By Tenzin Kalden
Hi, I will go with the disclaimer first. I am your usual middle-aged Tibetan male with his two cents on the current parliamentary deadlock. I am not a legal or political expert or any expert in any way, nor have I read the “Chatrim” to get into the nuts and bolts of the current parliamentary stalemate. I am a videographer by profession with no intellectual authority. I am here because I want to first rant a bit about my observation, and then I have a suggestion. It appears that everyone is at their wit’s end. It doesn’t harm to give a bad idea. But before that, here goes my rant.
I remember being very surprised when I first read about the abrupt removal of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commissioners. I couldn’t fathom the whole process of impeachment taking a little more than an hour. That didn’t feel right, but like most Tibetans I couldn’t make much sense of it and waited to hear and read more about it. However, the more I heard and read about it, the more confused I became.
For the first time in my life, I heard jargons like Suo-Moto, Article 52, Resolution 39 etc. On a side note, I think these jargon-laden terms were pretty orgasmic for the Tibetan intellectual community. There were arguments from both ends but I was not convinced with the idea that the impeachment process of Supreme Justices took much less time and investigation than the firing of a mid-level manager of a company I used to work for.
The events that followed the impeachment are choppy waters, I have my opinions but I rather steer clear of it. There was also a prequel to this saga. But all in all, we are in 2021 with a hung parliament since June 8th and there is a parliament session due to be held in September. Tibetan Alex Fergusons on social media are having a field day with their dangerous opinions. How would people in Tibet make sense of what’s going on? Do they also need to understand Suo-Moto, Article 58 etc. or will “infighting” be their only takeaway?
Whether one supports the MPs who did not take oath from the pro-tem Speaker or the ones who did, whichever boat you are sailing on, one cannot logically deny all the points of the opposing arguments. The only option before us is to learn to agree to disagree and be at peace with that. This is a situation that is riddled with ironies. Something that started off as a tussle between two pillars of our democracy ended up in a parliamentary stalemate based on regional lines. While I can’t make sense of the impeachment of the three TSJCs, I also cannot understand TSJC’s self-reinstatement. Quite paradoxically, MPs that called TSJC’s reinstatement unconstitutional took oath in front of His Holiness’ portrait in protest, which was also unconstitutional. Even writing this part was confusing.
I think the current elected members of parliament, who were also part of the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE), have a moral and ethical responsibility to rise above their politics and try to break this deadlock. It started during the 16th TPiE and they couldn’t finish what they had started. Even if one agreed with the removal of three justices, the responsibility of appointing new officeholders fell upon the 16th TPiE. Their term ended with no Judiciary in place. Following which the cracks in our society are now out in the open, which could be a good or bad thing. I am not going to delve into it.
Since neither group is willing to make any compromise, and they all might have good reasons to do so, however, they have to find a way to agree to disagree and end this sooner than later. Time is of essence in avoiding further escalation, no one could have imagined this mess last year and it is only going to get uglier. A self-immolation was attempted recently in Hunsur and now a relay hunger-strike is in place against the TSJC. Emotions are running high whereas reasoning is scarce. I end my rant here and finally get to my suggestion now.
I think we have passed the point of effective legal solution; the situation needs a political solution. I propose that each party goes through the other party’s swearing-in process. The MPs that took oath from the pro-tem Speaker take oath in front of His Holiness’s portrait and the other group returns the favor or vice versa. Give each other some ground and end this unproductive stalemate. There will be no winners and losers.
Although the idea sounds too simple and childlike, there are some advantages to it. Firstly, if the MPs can show that they can take the high road and rise above regional and political lines, then it sends a positive message after months of chaos. If they agree to disagree and still respect each other, then it might be a good example for us common Tibetans too.
Secondly, to a certain extent, the whole stalemate has come down to egos stuck in a precarious situation. An MP might not agree with some crucial points argued by her camp but I don’t think they can jump the boat now, because there is no real middle ground. Right now, the only option is to jump into your opposition’s boat.
I have come across some very good articles especially by legal experts in our community. A legal recourse like setting up a non-partisan investigative committee would be ideal. But considering the current distrust in the air, who is going to select the committee? Amongst the three pillars of our democracy, two of them are directly or indirectly involved in this fiasco. What if there is a rift amongst the committee members? Will the majority of the public who are on the wrong side of the findings truly accept its legitimacy? So on and so forth. I am sure there are good answers to all these questions. But this recourse could also deepen the rift in our community, considering that the current scenario and our charter leaves room for interpretations.
Referendum, which some have suggested as a way out, might sound like a fair option. But since the majority of Tibetans in exile are from the U-Tsang region, would others feel fair about it? And many other curveballs that one cannot even imagine. We need a healing closure for now so that we can work on our social cohesion and other shortcomings in the years to come.
Most of us, including me, blame one side more than the other; however, I think our situation needs an old school sit down and mediation between the two parties. A middle ground is of utmost importance in any negotiation. Asking the opposition to come to your boat is not middle ground. Approaching His Holiness is not an option. That beats the purpose of democracy, which he carefully worked on for more than half a century. It is our obligation to clean our own mess.
That’s just my two cents, take it for what it’s worth. We all can agree to disagree.
(Views expressed are his own)
The author is a Dharamshala based videographer. He was a recipient of the Tibetan Scholarship Program and graduated from Digital Film Academy, NY in 2015.