By Prof Nawang Phuntsog*
Undoubtedly, the current Tibetan Parliament’s unfortunate legacy is its recent unconstitutional and unlawful action resulting in three Justice Commissioners’ simultaneous termination. Those members who voted for the Commissioners’ removal resolution had not read the Charter thoroughly or knowingly chose to ignore what was at stake with one’s unlawful action. This total disregard for the Charter is a disgrace and insult to the general public who had elected them to uphold the Charter and make laws aligned with the responsibilities entrusted to them. Like a rogue organization., the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE) hijacked the due process requirement stipulated in Article 54 and took the shortest possible route in its rush to terminate the three Justice Commissioners. The illegal action made a mockery of the Charter rather than protect it.
A cloud of misunderstanding and misinterpretation swirling around several Charter Articles seems to confuse Tibetans as they listen to interviews and debates in different media outlets eager to present various perspectives on the TPiE’s action to remove the three Justice Commissioners. So the recent VOT interview with His Eminence Professor Samdhong Rinpoche premiered on April 7, 2021, is to be welcomed as a timely shower. His Eminence Professor Samdhong Rinpoche clarified and offered explicit explanations of Tibetan Charter Articles associated with the TPiE’s act of removing the three Justice Commissioners unceremoniously. He made it crystal clear that there is no provision in the Charter for removing all three Commissioners in tandem. Thus, TPiE’s act was as unlawful as it was egregious.
It is well-known that His Eminence Professor Samdhong Rinpoche not only played a vital role in drafting the Charter in the past but was also equally known to be an unwavering adherent of the Charter’s principles and rules during his tenure in the CTA. The Voice of Tibet and its News Anchor, Mr. Tenzin Dorjee, thus, deserves to be complimented for taking the initiative to invite His Eminence Rinpoche to help unpack the interpretations of Charter Articles associated with the Justice Commissioners’ termination case.
Two noticeable fallouts from Rinpoche’s interview were the sudden resignation of the TPiE Speaker and another Standing Committee member under the pretext of decency as though morality had suddenly become an important matter to be considered. What happened to their ethics when they rushed to impeach the Justice Commissioners and thereby pushed the entire community into a panic state? One truly wishes that TPiE members were decent and jurisprudent enough from taking such unholy action that crippled the fragile Tibetan democracy? Let us not forget the axiom: action speaks louder than words.
Resignation from one’s office provides an easy way to wash off one’s hand. However, it is quite a complicated matter when one is responsible for hurling Tibetan democracy into a state of chaos and darkness. Unfortunately, the Speaker, the ship captain, abandoned TPiE without a future direction or a plan to rescue and repair the crumbled Judiciary branch and heal the wounded Tibetan democracy. The whole episode is a tragedy for the Tibetan democracy.
Looking forward, what should we do to prevent such mishaps? One immediate step we could take at this time is to cast our votes carefully in the forthcoming Chitue and Sikyong election. In case you did not like what you had witnessed on March 25, 2021, it is then critical to make sure that those Chitues responsible for this shameful and unfortunate event do not have another opportunity to inflict a similar blow to our Tibetan democracy. As for the Sikyong candidacy, Tsoksur Penpa Tsering is the one who has proven to have a sound knowledge of the Charter and has expressed the eagerness to work closely and respectfully with the other two pillars. Under his stewardship, I believe such ignoble events are far less likely to occur.
In the long run, it is essential to educate our school children regarding the functions and responsibilities of the three branches of CTA and provide meaningful experiences to learn civic responsibility and laws enshrined in the Charter to avoid such blunders in the future. Let us all keep in mind that we are all Tibetans first and foremost; other designations such as regionalism and sectarianism are secondary and are far less important within the context of national interests, aspirations, and goals.
Exclusive Interview with Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche
* The Author is a Professor of Education who retired recently and is currently residing in the US.