Tibetan Parliament to consult Dalai Lama about constitutional crisis

Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, on 15 November 2019.

Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, on 15 November 2019. File photo/Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

By Lobsang Wangyal

McLEOD GANJ, India, 22 May 2021

The Tibetan Parliament-in-exile will consult the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, about the ongoing constitutional crisis, after they were unable to convene an extra session to resolve the issue.

The 10-member Standing Committee of the Parliament decided to bring the matter to the Dalai Lama, invoking Article 1 of the exile Tibetan Charter, after the proposed session on the 24th of this month had to be cancelled due to lack of a quorum.

Two thirds of the total strength of 45 was required to fulfil the quorum. It has been learned that out of 45 members, 22 have expressed inability to attend. Among them many were demanding the withdrawal of the 25 March decision of the Parliament expelling the Chief Justice and other two justices of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission. Some were unable to travel due to the pandemic restrictions.

The absence of the Chief Justice has created a major crisis, as the new Sikyong-elect would have to be administered the oath of office by the Chief Justice. As well, the pro tem Speaker needs to take oath from the Chief Justice to be able to administer the oaths of office to all the new members of the 17th Parliament.

A new Speaker and Deputy Speaker elected among the parliamentarians will then need to take oath from the Chief Justice.

Had there been a session, the Parliament planned to bring a resolution to make the oath-taking for the new Sikyong and the pro tem speakers and the Speakers and the Deputy Speaker be done before the portrait of the Dalai Lama. It is a traditionally accepted way in fulfilling various events, including punishments by offering khata (ceremonial white scarf) or prostrations before the Dalai Lama’s photo.

However, a session on the 24th would have been in violation of the Articles 6 and 41 of the Charter, in which the former forbids taking any decision infringing the law of the land, as there’s a Corona Curfew to fight the pandemic; and the latter pertains to holding session only after requests by 50% of the members of the Cabinet and the Parliament, and a decision then taken by the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. The session had no such request and there’s no Speaker, as the post has been lying vacant since Pema Jungney’s resignation on 8 April.

The option to elect a new Chief Justice and the other two justices has gone off the table after the committee nominating candidates didn’t find the minimum requirement of six candidates to propose in the Parliament for voting. This was confirmed by one of the committee members, former minister Tsering Phuntsok, through the CTA’s official mouthpiece Tibet TV.

Tibet Sun has learned that Deputy Speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok has consulted Samdhong Rinpoche, predecessor of incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, twice. Rinpoche has reportedly said that the crisis has been created by the Parliament and that they must resolve the matter by themselves.

It could therefore be speculated that the Dalai Lama may have a similar response, asking the Parliament to find the solution by themselves.

Incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay’s term is coming to an end in a few days on the 26th. He has declared that the oath-taking of the new Sikyong will be on the 26th. It’s now unclear whether or how this would happen in the absence of the Chief Justice.

Meanwhile, there are calls from the public for the Parliament to withdraw the unlawful termination of the justices and reinstate the three. Sources say that the former four of the predecessors of Lobsang Sangay, when the post was known as Kalon Tripa, and 17 former ministers wrote a letter to the Standing Committee to withdraw the unlawful decision of 25 March, and reinstate the justices.

In an online event on Zoom, a group of volunteers organised a ‘Global Virtual Campaign: Reinstate the Justices’ with speakers including former justice Nawang Rabgyal, law scholar Rinzin Wangmo from Australia, former member of Parliament Mogru Tenpa from New York, and Prof Ngawang Phuntsok from California, who gave details of the violation of the Charter, and calling for the reinstatement of the justices.

More than 150 people participated in the Zoom event to show their support and solidarity with the justices, and more than 700 people watched the event live on Facebook.

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