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Democracy Day: Exile Government asks Tibetans to give more importance to “duties than rights”
Phayul[Tuesday, September 02, 2008 15:13]
By Phurbu Thinley

Dharamsala, September 2: Marking the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan Democracy Day, Tibet’s Government-in-exile today asked all Tibetans to give more importance to their “democratic duties than rights” in the Kashag’s statement read out by Ven. Tsering Phuntsok, the minister for Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration, here today.

Kalon (minister) Tsering Phuntsok was acting on behalf of Kalon Tripa (prime minister) Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, who is currently away in Mumbai, where the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama has decided to take rest sometime since Monday after undergoing medical tests for abdominal discomfort and exhaustion.

“The Kashag would like to emphatically state that all Tibetans should - at this very critical and crucial period - give more importance to their democratic duties than rights,” the Kashag’s statement said.

The statement went on to add that Tibetans “should give more importance to the national and community's benefits than individual's and organisation's; and that they should, in order to challenge the forces of division, strive towards combining their collective energies”.

Stating that Tibetan people have endured the oppression of a foreign country for nearly 60 years, Kashag statement urged Tibetan people to learn from the sacrifices made by many heroic Tibetan men and women in defending Tibetan religion, culture, national identity and freedom, and to continue the rightful and non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people until the issue of Tibet is resolved once and for all.

In the statement, the Tibetan Government blamed “Chinese autocratic government's ultra-leftist policies” responsible to the continuous sufferings endured by the Tibetans inside Tibet since China sent military troops to rule Tibet in 1949.

As a result of China’s oppressive policies, the statement said “the very survival of the Tibetan people is at stake today”.

“Under these policies, the basic rights of the Tibetan people, including their political, social, religious and cultural rights are trampled upon by the Chinese government. Therefore, until and unless the nature of the People's Republic of China's polity does not become more open, free and transparent, it is difficult for China to be able to resolve the problem of Tibet,” the statement underlined.

Accordingly, the statement also urged that the Tibetan people “living in the free world should also work towards cultivating a culture of openness, freedom and transparency”.

The statement emphasizes that in order to establish a true democratic society, there is a need to maintain gender equality and that women should equally partake in the administrative and political work of a country.

Noting that Tibetan women were lagging behind men in their ratio of taking part in the administrative and political works, the statement announced that the Kashag would soon come out with a policy to strengthen women's power in the Tibetan society to bridge the existing difference in the future.

September 2 is a special day and an official holiday for Tibetans around world as they celebrate their democracy day.

This year completes 48 years since the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama declared democracy for Tibetans in 1960 and promulgated a constitution for a future Tibet, based on the principles of modern democracy.

To support his declaration of democracy, the Dalai Lama established a Tibetan Government-in-exile, with a parliament directly elected by the people, although he initially had had the sole constitutional power to appoint cabinet ministers and department heads.

As part of democratic reforms, the Dalai Lama, in 1991, announced the “Charter for Tibetans in exile”, whereby, amongst other things, expanded the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, (now changed to Tibetan Parliament) and were empowered to appoint the Cabinet (Tib: Kashag).

Speaking in 1991, after announcing this landmark decision, the Dalai Lama said: “Change is coming to the Tibetan political system. It is unfortunate that it happens in exile, but this does not stop us learning the art of democracy….This democratization has reached out to Tibetans all over the world…. I believe that future generations of Tibetans will consider these changes among the most important achievements of our experience in exile.”

As part of further democratization, in 2000, the Tibetan supreme leader instituted another reform, requiring exile Tibetans to directly elect their Prime Minister with full administrative power. In 2001, for the very first time, Tibetans from 27 countries voted on a single day, with more than 80 percent electing Professor Samdhong Rinpoche as the first Kalon Tripa.

Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche is currently running his second consecutive term after being re-elected in 2006, securing a landslide majority of over 90 percent of the total votes cast.

Since the introduction of democracy, Tibetan community in exile experienced a constantly evolving vibrant democratic system, founded on “harmonious blend of spiritual and political values” as they call it. Much of the credit goes to the benevolent leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile and exile home of the Dalai Lama, large number of Tibetan refugees today gathered at the Tsuglag-Khang (Main Tibetan Temple), the venue for official functions, to honour the Dalai Lama’s declaration of democracy.

In commemorating the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan Democracy, the Kashag’s statement, expressed “immense gratitude” and paid “obeisance” to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his “extraordinary efforts to transform the Tibetan polity into a genuine democracy”.

The official function, kept short without any elaborate celebrations, sensibly due to current depressing situation inside Tibet, included award presentation to students who achieved outstanding performance in their Class XII Board exams and, official speeches from the Kashag and the Tibetan Parliament.

The function, which lasted not more than an hour, was attended by Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament Mr Karma Choephel, other members of the parliament, cabinet ministers, and senior government officials.

In his address to the crowds assembled at the Tsuglag-Khang, Mr Karma expressed sympathy and solidarity to those Tibetans who have been killed, arrested, injured or tortured for taking part in peaceful demonstrations across Tibet since March 10 this year. The Tibetans speaker said those brave Tibetans brothers and sister have shown extreme courage and faith to selflessly sacrifice their lives and belongings for the greater cause of Tibet.

Click Here to read the full text of the Kashag’s statement
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