News and Views on Tibet

Opinion: The way forward from our current constitutional conundrum

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By Tsering Wangyal

Our exile politics is at its rock bottom currently with no light in sight. The constitutional crisis that everyone was making a big hullabaloo about a few months ago is now really at our doorstep.

Our charter, democracy, democratic institutions and democratic process have been subverted and shred to smithereens over the last few months. Vested interests have divided our government bodies and our society into groups who currently do not seem to be able to find common ground on even the simplest of things. They have twisted our charter, events and facts to suit their agendas and spread falsehood and misinformation through traditional and social media.

There is also a cacophony of characters on social media who continue to disseminate partisan views online to divide and radicalise our society further. This is something that will only cause delight to our adversaries and dismay to our brethren and well wishers. In other words, it is a case of “dra ga, nyen dhug” as we call it in Tibetan.

If, by now, those entrusted with the sacred duty of representing our voices in the parliament, of leading our cause, and of keeping our people united, do not wake up and try to arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution, this controversy has a strong potential to develop into something that may cause irreparable damage to our nation, cause and people.

Therefore, I urge our MPs to wake up, gather their wits and good senses, learn to let go of the past, learn to let go of their fragile egos, and start focusing on what is the common good.

It is high time that they stop bickering and finger-pointing. If anyone involved in this controversy thinks that their stand alone is totally right and that the other party’s stand is totally wrong, they clearly lack the capacity for self-criticality and self-reflection. They clearly lack the capability to see the big picture and exercise much needed flexibility and magnanimity.

To use a common metaphor, everybody has added some salt or pepper in this mess of a dish. They have also fiddled with the gas knob to adjust the heat of the stove to suit their own purpose. Now that the dish is a disaster, no cook is beyond reproach. Everyone has to share the blame. Of course, some may have to shoulder more blame than others for this entire unfortunate episode. Nevertheless, I feel that right now is not the time to bicker about it. Right now, it is time to resolve the issue first before it goes out of control and totally wrecks our democracy and society.

So, suck it up and please take one on the chin for our nation, democracy, and society!

I, myself, have contributed my perspectives on this issue in two previous articles. However, that was for the sake of intellectual discourse and debate. Although my personal views remain very much the same, what I have come to realise over the past few days is that now is not the time to adjudicate who is in the right and who is in the wrong. That moment has long passed. There is nothing much to be achieved from that endeavour at this stage. If we ever dwell on that in the future, it will be for the purpose of learning a lesson on democracy and its perils. So, let us leave that decision for historians to make in the future.

At this critical juncture, it is time for us to be solution-oriented and focus on solving the problem. As Lord Buddha wisely advised, let us not spend time investigating who shot the arrow that has struck us but rather focus on how to remedy our injury and get well first. Saving our own life at this stage is more critical than trying to figure out who shot the arrow. We should urgently resolve this situation before it festers into something much worse and divides our society. I can see signs of that already happening and forces working actively to make that a reality on social media. You may have seen them too.

So, here are a few suggestions to remedy the current impasse.

Regarding ensuring the legitimacy of chithues (in terms of oath taking)

Stop arguing which group of Chithues is legitimate and which group is not.

In my view, both groups based on their current oath taking process lack constitutional legitimacy. The group which took oath from the pro-tem speaker’s oath is unconstitutional because the pro-tem speakers oath was administered by an ex-chief justice commissioner who has already been dismissed by the parliament by a unanimous ⅔ vote and has himself resigned from the post in the aftermath. The group which took oath in front of HHDL’s photo and constitution is equally unconstitutional because this is not a constitutionally-sanctioned process. Since both have not done things constitutionally, continued debate on which group is legitimate is just a colossal waste of time. It will be similar to the pot calling the kettle black.

Instead, let us settle at recognising the basic fact that all of them are indeed our legitimately elected representatives. Their legitimacy as our elected representatives is beyond dispute. Whether they have taken an oath or not is just a debate about the process.

In my view, oath-taking is a constitutional and ceremonial formality. We have seen many parliamentarians take oath in the past (in so many different parliaments around the world including our own) and then, go against the very letter and spirit of that oath. This tells us exactly how sacred the oath is being held by MPs.

The sanctity of an oath lies very much in the character of the person taking the oath, not the office or constitutionality of the one who is giving the oath. So the key is electing the right person. The constitutional process of oath-taking ensures that when that oath is broken, constitutional and legal measures can be taken against the oath breaker. It is also to ensure that no Tom, Dick, or Harry occupies the office without an official sanction.

However, as I have stated before, now is not the time to debate over the process because it is irresolvable if the status quo remains. It is time for us and the MPs to focus on bigger issues that need to be addressed first, and naturally, this too will/can eventually be resolved.

I have some suggestions on how to resolve this impasse over oath taking which I will propose at a later stage.

Regarding the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker

It is imperative that the MPs elect the speaker and deputy speaker of the parliament at the earliest possible so that the work of the parliament can continue and we can have a proper functional Kashag without interruption.

If the election of a unanimous speaker and deputy speaker proves difficult through a parliamentary majority because of current divisions in the parliament, our MPs can reach an agreement to have two speakers and two deputy speakers (one from each group). Let them share half a term each (there is a precedent for this). As for the order of their speakership and deputy speakership, they can toss a coin or draw lots and decide who goes first. A system whereby during the first half of the five year term, the speaker can be from one side and the deputy speaker from the other side, and vice versa during the second half can be arranged. This should be agreeable to both groups.

Regarding the legitimacy of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commisioners

Once the new parliament is reconstituted, it should appoint new supreme justice commissioners. In the list of nominees for this position, the current justice commissioners’ names should also be included. If they happen to win the required majority in the parliament, they can then legitimately resume their office and serve likewise. If they do not get the required support, let them honourably leave their offices, and new justice commissioners be chosen. This is a constitutional remedy to resolve the current situation.

Another way to resolve this issue would be to introduce a motion in the parliament to either retain or dismiss the current TSJC members. Based on the parliament’s vote, let them either be retained or dismissed. If they happen to be retained, all is good. If they are dismissed, then appointment of new commissioners can be done following due process.

Either of these two routes will help resolve the current impasse.

Regarding the oath taking dilemma

Whoever is appointed as the chief justice commissioner by the 17th parliament can re-administer the oath of office to the Sikyong and the pro-tem speaker. The pro-tem speaker can re-administer the oath to the chithues according to the prescribed process in the constitution. This way, the constitutional legitimacy of their position (of the sikyong, pro-tem speaker and chithues) will be restored and beyond reproach.

Regarding what the parliament should do next

After the oath taking, the parliament should meet, debate at length and pass clear laws on the following issues and, if necessary additional ones too:

  • when parliament sessions should be held and under what special circumstances the postponement of parliament sessions are allowed (pandemic, natural disasters, etc.)
  • clarify the role, function, and powers of TSJC especially whether they have the power to make their own laws, whether they have suo motu power or not, etc.
  • clarify the procedures for the dismissal of TSJCs and other critical constitutional positions like Sikyong and Kashag, eg. whether committees should be mandatory for their dismissal or not, whether all or only one member of the TSJC or Kashag can be dismissed at a time, etc.
  • think of ways to prevent the recurrence of constitutional crises in the future eg. alternate oath-taking processes, constitution of two benches of TSJC, etc.
  • ensure that TSJC members have some legal background and qualifications. It should be mandatory for them to have some training in legal and constitutional matters.
  • constitute a charter revision body to re-examine every single clause of the charter minutely, especially those that are contentious and rephrase these clauses to reduce and possibly eliminate all ambiguities.
  • all parties involved in this controversy should formally offer khatags to each other and declare that they will let bygones be bygones and will make efforts to work together once again for our common cause.

Let us all Tibetans also agree that our similarities and commonalities in terms of our country, race, language, religion, customs and ultimately, our goal as a nation and people are far more numerous than these very few differences. Let us not let these temporary disagreements and divisions destroy our unity, struggle and identity as a people and a nation. Let us not mistake the forest for the trees. Let us always learn to look at the bigger picture to overcome this challenge that we face today. Let this episode be an eye opening lesson for all of us.

From now on, we must learn to distinguish the voices that we hear in our society and social media as belonging to two very distinct groups of people:

  • those who are seek and work towards unity and resolution through amicable and mutually acceptable means, and
  • those who seek to aggravate the situation further and make this problem worse by sowing discord in our community based on region and religion.

The first group has the interest of our nation and people in their hearts, and the latter group indeed is in cahoots with our adversary and forwarding its agenda and interest.

Let us be clear about that!!!

P.S. My own views about the current issue are very clearly expressed in my previous articles. However, in this post, I have tried my best to be constructive and forward-looking because that alone, in my view, is the way forward for us to emerge from the current crisis.

(Views expressed are his own)

The writer is an educator and a researcher based in Singapore.

22 Responses

    1. No one has the right to force his or her opinion in a democracy. It has to be regulated by the constitution. We have to learn to work according to the constitution with due respect. Everyone must know that and abide by that. It’s totally wrong to say this and that person has said or says so and so and that is why so and so happened.

      Moreover we can’t criticize someone without the right justification. We have to go together to do the right thing for our common case. That’s the duty for every Tibetan. We have to contribute for our unity. There’s a very powerful force who want to destroy our unity, our people, our culture und the environment in our country. We have to let the world know about these things. We are not dogs fighting in one’s own family. Shabdren ma gshu rog nang!

  1. The core problem was deputed new Sikyong with his strong supporter like Samdong and many others played the dirty politic games. JCCs (Trimshipas) come back to power forcefully because of PT and Samdong, ex-party etc. Now people can only see that these 3 idiots( illigal Trimshipas) were destroying our democracy. And, then then Datse chithue party stood against 22 bravery and honest chithues who are strickly struck with 16th parliament’s resolution passed during their last session doc# 39 in order to save our constitution and democracy. That’s how it is regarding this so called institutional crisis.

  2. Question is, has the parliament the right to dismiss the Chief Justice or not. What does the constitution say in this case? What are the reasons for forsaking the justice Chief? We Tibetans have to be very carefully repect our constitution. The Constitution was formed with acceptance of all the Tibetans represented by their parliament members. So if some one has doubts about certain points in the constitution, they have to raise their reservations in the parliament and see if there is a way to change the constitution through majority power. Without that you cannot do certain things against the existing constitution. That is not the way a democratic system works.

    All those who are responsible for this mess should think very wisely and come to the point to work unanimously with due respect to their duty and for what they have stood for. If not they will be accused for causing our CTA not to function in due time properly. We will hold referendum for that if that goes so long in this way.

  3. The problem started with us having a Chief Justice commissioner with no education or experience in law. He is not a legal scholar nor a constitutional scholar. At the very least, the next Chief Justice commissioner should have legal experience. Ignorance of the Chief Justice commissioner is a core issue in this debacle.

  4. The way forward, I think is possible. It requires sacrifice from the 3 justices. Let the chief justice do the ceremonial, giving the oath of offices to all the newly elected parliamentarians in the Parliament Hall and then resigned from their seats. After the parliamentarians are duly sworn, their first task should be to appoint a committee to nominate the candidates and then to elect the justices. The recently resigned justices should be eligible candidates. Second task should be to set up a committee to amend the constitution the problem we faced recently. Both group should agree on this Way Forward.
    This is my humble opinion. Hope it work.

  5. 1) Through this constitutional crisis, I saw so called ex persons were very active on dirty plan which will destroy our exile society.

    2) Since dismissed TSJC by exile members of parliament through resolution. Kashag‘s Sikyong and TPiE’s members, who took oaths. All these are illegal. Whatever we take sides. Fact is illegal oath.

    3) Current important task is look forward to solution on this crisis, not fight to each other on oath and taking sides.

    4) We the common people must show our voice for solution, not for one sides.

    5) Our election commission committee must not take one sides. It is very dangerous, which will harm more and more.

    1. I fully agree. We can’t adopt a “main karoon to raas leela, tum karo toh character dheela’ approach. What is wrong for the goose should be wrong for the gander too!

  6. In my view both the TPIE and the Supreme Justice Commission overreacted over a minor issue/dispute but more fault lies with the TPIE. But lets get on with the business of the exile govt. We have more important business than this. China is trying to destroy Tibetan culture/religion. Six million Tibetans are suffering under Chinese occupation. The TGIE needs to plan what they will do when His Holiness passes away & China installs their own fake puppet Dalai Lama. So many big issues. Let’s put this “crisis” behind us and get on with it.

    1. I fully agree. We can’t adopt a “main karoon to raas leela, tum karo toh character dheela’ approach. What is wrong for the goose should be wrong for the gander too!

  7. Tsering Wangyal, who has appointed you to decide, if anything, on the current issue? So please keep your narrations or essay in an opinionated article rather that authoritative piece.

    1. As it appears in the ‘opinion’ column of the website I can just leave it as an opinion, for which everyone is entitle to. But things get out of hand when people, like you, instead of expressing opinion tries to impose decision on the general public.
    2. There is nothing illegitimate about the TSJC. If you are true and honest, the very resolution (#39), was illegitimate given it was passed haphazardly and given it was against the Charter, that it changed all three justices without any committee. Infringing the authority of TSJC. So don’t fool around, we the people are not uneducated or unaware, only thing is we don’t want to get ourselves dirty with people like you, those 10 choe-lug chitues. Wearing Buddha’s cloth but can’t respect our Nechung. Just pathetic.
    3. TPIE was mad that TSJC infringe on the workings of TPIE but in reality, TSJC was upholding what was in the Charter. So why is TPIE is lying about TSJC poking into the workings of TPIE?
    4. FYI, Tsering Wangyal, there is no two right TPIE 17th members but only one right, who took oath from interim speaker, as per the Charter, and nothing more nothing less. So don’t try to legitimize chitues who took oath from portrait and the Charter. There is no such provision.
    5. At most 180 days and if they don’t take oath by then, automatically they forfeit their seats on grounds of lack/failure to take oath according to the Charter and EC will call the next in line to take responsibility.
    6. First, resolution 39, then special meeting, then not attending the function graced by HH and now after everthing, these people pretend HH is the ultimate? grow up guys, if you were so respectful about HH, then the first thing you’ll do is to uphold the legacy of HH by adhering to the Charter and the government of CTA.

    Please don’t fool yourself and to the people. We know what is right and who is wrong just don’t want to play dirty politics like you.

    1. To be frank, I do think you are a bit overly concerned. Maybe you should change your nom de guerre.

      This is indeed just an opinion piece (as you have rightly observed). So, we can agree to disagree.

      Ad hominem will get you nowhere!

  8. This whole episode started with a pandemic lockdown happening but the charter specifying that the parliament must convene. Some blame goes to the framers of this charter for not envisioning emergencies like war, natural disasters and pandemics. Had they envisioned these scenarios and put an exemption clause in the charter than this whole situation would not have arisen. Now coming to the my main point , all that the justice commissioners had to do was to meet the parliamentary standing committee and tell them that since the assembly cannot convene as stipulated in the charter , the assembly whenever they convene at a later date must amend the charter to include this exemption clause and make it effective retrospectively. That was all they had to do and we would have avoided all this mess , however since they were not trained in constitutional law processes they didn’t know about such legal tools that would have solved the problem . The lesson we all must take from this whole experience is that in future for heaven’s sake , whomever we appoint as justice commissioners they must have some training in basic constitutional law and jurisprudence. Our practice of selecting people with normal experience but no legal experience leads to such constitutional crisis.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. That’s my feeling too. They have definitely succeeded in making a mountain out of a molehill.

  9. the major problem has been started from the Netflix series Episode#2, that was totally fatal blunder & unlawful move by those 31 unaware Tibetan Charter laws because no such law is mentioned in the charter to remove all the 3 supreme judges in one go as per Charter. Anybody can go through our Charter# 54 and 63( clause 4). The two simple words in Tibetan- Gang-rung and Su-rung is CLEARLY mentioned in Charter which means ‘One of them’. NOT ALL OF THEM in one go.

    1. Jangchub La,

      The dismissal clause is in Article 63. Please read carefully.

      ༤ སྤྱི་འཐུས་ལྷན་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་སྤྱི་འཐུས་རྩ་འབོར་གྱི་གསུམ་ཆ་གཉིས་ཡན་གྱིས་ཁྲིམས་ཞིབ་པ་ཆེ་བ་དང༌། ཁྲིམས་ཞིབ་པ་གཞན་གཉིས་བཅས་སུ་རུང་འཕོ་འགྱུར་དགོས་པའི་གྲོས་ཆོད་བཞག་སྟེ་འཕོ་འགྱུར་བྱེད་དགོས་བྱུང་ན་ལས་དེ་མིན་ཁྲིམས་ཞིབ་པ་ཆེ་བའི་ལས་རྒྱུན་ལོ་ལྔའམ། རང་ལོ་དྲུག་ཅུ་རེ་ལྔ་ཧྲིལ་པོ་ལོན་པ་གང་སྔའི་བར་ཡིན། ཁྲིམས་ཞིབ་པ་གཞན་གཉིས་རང་ལོ་དྲུག་ཅུ་རེ་ལྔ་ཧྲིལ་པོ་མ་ལོན་བར་ལས་འཁུར་རྒྱུན་འཛིན་བྱ་རྒྱུ།

      Please focus on the words “ དང༌” (and) “ བཅས་” (including), and “སུ་རུང་” (whoever suitable).

      The article you have quoted is about discussion in parliament, not about the dismissal of TSJC.

      Any way, གང་རུང་ can also be interpreted as meaning “one”, “both” or “whoever suitable” in Tibetan.

      Don’t blindly believe what people tell you. Read the charter and check the dictionary to verify the meaning of the words used. Our charter is online and Tibetan dictionary apps are free.

      I am no expert, I used both these tools to learn first and then, wrote this article.

  10. Mr. Tsering Wangyal, you have presented wonderful ideas and also the fact about present circumstances. Current issue is very easy to resolve if the argument of legitimacy forget for now and focus on all the outstanding work. There is always common ground if there is willingness. The party advisors or intellectual groups must come forward to fix the problem instead of keeping MPs divided. At present, the ball is in the hands of advisors whether you guys want to escalate problem or fix right away.

  11. It is more interesting than Netflix series – Eagerly waiting for next episode

    SEASON -1

    Episode 1 – SJC took Suo moto Action on TPiE speaker and standing committee on ground that TPIE Voilated the charter and SJC protrayed as Highest branch to Interprete the Law

    Episode 2- TPiE Impeached SJC’s 3 Justices in one session with 31 votes

    Episode 3- Samdong Rinpoche’s Interview two days before the final election (Timing couldn’t be better ) and PJ is still in shock

    Episode 4- Speaker PJ Resigns and Shocked

    Episode 5- PT won election

    Episode 6 – LS declaring he can stay in Power until new Sikyong takes oath from SJC which has been impeached ( rather not necessary to announce but he did as a lameduck Sikyong)

    Episode 7- SJC came back to power after 2 months ( saying their impeachment was unconstitutional and they are back in the game )
    Episode 8- PT sworn as new Sikyong from Disputed SJC Dhakpo who did prostrations infront of His Holiness and His Holiness didn’t even mention his name while addressing the Sikyong – point noted
    Episode 9- Interim Speaker Dawa Tsering ‘s Oath from disputed SJC Dhakpo

    Episode 10- U-Tsang and Amdo chitue taking oath from so called interim speaker and Khampa chitue + Religious Chithue + LGND taking oath on Dalai Lama portrait and Charter book

    Waiting for SEASON 2

    What is Tibetan Struggle ?
    To achieve meaningful Autonomy and preserve Tibetan Identity , Culture , religion, language , environment, self governance etc

    Reality : Power Struggle among overselves to run the CTA $$$

    Observation :
    if we cannot Successfully negotiate with this so called Egoistic clash rather than constitutional breakdown , how can we pursue Negotiations with PRC hardliners ?

    Honest legal Opinion :

    1. SJC cannot exercise its Suo Moto against other 2 branches of Gov’t who has been clothed with equal powerful if not more
    ( esp. during this unprecedented Pandemic period SJC shouldn’t have interpreted the Charter in Strict Construction, rather it should have interpreted reasonably and could have given either direction or Opinion on TPiE Parliament session issue but they have used the situation in their favour and barred the Speaker of the Parliament and Standing committee member from exercising what is known as greatest gift of democracy – right to elect one ‘s leader – that also to the speaker of the house – whom we can say a symbol of Democracy …

    2. TPiE- With so called experienced Parliamentarians knowingly impeaching SJC justices without Due process of law which has been very much mentioned in Charter and Universally known principles of natural justice – which is – other side must be heard otherwise would be Unconstitutional , still they have done it because to show thier supremacy

    I called it Egoistic Breakdown rather than Constitutional Breakdown .

    Finally my View on Samdhojg Rinpoche’s interpretation of Charter :
    Rinloche was true “Statute must be read as Whole “
    In Intrepation : There can be two school of thoughts when interpreting the provisions of Constitution or Statute
    1. Originalist/ Textualist : which believes constitution must be interpreted in its original sense / framers intention is most important here
    2. Living Constitutionalist/ Evolutionist : Which believes Constitution must be interpret as per the evolution of society and to the Circumstances of that period and Intention of the framers is not considered Important here .
    Eg: Rinpoche said framers didn’t intend to include provision in Charter to impeach all SJC Justices in Once but Living constitutionalist would say That must be Framers Intention, but as of current situation framers intention and interpretation is immaterial as all three justices equally and timingly pressed the button and no way one could be only impeached , therefore Rinpoche’s Original intent cannot be taken u to consideration Here.

    For SJC : Please note that Suo Moto or Judicial Activism or review was born after Madburry V. Madison but was it right ? How many times in US invoked that Judgement ?
    Once in 100 years , and not with this senselesss legal mind .
    Generally in Democracy :
    Legislature : Provided with law making power as it represents from all sections of society and could well be served the welfare of the society
    Executive : 1 Sikyong/ President who can quickly enforce the power and taken quick action that’s why one person to quickly execute the Law
    Judiciary : To apply to the Law / to interpret the law – Usually the task of Interpreting the constitution is left with Justices with the view that They are the experts and scolars in field of Law , even then in US they argued that fate of US cannot be in hands of 9 Supreme Court Justices .
    But in our cases our justices donot even have sound legal Education how on earth we can imagine that such Suo moto powers/ Fate of our Government/ CTA in the hands of these 3 retired official who are known to be final authority in Applying the Charter?
    QUESTION : Is SUO MOTO Itself Unconstitutional or UnCharter ?
    And if His Holiness interferes could it be so called Democracy ? Can we take the blame from PRC ?
    1. WAS ALL THIS CALCULATED MOVE ? To check and balance the Supremacy of Parliament as it seems obvious that securing 2/3 vote in Parliament is not a difficult move and With no party system and Unicameral System it is quite easy to Secure the votes and impeach anyone And becoming Chithue is not a difficult task these days and thier actions are literally impossible to check given the name of parliamentary privileges , with all these thoughts, in MY View it is good to have proper check and balance among the Three pillars of Govt but is it the right thing to do that way ?
    2. Can Very existence of SJC which has been created under Indian Arbitration law , can this itself be question and move to It’s own creature ?

    Thank you It’s a view from Student .

    1. I smell Chinese dirty money circulating in your veins and arteries. So I have no dispute because it won’t change anything. Just like your boss Xi, you will only deny that Covid 19 did not originated from Wuhan. Similarly, whatever I say, you’ll say TSJC, Penpa Tsering, and HH were wrong because you are paid for spreading such lies but I am not and I outright reject your fancy theory narrated in Netflix series.

      Better Luck next time or be more creative next time.

      1. I smell cowardice and hatred of Rangzen proponents. But above all I smell the badboo of your malice and hatred towards Khampas. You are willing to go to any length to appease enemy China but you cannot stand the guts of the Rangzen and Khampa people’s individual sovereignty. Losers and will take all of us down with your loser mentality.

      2. Hello CC, stop acting like a stub born kid who would roll on the floor crying for a particular demand!! I see a great degree of regionalism fanatical in you!!

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