The Tibetan legislators with Ms. Kesang Yanki Takla, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the UK
LONDON, 25 October 2005: The 11-member delegation of the Dharamsala-based Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (parliament in exile) concluded their two day-long programme at the Westminster, seat of the British parliament, today with an long-long meeting with Mr. Mike Gapes, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, followed by a special meeting of the UK All Party Parliament Group for Tibet.
Mr. Gapes explained to the visiting Tibetan parliamentarians the functions of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which they had the opportunity to observe yesterday when the committee members questioned the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, on the subject of “War Against Terrorism”. He asked the members a series of questions relating to the situation inside Chinese-occupied Tibet and said that the non-violent policy adopted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama had a strong moral case. The Tibetan parliamentarians briefed Mr. Gapes about the current situation in Tibet and the ongoing process of Sino-Tibetan dialogue. They urged Mr. Gapes to use his good office in persuading the Chinese authorities, including President Hu Jintao (scheduled to visit London next month) to take urgent measures to resolve the issue of Tibet in the best interest of both the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
The Chairman of the UK All Party Parliament Group for Tibet, Mr. Harry Cohen, while welcoming the Tibetan parliamentarians yesterday at the start of their introductory session on the working of the British parliament, said that he had also tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the parliament to welcome them. This is one of several EDMs relating to Tibet that concerned British MPs have tabled in the recent part to attract more parliamentary attention and support for the just Tibetan cause. Mr. Cohen is an MP belonging to the ruling Labour Party and his Early Day Motion read:
“That this House welcomes the historic visit to Westminster on 24th October by a delegation of 11 Tibetan MPs from the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies; commends the Tibetan Government in exile’s continued commitment to delivering change and seeking justice for their people through non-violence; considers it a significant achievement that democracy has been developed for the Tibetan people in exile despite the adversity of their circumstances; laments that the Tibetan people within Tibet do not have the same recourse to democratic process; and urges the Government to continue its policy actively to encourage the Chinese Government to negotiate with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government to find a lasting and legitimate solution to the benefit of Tibet and China”.
The Tibetan parliamentarians were given a tour of the parliament yesterday by Mr. Fredrick Hyde-Chambers, Chairman of the Tibet Society, which had hosted their visit to the Westminster. They also had an inspiring meeting with the Rt. Hon. Lord Weatherill, former Speaker of the House of Commons and currently a member of the House of Lords. Lord Weatherill has been a long time supporter of the Tibetan cause and had met His Holiness even when he was holding the high official position of the Speaker of the British Parliament.
The Tibetan parliamentarians also had the opportunity to speak with other British parliamentarians and hear the British perspective on “autonomy/devolution” extended to Scotland or Wales. In the evening they attended a reception that was hosted jointly by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet and the Tibet Society.
Mr. Hyde-Chambers and Philippa Carrick of the Tibet Society felt that the support that the Tibet Society, had given toward the Tibetan parliamentary delegation’s visit to the Westminster has been a good investment.
“It was interesting to note that the British MPs also learned a lot from their firsthand interaction with the Tibetan MPs and about the working of the Tibetan parliament and democracy in exile. Some of the Tibetan MPs were very good and professional,” he said.
The Tibetan parliamentarians seems to have enjoyed their experience of visiting and learning from the parliaments they have visited and the firsthand interactions they have had of meeting parliamentarians, Tibet supporters and Tibetans living in the West. They are hoping to return back to Dharamsala with a renewed sense of optimism and knowledge of the workings of the democratic institutions in the West.
“During the course of our visit and meetings at the parliament here I experienced the feeling that the parliamentarians and people showed much concern and support for Tibet. In the past I only heard of foreign support. But now I was able to actually experience it for myself. Also we found that the Office of Tibet (visited this morning), its staff, the Tibetans here and the Tibet Support Groups are doing all they can to promote the cause of Tibet and Tibetan culture. This is contrary to the feeling that Tibetans living abroad were not doing much for our cause and culture. Everyone seems to be well connected in supporting each other for the Tibetan cause and I am very pleased with what I have seen and heard,” said Tibetan parliamentarian Mrs. Tseten Buti Drawu.
Another parliamentarian Mr. Ugyen Tenzin said, “From yesterday’s meetings, it was clear that there were similarities as well as dissimilarities between the British parliament and our exile parliament. There are also a number of things we can learn from the British experience, especially in the formation and conduct of various committees. I personally feel I have benefited a lot from this trip.”
Joining him was Tibetan parliamentarian Mr. Wangye Lama, who said, “In London we were able to visit not only the parliament but also visited the Office of Tibet where we had a good briefing from Representative Kesang-la and the Chitues also were able to express their feelings. The visit has been very well organised and I am glad everyone had worked hard. This trip has been a great learning experience. I have taken notes and will see how much I am able to put these into practice with the support of my fellow parliamentarians”.
Parliamentarian Mr. Penpa Tsering, who was responsible for coordinating this visit from their side said that they could make use of what they have learned from the way the select committees in the British parliament are formed and felt encouraged by the commitment of parliamentarians working for Tibet.
“I think the members who have come here would definitely learn how select committees function, and how it could be replicated in our parliament. We also enjoyed our meeting with Mr. Mike Gapes and it is very encouraging to note that you have very committed members, even though small in number, in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet who are working for Tibet, rather then having many members who are not seriously committed in taking the struggle forward,” he said.
Mrs. Kesang Y. Takla, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Northern Europe based at the Office of Tibet in London, said that the trip has been beneficial to the Tibetan parliamentarians.
“The visit has been very constructive and positive. It is a good educational experience on the working of the British parliament and I hope the same outcome will come from their visit to the Scottish parliament, which they will be seeing tomorrow. This has been a good opportunity for them to understand how parliaments in some of the countries in Europe function and also to share the Tibetan experience,” said Mrs. Takla, who had helped to coordinate the Tibetan parliamentarians visit programmes in London and the Scottish capital Edinburgh. She will be accompanying them to Edinburgh tomorrow morning on the last leg of their educational tour.
The London-based Tibetan parliamentarian, Mr. Sonam Frasi, who has been involved in helping the 11-member parliamentary delegation, feels that they have enjoyed their trip and experience of visiting the parliament and taking part in all the programmes.
“I feel they seem to have all enjoyed their visit and the experience. However, it is difficult to say how much they are able to implement what they have learned from their visit to the parliament and interaction with parliamentarians here,” said Mr. Sonam Frasi, who also will be accompanying the delegation to Edinburgh.
The visiting members of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies include:
Mrs. Nawang Lhamo (born 1956 in Dhingri, Tibet) now lives in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India. She studied at the Central School for Tibetans, Shimla and graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh. She earned her B.Ed. degree from Banaras Hindu University. She was a teacher in Tibetan Children’s Village in Ladakh and also served as the President of the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) and as General Secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the TWA. Currently, she is the Director of Nyingtobling Tibetan Handicapped Children’s Craft Home, Dharamsala. She was elected to the Twelfth and Thirteenth ATPD.
Mrs. Tsering Dolma (born 1957, Zonga-Tsang, Tibet) now lives in Rajpur, Uttaranchal India. She served as Secretary of Regional Tibetan Women’s Association (RTWA) from 1991 to 1994. She was elected as the President of RTWA from 1995 to 1998. During the same period, she served as a member of the 6th Central Executive Committee of U-Tsang Cholka. From 1997 to 2000, she was a member of the Regional Tibetan Freedom Movement. Till she was elected to the 13th ATPD, she served as the Public Relation Officer of the U-Tsang Central Committee. She was elected to the 13th ATPD.
Mr. Urgen Tenzin (born 1964, Sikkim India) now lives in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh India. He finished his schooling from CST Darjeeling. During his school days, he was a founder of Students’ voluntary body for the welfare of the poor orphan students and served for two years as an accountant of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress. He has a bachelor’s degree (1983-85) from Chandigarh Government College and a Post Graduate degree in Sociology from Mysore University (1992-93). During his college days he worked in Tibetan Freedom Movement (1984-85) and Tibetan Youth Congress (1991-93). From 1994 to 1997, he served as the Vice Chairman of the Mundgod Local Assembly and thereafter got elected as its Chairman from 1997 to 2000 and was reelected as Chairman in 2001. He was elected to the 13th ATPD and is presently a member of the ATPD Standing Committee.
Mr. Namgyal Wangdui (born 1935 in Gyantse, Tibet) now lives in Dekyiling Settlement, Dehradun, Uttaranchal, India. He studied Tibetan language, history and culture and is the author of a book “Role of Tibetan Army in the Political History of Tibet” published in 1976. He also authored “Political and Military History of Tibet” in two volumes. He served as the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations in 1962 and as a leader of SFF from 1963-78. He was the Welfare Officer of the Dekyiling Settlement from 1978-85. He was elected to the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth ATPDs and is presently a member of the ATPD Standing Committee.
Mr. Sonam Tobgyal (born 1948 in Kham Markham, Tibet) now lives in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India. He has educated himself specifically in Tibetan linguistics and grammar. On coming to exile, he worked at the Reception Centre for a year. He was elected to the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth ATPD and was a member of the Standing Committee of the previous two terms and continues to be one.
Mrs. Tseten Buti Drawu (born 1958, Gha Kyigu-dho, Tibet) now lives in Tibetan Taopon Gapa Welfare Society, Kamrao, Himachal Pradesh. She completed her schooling from Dehradun in 1976 and graduated in B.Com from Delhi University. She also did a course in Hotel Management from the Institute of Hotel Management and Catering, Pusa Institute New Delhi. Since 1980, she served in the Tibetan community at Kamrao settlement as the in-charge of Handicraft Centre and looked after the school affairs and the settlement boarding school aided by Save the Children Fund, UK. She served as the Chairperson of the Local Assembly and also is a member of the Tibetan Taopon Gapa Welfare Society, Kamrao since 1986. She was elected to the 13th ATPD.
Mr. Penpa Tsering (born 1967, Bylakuppe, India) now lives in New Delhi. He studied at the Central School for Tibetans, Bylakuppe and topped the merit list in Class XII. He graduated with Economics Major from the Madras Christian College, Chennai. His work experience includes running a private export enterprise and a restaurant. During his student days, he served as the General Secretary of both the Tibetan Freedom Movement and the Nigerian Tibet Friendship Association. He also served as the General Secretary of the Central Executive Committee of Dhomey. He is presently the Executive Director of the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre, New Delhi. He was elected to the Twelfth and Thirteenth ATPD.
Mr. Karma Yeshi Born in exile and did his schooling from central School for Tibetans, Puruwala, Paonta Sahib and Dalhousie respectively. After completing his schooling, he underwent short-term voluntary military training for few months. He obtained his B.A. Hons. B.Ed and Interpreter-ship in language from Punjab University, Chandigarh. He became a member of Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) during his school days in 1980. While in Chandigarh, besides his studies he served Regional Tibetan Youth Congress and Regional Tibetan Freedom Movement as its executives. He became a teacher at Central School for Tibetans, Puruwala in 1990 and served the school for more than four years. Besides his teaching profession, he voluntarily served Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Regional Tibetan Freedom Movement and Tibetan Local Assembly of Puruwala Tibetan settlement as its President and led many Tibet related activities.
In the year in 1995, he got elected as Vice President of Tibetan Youth Congress in its ninth General Body Meeting. He again got re-elected as Vice President of TYC in the year 1998. During his six years term as Vice President of TYC he led many freedom struggle activities such as peace march, processions, demonstrations and so on. Besides Vice President, he also took the responsibility of the editor of the Rangzen, a Tibetan language magazine of TYC. He stayed on 26 days fast unto death in front of the United Nations office in Geneva during UN Human Rights Commission in 1999. He got imprisoned time and again in Delhi and elsewhere for taking part in various political activities.
He led many workshops and leadership trainings for Tibetans. He had attended many national as well as international conferences representing TYC. He traveled widely throughout the Tibetan settlements in exile and many foreign countries by promoting Tibetan cause. He became Editor-in-Chief of Voice of Tibet radio news service in March 2003. Besides, he is a Member of Parliament of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile. He got elected as a Member of Parliament in its bye-election in July 2004.
Mr. Oga Lama (born 1943, Nangchen, Tibet) now lives in Nepal. He fled Tibet fighting the Chinese and arrived at Dolporong in 1961. He served for 12 years as the treasurer of Regional Tibetan Freedom Movement, Phagshing. He serves as the representative of parents to receive foreign aids for poor children. He served as a member of the 1st Phagshing Local Assembly and was re-elected as the Chairman of the 2nd Local Assembly. He was a member of the Local Dhotoe Association and in 2000, was elected its Chairman. He was elected to the 13th ATPD.
Mr. Jigme (born 1966, Amdo Hortsang, Tibet) now lives in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India. From 1980-85, he studied Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy and Logic at Tashikhyl Monastery and then at Ganzu Province Buddhist Studies University. He taught Tibetan language at the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute in 1993-94 and is the author of eight books and numerous articles. He was the chief editor of Nor’de, a monthly Tibetan cultural newspaper; Nor-Oe, quarterly magazine and Norzod, a bi-annual journal and is completing work on an encyclopedia of Tibet. He is currently working on the history of Dhomey. He is also the president of the Dhomey Central Executive Committee. He was elected to the Twelfth and Thirteenth ATPD.
Mr. Wangye Lama (born 1933, Lithang, Tibet) was ordained as a monk at the age of 7 and received his monastic education from Lithang Gonsar Dratsang. He joined Chushi Gangrug in 1958 and actively fought against the Chinese occupation forces. He continued to take part in the resistance movement after coming into exile in 1959. He took the responsibility of building the Lodrik Annapurna Hotel in Nepal and was its chief administrator till 1999. The Kashag appointed him as the president of the reestablished Lodrik administration in 1983. In 1992 and 1998, he was popularly elected by the Lodrik people as their President and continues to serve as the President. He was nominated by His Holiness to the 13th Assembly.
Report by Tsering Tashi (Office of Tibet, London)