Friday, 20 May 2011

Issues Regarding Amendments in the Charter for Tibetans-in-Exile

Since His Holiness the Dalai Lama initiated the democratization process in exile Tibet fifty years ago, our democratic institutions have achieved a high level of maturity. In a statement issued to the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile on 14 March 2011, His Holiness announced his decision to devolve all his political authority. In response, the exile parliament unanimously appealed His Holiness to reconsider his decision. However, His Holiness not only refused but also explained in detail the background of his decision to the general public during the Monlam Chenmo in Dharamsala. Judging by all these developments, it has become very clear that His Holiness is firm on his decision.

 As a result, the parliament passed a unanimous resolution to form an ad hoc committee to draft necessary amendments in the Charter. The members of the Committee included the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the parliament, Kalon Tripa, Kalon for the Department of Education and Pema Jungney, a member of parliament. This Committee has made public the proposed amendments to the Charter.

Taking our democratic responsibilities, we, the members of Youth for Better Democracy would like to point out following elements in the proposed amendments that we disagree with.

1) In the Charter, the term Tsenjol Bod Zhung (lit. Tibetan Government-in-Exile) is replaced with Tsenjol Bod Mei Zhung Gi Drik Tsuk (lit. Institution/Organization of the Government of Tibetan People in Exile). A government or an institution of and solely by the exile Tibetans cannot represent the six million Tibetans. Tsenjol Bod Zhung, though based in exile, is globally understood to be the legitimate political government of the entire Tibetan people. If the proposed name change takes place, this will undermine the issue of Tibet and our struggle in the long run. Hence, there is no way that we can support any proposal to change the name from Tsenjol Bod Zhung to Tsenjol Bod Mei Zhung Gi Drik Tsuk.

2) Article 19, under the Executive Power, there were three points such as “the administrative responsibility and powers lie with the Kalon Tripa”. In the proposed amendment there is only one addition i.e. “Awards in recognition of achievements and giving titles”. The rests are same like before as mentioned in Article 29. This makes the Kalon Tripa having the administrative power and responsibilities only in name with no real power. We feel that this must be given due consideration and importance.

3) In Article 21, “Kalon Tripa and his/her eligibility” all clauses from A to F maintained as before. However, clause G has been withdrawn. This clause states that a Kalon should be someone who has not served for two consecutive terms. By removing this clause, the Charter allows the Kalon Tripa to stay in power for as long as he/she wants since there is no term limit. This also applies for other Kalons.

If the executive head can remain in power for a long period of time, there is a danger that it will create many problems and threats. Therefore, like other democratic societies where there are set term limits for presidents and prime ministers, we also need to retain this clause to enforce term limits on Kalon Tripa and other Kalons.
4) Article 22, regarding “Appointment of Other Kalons,” it states that the Kalon Tripa shall form his cabinet by appointing up to seven Kalons.

Furthermore, the amendment allows the Kalon Tripa to appoint other Kalons without the approval of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. We are opposed to this undemocratic change. Such a system will not only create nepotism but also increase the possibility of corruption. Even from the perspective of the Kalons, they would be more empowered to exercise greater mandate and legitimacy if they had the approval of the Parliament besides the support of the Kalon Tripa.

5) In article 36, “Powers of the Legislation,” it states, “All legislative powers lie with the Parliament of the Tibetan people. In order to pass the bills into law, the signature of the Speaker of the Parliament is necessary.” This is contradictory to the dominant practice in other democracies, which have checks and balances. Amendment instead should state, “For the bills to be passed into law, they require the signature by the Kalon Tripa.” This would conform to the practices of advanced democratic societies.

Likewise, it is important to adapt Articles 5, and clauses 1 and 2 of Article 111.

These are some of the elements in the proposed amendments in the Charter that we do not and cannot agree with. In order to avoid confusion and to maintain clarity we have left out other articles, which we agree with.

We strongly believe that the Charter Amendment Drafting Committee’s main responsibility was to address those articles directly related to His Holiness’ power, and not to draft amendments affecting the entire the Charter such as the ones that we have mentioned above.

An important point that is not reflected in the draft Amendments but has been mentioned in the media by some members of the Drafting Committee is the issue of creating a new position called Mirig Genzin. We do not support this proposal.

In his statement to the exile parliament, His Holiness stated that “In order for our process of democratization to be complete, the time has come for me to devolve my formal authority to such an elected leadership.” It is hence impossible to follow a path that is contradictory to His Holiness’ vision. Therefore, there is no need to create a position of Mirig Genzin over and above the elected leadership by the people. This constitutes taking steps backward in our democratization process.

Hence, we appeal to all the Tibetans who are taking part in the general meeting, and particularly the members of the exile parliament to take these suggestions into consideration to safeguard the legitimacy of Tsenjol Bod Zhung and maintain our struggle for Tibet’s just cause in the long run.

Members of the Youth for Better Democracy

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