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Ghost of ‘Resolution No. 39’ continues to haunt exile Tibetan parliament

EDITORIAL

(TibetanReview.net, Sep11’22) – A quorum-busting section of members of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE) has staged a walkout on Oct 9, forcing the Speaker to postpone the meeting to afternoon and then to the next working day of Sep 12, with no certainty whether this will happen. It was the third day’s meeting of the fourth session of the 17th TPiE’s biannual session which began on Sep 7, to be continued till Sep 16.

The walkout-members protested over the fact that TPiE meetings were repeatedly being sought to be aborted whenever it took up legislative and related matters concerned with the exile Tibetan judiciary and this must stop. These members contend that the issue of the legitimacy of the justice commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission (TSJC) no longer existed after all the elected candidates to the current TPiE effectively took their oath of office from the Chief Justice Commissioner on Oct 8 last year, and for other reasons.

They have accused the anti-justice-commissioner-members of hypocrisy: taking their parliamentary seats on the basis of being sworn in, ultimately, by the Chief Justice Commissioner, but still questioning the legitimacy of him – now retired – and the other current justice commissioners.

The TPiE was discussing an amendment to the Charter of Tibetans in Exile (the Charter) on the qualifications of candidates for appointment as justice commissioners of the TSJC. Their objection was to the fact that the bill tabled by the Sikyong, the executive head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), had been drafted by the TSJC. While this is a procedure prescribed by the Charter, at least one protesting member, with support from others in her group, sought to reject it, saying those who had drafted it were illegitimate and intruders.

Other members repeatedly raised point-of-order objections to her contention, saying it had nothing to do with the matter under discussion. But the Speaker continued to allow her to speak, with support from other members in her group, leading to the walkout.

At the centre of the dispute was the en masse removal by the previous TPiE of all the three justice commissioners of the TSJC on a highly questionable ground by its infamous Resolution No. 39. And it all took place in a short shrift, single sitting, which lasted just a couple of hours or so, without even the formality of an impeachment procedure. The move led to consternation and an outpouring of outrage in Tibetan society.

And it posed an existential threat to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) as it was now impossible to swear in the newly elected Sikyong and the elected candidates to the new, 17th TPiE. Even a new bench of justice commissioners of the TSJC could not be appointed as there was now no one to swear them in.

Faced with such enormous crisis to the CTA, the justice commissioners returned to their posts on petitions by large sections of the exile Tibetan population. The justice commissioners repeated their contention that their removal had been illegal, that it was the TPiE’s action which was illegal, and that they had only recused themselves rather than demitted office.

The newly elected Sikyong then took his oath of office in an online presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as Covid-19 pandemic was still raging at that time, and was duly sworn in by the Chief Justice Commissioner.

But a section of members of the elected candidates to the 17th TPiE still refused to take their oath of office from any Speaker who would be sworn in by the Chief Justice Commissioner, continuing to question his legitimacy.

After the stalemate continued for several months, the elected candidates decided to invoke His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s constitutional advisory role.

And, in a short response, the Dalai Lama made it clear that he could not recommend anything which would not be in conformity with the Charter and accordingly asked the elected candidates to take their oath under it and the Tibetan Election Commission to act accordingly.

And so, when all the 45 elected candidates took their oath of office from the Speaker elected by them, after the latter was sworn in by the Chief Justice Commissioner, it was thought that the ghost of Resolution No. 39 had been buried for good.

However, a section of the members, representing mainly the Dotoe and religious constituencies, kept insisting that the justice commissioners were illegitimate, and kept aborting legislative and other measures concerned with the exile Tibetan judiciary, leading to the Sep 9 walkout by an exasperated section of the TPiE members.

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