Should the Middle-Way policy be put to vote again?

Norbu Tsering

Norbu Tsering

By Norbu Tsering

TORONTO, Canada, 23 March 2021

This question is becoming more and more relevant as we observe the proceedings of the Parliament. Those MPs who favour Rangzen dismiss the Middle-Way policy as a failed policy of unnecessarily appeasing China. No matter the subject of discussion at hand in any session of the Parliament, they make it a point to drag in the Middle Way for battering. In parliamentary meetings, the Sikyong, ominously, has challenged the Middle-Way-supporting MPs by asking what would they do if the Middle-Way policy is revisited for parliamentary discussion and is defeated. He was hinting that if the Middle Way is discussed again in the Parliament, it might fail to win majority support. The implication is that he does not want the Middle-Way policy to be discussed in the Parliament to save it from the ignominy of defeat.

An impression is sought to be created in the Parliament that is expected to promote the thinking that except for the MPs standing by the Middle Way, the Tibetan people in general prefer setting Rangzen as the goal of our struggle. Middle-Way-supporting MPs are made to feel guilty. All the people who watch the live telecast of the parliamentary sessions can easily predict what a particular MP who stands up to speak will talk about. It is very clear to people who is Rangzen-supporting MP and who is the Middle-Way MP. There are only a few MPs who still hold their cards close to their chest. This segregation of the MPs make our Parliament a platform for battling it out for one-upmanship.

I am at a loss to understand what is holding back our Rangzen-supporting MPs from moving at least a private member’s bill proposing review of the Middle-Way policy. When a Gelug monk MP in the Parliament can say that he does not believe in the Middle Way, he can’t trust the Middle Way, and that he does not want to talk about it, what is stopping him from formally asking the Parliament to discuss the Middle-Way policy for review? He can’t fool the people by differentiating between His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way and other people’s Middle Way. There is only one Middle-Way policy.

People can’t be misled to regard those who support Rangzen struggle as patriotic and those who agree with the Middle Way as less patriotic. People need to be reminded that nowhere in the Middle-Way policy statement is it stated that Tibet was not an independent country. When China asked His Holiness to accept Tibet as historically a part of China as a condition for moving the Middle-Way negotiations forward, he said that he didn’t want to look stupid by attempting to change the facts of history. The Middle-Way policy is suggested on the premise that Tibet was an independent country, and that we can choose a different future based on the present circumstances.

For setting the Middle Way record straight, for ascertaining people’s wishes after this long breakdown in the Middle Way dialogue, and for enabling the MPs have a clear idea about where the Middle Way stands so far as people’s support is concerned, the MPs who stand for Rangzen need to raise the issue of their disenchantment with the Middle-Way policy and the need for reviewing this policy. If they expect the Middle-Way-supporting MPs to move a motion for revisiting the Middle Way out of a feeling of desperation and helplessness induced by constant criticism of the Middle Way, this may not happen. The established practice in democratic functioning is for those who oppose a policy to sponsor a bill to change it.

It is becoming clearer with each passing session of the Parliament that unless the Middle-Way policy is included as an item for parliamentary business, there are always going to be confrontations. The initiative has to come from those who do not accept the Middle Way. Once the Parliament discusses this, there would be a clear picture of whether the Middle Way still enjoys majority support in the Parliament. This should, then, go to the people for their approval or otherwise. This criticism from a section of the MPs of the Middle Way all the time needs to be put to rest for the sake of peace, unity, and fraternity in our society. It needs to be made clear whether the impression of Rangzen having the support of the majority of the people that some MPs seek to create in the Parliament has real basis or not. If this is true, we have to respect people’s will. If they support Rangzen, so be it. We not only have to say that we are a democratic society, we have to practice it too.

We have to save our Parliament from unnecessary polemical pitfalls. In all probability, MPs condemning the Middle Way will be returned to the next Parliament. This is clear from the final list of candidates for the coming Chithue elections. Let Rangzen-supporting MPs in the next Parliament bring to the table a motion asking for the review of the Middle Way, and then refer it to the larger public for their opinion. The monk MPs who are the staunchest opponents of the Middle Way should spearhead putting on the table of the Parliament a motion to review the Middle-Way policy. Just badmouthing it will not take them anywhere.

About the author

Norbu Tsering worked at Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Leh, Ladakh, as an English Lecturer and then at TCV School, Ladakh, as the School Principal. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada.

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