By Tenzin Pema
Bangalore, August 7: In a move that could have serious repercussions for the growth of Tibetan democracy, one representative office in India has closed all registrations for the Kalon Tripa 2011 elections, effective today, eleven days ahead of its scheduled deadline.
The South Zone Office in Bangalore has wrapped up registrations for the forthcoming elections, seen as a crucial determinant of the future of Tibetan movement, saying the Election Commission (EC) announcement explicitly called for registrations to be done by August 18. As such, the office was stopping further registrations, and would now be compiling the list of registered voters and photocopying relevant documents to be sent to the EC office, it said.
None of the people who were refused the opportunity to register agreed to talk even on conditions of extreme anonymity. One reasoning that was offered to them, they said, was that the office could not wait for potential voters to come one at a time until the said deadline.
In June, the Tibetan Election Commission announced registration dates for the 2011 election of Kalon Tripa or Tibetan Prime Minister as well as that of the members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. Mr. Jamphel Chosang, the Election Commissioner, addressing a press conference in Dharamsala on June 10 said the registration of Tibetan exile voters will start on June 18 and will close on August 18, 2010.
Earlier today, when Phayul contacted Mr. Chosang for clarification on whether registration deadlines differed for different regions, he said, the same rules and deadlines applied, irrespective of geographies.
Speaking to Phayul by phone, Mr. Chosang reiterated that the last date for registering for the said elections was set at August 18, adding that the list of registered voters would have to reach the EC office by August 25.
The Office of the Chief Representative in Bangalore had issued a notice -- which set August 5 as the last date for registrations -- among Tibetans in the city as well as settlements under its purview, adding that Tibetans should have paid attention to these announcements and registered according to the schedule set by the said office.
But in any city, and Bangalore included, where Tibetan population is almost always scattered, many have only the Internet to bank on for information.
When this reporter approached the Tibetan exile government’s South Zone office to register, the Chief Representative Mr Tashi Phuntsok flatly disagreed to allow it saying the office was taking no further registrations.
They had in fact extended their initial deadline from August 5 to August 7, a member of the Regional Tibetan Freedom Movement said.
On further probing over whether this meant that no person from the South Zone could register henceforth, the Chief Representative agreed.
“Wow! That is wrong. The government announced it’s till August 18,” Mr Lobsang Wangyal, a free-lance photojournalist, said.
Tibetan activist Mr. Tenzin Tsundue echoed Mr Wangyal’s sentiment. “This is completely illegal to close registrations before the actual day,” Mr. Tsundue said. "If someone finds them breaking the rule, he must complain firstly to the Central Election Commissioner and to the local legislative assembly officers,” advised Mr Tsundue, who is also part of the Youth for Better Democracy group whose primary goal is to create awareness of the election process, registration and the date, in addition to introducing the candidates to potential voters.
The primary elections to nominate candidates for Kalon Tripa and the Tibetan Parliament is set for October 3, 2010, while the general elections is slated to take place on March 20, 2011.
Tenzin Pema is a Bangalore based business journalist.