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Exile Tibetan MP loses seat to Covid-19 lockdown

Thubten Wangchen. (Photo courtesy: casa del tibet)

(TibetanReview.net, Apr04’20) – Thanks to India’s ban on international flights as a move to contain the spread of the Covid-19 global pandemic, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE) at Dharamshala, India, representing Tibetans in Europe and South America has lost his seat for failing to attend its recent budget session held in Mar 2020. The MP, Thubten Wangchen, a monk who runs Tibet House in Barcelona, Spain, has said in a Facebook message Apr 2 that he was booked to fly on the day the Indian government’s ban on flights from the Covid-19-hotspots in Europe of Italy, Spain and Germany came into force. The monk says he tried his best, exploring all options, to make it to D’shala, but failed.

The Exile Tibetan Parliament’s rulebook says that an MP would forfeit his seat if he fails to attend two successive sessions. Thupten Wangchen could not attend the previous session, held in Sep 2019, as he was on a road trip to 30 countries to mark 60 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet. His agenda was to urge Europe to help bring about an urgent dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and China’s President Xi Jinping and he took leave from the TPiE session to be able to continue the campaign.

Wangpo Tethong.

TPiE Speaker Pema Jungney has conceded that the Tibetan MP from Europe could not, rather than did not, attend the Mar 2020 session, which had to be cut to a single-day due to the ban order on any gathering of more than five people issued by the district administration as a move against the spread of the Covid-19 infection. However, he felt compelled to go by the rulebook which apparently rules out any force majeure exception. He has informed Mr Wangpo Tethong, resident in Switzerland, that he was the new MP in place of Thupten Wangchen who by implication was deemed to be no longer a member automatically.

Thubten Wangchen says the Speaker’s office had pleaded with India’s foreign ministry to permit him entry to attend the session, with the monk himself making a similar appeal to the Indian embassy in Madrid, both to no avail.

Mr Wangpo Tethong had won the most number of votes of the Tibetans in Europe and South America after the two winning candidates in the 2016 election.

Mr Tethong was a member in the previous TPiE, the 15th, as was Ven. Thupten Wangchen.

Earlier, Ms Dolma Gyari, MP from 1991 to 2006, had faced a similar situation, although in her case the reason for failing to attend the second session was personal indisposition.

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