Speech by Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche to the 1st session of the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile
June 2, 2011
Translation courtesy of Tibetan Women's Association (TWA)
There are arguments and claims visible in the mass media that the Tibetan Government in Exile has been recalled or rescinded. This is not true. In 1959 the Government of Gaden Phodrang shifted base from the capital city of Lhasa to India, and for the last 52 years has functioned in a democratic manner. It is a democracy that has a proper charter and the three pillars of democracy: Judiciary, Legislature and Executive. This Government follows the system of checks-and-balances and is a transparent and full-fledged democracy.
Since 1642 till present, the legitimate and lawful Tibetan Government has not been recalled or rescinded. As a matter of fact, it has made great strides despite being faced with all challenges and odds.
Today the 43 members of TPIE are present here in this parliament--the number has not been reduced and their roles and responsibilities have not been lessened. They abide by law and charter, and having just completed their first session of the parliament, is in the midst of preparing for future sessions. In this Parliament, there is only progress and no signs of change and self-withdrawing or self-censorship.
The head of the executive is a newly and democratically elected man who is here amidst us and will very soon take office. His responsibilities, roles, and power have in fact increased—they have not been reduced, censored or withdrawn.
In addition to previous roles and responsibilities, the Judiciary and the Legislature have been entrusted with the power and responsibilities that His Holiness bore prior to His devolvement of political power.
I am shocked to see that there are claims that the Government has withdrawn despite the fact that there is clear and evident progress, growth and development in all areas and aspects. I am compelled to question what caused such claims.
As the Kalon Tripa, I can admit with conviction that there is no withdrawing or self-censorship of any sorts.
The most tangible change comes with change in terminology/ name / nomenclature. This change in terminology is not happening for the first time. Since the time His Holiness led Tibetan cabinet (Kashag) sought asylum in India in 1959, we agreed and accepted the mutual use of the names, Central Tibetan Institution (Yus Bod Mi Driktsug), or Central Tibetan Administration (Yus Bod Mi Zinkyong), under the guidance of our host country India.
We have since used the name ‘Central Tibetan Administration’ consistently and rigorously in the English language from 1959 to date without having to change it. But until today, we had not used the correct Tibetan translation of the name - Central Tibetan Administration. Instead we used the name Tibetan Government in Exile (Tsen Jol Bod Shung) in Tibetan and consequently we often refer to its literal English translation which is - the Tibetan Government in Exile.
Funding for Tibetan Parliamentary Policy Research Center from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) has dropped by almost 100%. FNF has also had to stop funding the Tibet Support Group conferences. Though this did not deter us from holding TSG conferences, it is noteworthy to consider the reasons and causes.
Until now, we did not have to bear the repercussions of using the name ‘Tibetan Government in Exile’ because we clung on to the reputed title and name of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We were confident that trapped in a legal problem, His Holiness’ name and His timely intervention would come to our rescue, helping us bypass and escape the implications. But now that His Holiness has devolved political authority—and in the case of a post-Dalai Lama scenario--facing legal problems because of the use of a name will prove precarious and hazardous. Therefore we should understand the concern of His Holiness and know that he has also considered the same.
The change in the name should have no effect on our meaning, intention and aspiration. If we insistently cite the small change in the name and consider the terminology bigger and more powerful than the actual meaning, purpose and proposition, then this will impede our tactical, calculated and strategic political thinking, planning and action.
Instead, we have to consider the meaning and overtures and not the terminology or the connotation, especially at a time when the Himachal Pradesh High Court has issued us with notices or when leading newspapers in South India report against us near daily. If we were in a position to defend ourselves against the ramifications of sticking firmly to the name and were able to serve the real purpose by doing so, then we would hold resolutely to the preferred name. But what is more significant is looking at the bigger picture, getting a sense of how much water this name change will hold, and considering how this change will protect us from being marred and disfigured.
The reason being that after this name change, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) will not be abated or mutilated. We are not deprived of the three pillars of democracy and not devoid of democratic governance--we will have to maintain and sustain this until we see a solution to the Tibet crisis. If there comes a time when CTA is compelled and obligated to register under different names like that of a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), then this will prove deterring and cause crucial and unsolvable problems for the short run, long run and even further into the indefinite future.
During the ‘Second National General Meeting 2011,’ few raised questions as to why--despite the fact that the overseas offices of CTA are registered--there was the need to make an appeal to use the name of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I replied - Yes, if the overseas registered offices are bound to or are meant to bear the identity, role and functions of a NGO, then it are fine. But since our identity and role is not for a measurable constituency and purpose, and primarily because we hold the allegiance and responsibility in representing the face and voices of the six million Tibetans, warranting that role makes it imperative to bear the name ‘Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.’ Likewise, we have requested to use His Holiness’s name and retained this provision in the amended charter.
The reason we did this is because it is important to meet the intentions of and serve the goal of having the CTA in exile, and if it were the case that we could afford to care only about the name and not the goals or role of CTA, then there would be absolutely no problem in having the overseas offices registered as a mere entity that do not bear the name, ‘Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.’
Those concerned should be able to sense the wider perspective and the bigger goal. Lingering on to this insignificant name change is improper and not befitting of the greater cause.
On the other hand, I am aware of the accusation that this name change has been imposed and enforced upon us by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and that there is external foreign pressure along with internal home pressure on His Holiness to conform to the name change. I am saddened and disheartened to know that there are people who consider and recognize the magnanimous and knowledgeable 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet as someone who would sway under pressure, external or internal.
We always talk about the importance of placing faith in and heeding to the advice of His Holiness but if in reality we consider and recognize His Holiness as someone who can be easily influenced and forced to concede to demands and pressure, then I am impelled to think that such show of faith is disingenuous.
Even a person who doesn’t have any faith in another should be able to discern the strengths and weaknesses in the other with careful discretion concurrent with the true situation. Unfortunately I do not see it happening here in this case.
In particular, the references to Chinese pressure and Indian pressure and the claims that this name change is in pursuit of the successful continuation of the Sino-Tibet talks are far from reality and are completely baseless and unsubstantial. There is not an iota of truth in this.
When we submitted the ‘Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People’ to the People’s Republic of China in 2008, we deliberately used the name, ‘Tibetan Government in Exile,’ knowing that this would shock the Chinese leadership and make them upset. We have neither refrained from nor have we been diffident in referring to the name ‘Tibetan Government in Exile’ while communicating with the Chinese Government.
The bottom-line at this moment is that there is no pressure, neither from China nor from India, but in an attempt to avert possible detrimental impact, we have to pave the way and prepare for the future--and avoid positioning ourselves at the receiving end of unnecessary and extraneous outcomes because of the mere use of a name.
So as the Kalon Tripa, I can admit with affirmation in this parliament that there is no pressure on His Holiness--not from China, India or Tibetans. If, at a later point in time, my affirmation is proven untrue and unclear then I will accordingly be available to make it clear and I will stand by it. What I cannot accept is the linking of His Holiness’ name with baseless and improbable issues stemming from this name change.
His Holiness has the inalienable quality or innate character of valuing the tenets of the essential qualities of democracy. For the last 52 years, His Holiness has never intervened nor interceded in the functioning of the Tibetan parliament; in drafting, adopting and amending the charter and legislation. When we first drafted and adopted the charter in June 1991, I was the interim speaker of the Parliament and member of the drafting committee. And when we presented the draft to His Holiness, He clearly stated that He would support whatever decision the committee made in accordance with democratic principles.
But with the recent amendment in the charter, His Holiness has mentioned that since this is concerns Him and the delegation of His political role and authority, His Holiness reserves the right to have a say and that this does not violate the canons of democracy.