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Rough, rocky road lies ahead in parliament for the Sikyong

Norbu Tsering* is concerned that a seemingly domineering coterie of members of the 17th Tibetan Parliament in Exile, some using the tool of scriptural-line flourishes, appear to have made it the sine qua non of their functioning to try to browbeat Sikyong Penpa Tsering into quitting his post and feels that the latter should defend his ‘wicket’ rather than allowing himself to be lured out of it or into ‘retiring hurt’.

(TibetanReview.net, Oct16’21)

The just concluded first session of the 17th Tibetan Parliament in Exile ended as a preview of what lays ahead for the Sikyong – a House dominated by MPs determined to make life miserable for him with the hope of breaking him to the point of surrendering and quitting. The first salvo was fired by MP Juchen Konchok Choedon. She ominously dismissed the Sikyong as someone she could never trust and rejected all his Kalon nominees as people lacking the ability to efficiently advise the Sikyong. She did that with all the seriousness and emotional intensity she could muster.

She set the tone for the rest of the session. When she was followed by Serta Tsultrim and, of course, by the monk MPs in venting their ire against Mr. Penpa Tsering, it became clear that he would be facing hostile bouncers that his detractor-MPs were determined to bowl at him throughout the term of the 17th Parliament. The most important thing for him to do is to try to ward off the bouncers as best as he can without ever thinking of retiring hurt. His strategy should be to, somehow, continue occupying the batting crease and stop them from taking his prized wicket. Once he loses his concentration and throws away his wicket, the MPs who are after him will have achieved whatever it is that they want.

It is the Sikyong’s ill luck that he finds himself in the unenviable situation of having to turn himself into a one-man army to take on the monk MPs who speak one after the other to try to tear him up. And, then there are MPs like Serta Tsultrim always on the lookout for a chance to pounce on him. The Sikyong’s misfortune is that there is no MP confident enough to come out in the open and protect the truth and the sanctity of the Parliament. It may be possible that there are MPs who, in their heart of hearts, think that they should speak up. But, they prefer to be safe. This, perhaps, emboldens the Sikyong’s detractors.

A word without any reference to the MPs from North America, Europe and Australia would make incomplete my observations about the just concluded parliamentary session. It seems, in hindsight, that these MPs played into the hands of those who were refusing to take oath from the Pro-Tem Speaker. They helped them save their face and at the same time to become MPs with the credit of having obeyed His Holiness the Dalai Lama while continuing to do what they want in the Parliament. I see no reason to place the Chi-gyal MPs on a higher pedestal. They are, like most of us, living in the West, preoccupied most of the time with making a living. Playing it safe is the cornerstone of work culture in the West.

Another thing that stood out from the first session of the Parliament was the failure of the Speaker to make the MPs who walked out of the House led by MP Serta Tsultrim understand that they had the right to vote against any Kalon nominee that they disapproved of. Where was the need for them to leave the House en bloc? That the Speaker allowed the distraction of a walkout when the Charter is not forcing the MPs to approve Sikyong’s Kalon nominees can be controversial. The Sikyong should, at least, have the consolation of expecting the umpire in the Parliament to be impartial. But, once bitten, twice shy. The Sikyong needs to be very careful when it comes to the question of relying on the Speaker.

My advice to the Sikyong: Never walk out to the batting crease without the cricket PPE like strong leg pads, elbow pads, helmet and gloves. And, of course, a very strong bat. It looks like he will have to face bouncers and more bouncers all the way during this term of office. But, please, never ever take the decision of going ‘retired hurt’. Don’t allow your detractors to stop you from scoring runs. And, expect stormier innings the next time. But, never ever let them break you and succumb to their pressure.  It has been very clear all along that the monk MPs are the ones he should be wary of.  And, they are also smart in quoting from scriptures to add more political punch to their arguments and justify their overbearing behavior in the Parliament. Stranger still is the fact that monks can become such serious full time politicians.

Hope the Sikyong will succeed in playing a test match. His approach to batting should be for preserving his wicket by playing defensive shots and he should never think of playing rash shots in the hope of scoring quick runs. His detractors in the Parliament may try to make his Sikyong term a ‘20 overs’ game. Good luck to him being able to stay ‘not out’ for his full term.

* Norbu Tsering was a Lecturer at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Leh, Ladakh; served as the Principal of TCV, Ladakh; taught English at Upper TCV and Gopalpur TCV; and currently lives in Toronto, Canada.

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