CARY, North Carolina, 20 September 2018
Our parliament system was introduced in exile in the early 1960s. It was no doubt suitable to our unique situation then. It has undergone progressive changes over the years. But we must realize that no legislative system is perfect. Hence the question: Do we need to amend election laws in line with changing circumstances? We certainly need some drastic changes now and should start discussion about it during the current session.
Can I make an earnest appeal to our Parliament Members?
First of all, I have an earnest appeal to all the honorable members of our Parliament. Irrespective of your Cholkha or Choluk, each one of you was elected by your voters with great hope. Remember that once you were elected, you represent the entire Tibetan population and not only your Cholkha or Choluk.
When you speak in the Parliament, please remember that not only 43 members in the Parliament House, but six million Tibetans within and outside Tibet are also watching you and listening to you.
Therefore each of you need to exhibit your best decency as a responsible elected member of the most important pillar of our Democracy.
Are you a responsible team member?
All of you are responsible members of a team. Success of your session and of the five-year term depends on the collective efforts of all of you. Your sole common goal is finding a solution to the Tibetan struggle.
My family members are descendants from all the three traditional Cholkhas and five Choluks.
So I sincerely want to make an appeal to all of you to take your responsibilities as MPs seriously. Please, refrain from turning our Parliament into an arena exhibition of the narrow thinking of regionalism.
Is the current Parliament truly representative in nature?
When years ago around 150,000 Tibetans were living in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, the number of Chitues elected mainly from India may have been reasonable. But over the years, a large number of Tibetans from India and Nepal have moved to Western countries. It is predicted that in the year 2020, the Tibetan population of India/Nepal/Bhutan and of those living in Western countries would be equal.
In that case, it is the right time for our Parliament to discuss the seat allocations in the Parliament scientifically. Almost a decade ago, I suggested in the Tibetan Political Review that there be five Chitues just for North America. Now the population has multiplied. Similarly the Tibetan population in Europe has also grown huge. One time, Bylakuppe had a large Tibetan population, but it has thinned considerably over the years. We all agree that Nepal has over 20,000 Tibetans, but there is only one Chitue from Nepal.
Do we need a bi-cameral legislature?
The Tibetan Parliament now needs a bi-cameral legislative system, with a Lower House based on population and Upper House based on Cholkha/Choluk. The United States, India, and some other countries have adopted the bi-cameral system.
Our exile situation will not allow us to copy exactly the system followed by these countries, but we can adopt a system similar to them.
What is the appropriate number of Chitues?
Since we cannot have any Chitue from Tibet, we should allot one Parliament seat for each population of 3,000 for the Lower House.
So, if there are about 6,000 Tibetans living in Bhutan, two Chitues would be elected from Bhutan. Similarly if there are about 3,000 Tibetans living in four Tibetan camps in the Pokhara area in Nepal, one Chitue would be elected. If Canada has 9,000 Tibetans, three Chitues would be allocated for Canada. If Dharamshala has a population of 12,000, four Chitues are needed from Dharamshala. It is pretty simple.
What about Cholkha and Choluk Chitues?
Now the question comes about the Upper House. The Upper House should consists of a certain number of Chitues (5 to 10) from each Cholkha, elected by Tibetan electors from Tibetans living all over the world.
Lots of discussion has been done concerning Choluk Chitues. Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, former Kalon Tripa, has recently pointed out the systems in Burma, Thailand, and Bhutan where monks and nuns stay away from the quagmire of politics. I support this idea. However if many still support the need for Choluk Chitues, we should elect one Choluk Chitue from each Cholkha (each Cholkha electing one MP from each Choeluk). There will, thus be five Choluk MPs from each Cholkha. All the people of each Cholkha will vote to elect their Choluk MPs.
Also it is time to do away with the double voting rights for our monks and nuns. The above system will be a proper representation of each Cholkha and Choluk, and equal voting rights in a democratic way.
Is the preliminary voting system relevant?
Much has been discussed about the pros and cons of our preliminary voting system. I think we need some kind of preliminary screening. But after the Preliminary Voting, if there are not huge gaps between the candidates, let the next candidate in the list from the Preliminary elections contest in the final round of elections. Or fix a percentage to be an eligible candidate, such as a minimum 20% of the total registered voters. For example if the total registered voters is 50,000, the last candidate should obtain 10,000 voters in the Preliminary Election.
Anyway let the voters elect their best representative. As many desire, I also emphasize for a shorter time gap between the Preliminary and Final Voting.
Is debating or publicity relevant? Or just introduce the candidates’ Manifestos?
In my opinion, we should discourage the style and multiplicity of debates that we had during the last election. The debates were not focused on the manifestos, but on personal attacks.
As I have mentioned in my article in Tibetan Political Review a decade ago, the voters should evaluate the manifesto of each candidate and vote. The manifestos should be impartially publicized in major Tibetan mass media. If we want a debate, just let the candidates discuss their own manifesto. They should not engage in negative comments about the other candidates. Decency should be maintained at all cost.
Should a regional organisation support a candidate?
Since we do not have a political party system, organisations, especially when region-based, should neither support nor reject a candidate. The public should also not engage in negative comments about any candidate, especially on personal matters.
We should realize that no one is perfect until he or she is enlightened. We should know that the Communist Chinese government is spending a huge amount of resources to disrupt and disunite us.
We should only study discuss the manifestos of the candidates, and not their personal lives.
We must keep in mind the aspirations of the six million Tibetan people, and vote for candidates who can work towards achieving their goals.
About the author
The writer is a former staff member of TYC (Centrex), Dharamshala, Ex-President of RTYC Kathmandu, and also of New York & New Jersey.