By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 13: The proceedings of the biannual session of 17th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile has been halted since Saturday as a group of MPs from the Utsang, Domey and Europe constituency staged a walk out over their objection citing the revival of the infamous ‘Document 39’ that ousted all the Judges of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission and defamation of sitting judges of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission.
On September 10th, during the discussion on an amendment to the Charter regarding the qualifications of candidates of justice commissioners of the TSJC, MP Juchen Kunchok Choedon protested that the judges of the TSJC who drafted the bill are “illegal and invaders” and without authority citing ‘Document 39’. In response, few MPs including MP Dawa Phunkyi argued that speaking against sitting judges of the TSJC is not permitted and that revival of the ‘Document 39’ goes against the legitimacy of all the incumbent MPs as they were administered oath of office by the Speaker, who was sworn in by the judges of the TSJC.
MP Dawa Phunkyi raised few objections within the house over the matter before walking out and with other joining the protest. Since then, 8 Utsang MPs, 10 Domey MPs and 1 Europe have refused to join the parliamentary session. “We are unable to resume the session because the other group continues to call the sitting judges illegal despite taking oaths from the Speaker who was sworn in by the same judges, and agreeing to not discuss the issue in parliament earlier,” MP Phunkyi told the press on Monday.
On the other side, MP Kunchok Yarphel on Monday told the press, “We cannot accept the condition placed by the other group that they will only return to the parliament if the matter surrounding ‘Document 39’ and the sitting judges are not raised in the parliament.” He cited freedom of speech to raise the matter concerning ‘Document 39’ in the parliament.
The President of the CTA, Sikyong Penpa Tsering told the media, “All sides should refrain from activities that hinder the official proceedings and impede the functioning of CTA.” He however reiterated that the Kashag (Cabinet) considers the issue surrounding ‘Document 39’ to be resolved and the judges of the TSJC to be legitimate.
The Speaker of TPiE Khenpo Sonam Tenphel and Deputy Speaker Dolma Tsering declined to speak with the media on Monday evening and the house is unable to convene without the necessary quorum since Saturday, now moving on to the third working day since September 10.
In October last year, elected lawmakers unanimously agreed to seek His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s recommendation, which was to take the oath of office as per the Tibetan charter. The Dalai Lama, while giving his recommendation, said that his guidance cannot be in breach of the Charter. The Tibetan spiritual leader had responded through a two paged letter where he said that he was “disappointed” that the 17th TPiE was unable to convene and that the incident may cause Tibetans, especially those in Tibet, to lose hope. Furthermore, he had suggested that if parliamentarians were to disagree with the said recommendation, the Election Commission should move on to exercise its authority as per the charter to secure a majority in the parliament to continue proceedings.