even brighter future.

With Their Majesties present in our midst in Bhutan, we Bhutanese do not need to search and look far for sources of inspiration for our nation and for ourselves. Therefore, on this auspicious day, we must take inspiration from the great leadership of Their Majesties, and commit to live by their higher ideals, so we can contribute more meaningfully to the lives of our families, our fellow citizens and to our beloved country.

Thank You and Tashi Delek!

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