21 August 2015
Dear Mr. Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Sonam Choephel Shosur la:
I write on behalf of the Tibetan National Congress (TNC), a democratic, non- sectarian, non-regional, pan-Tibetan political party formed in March 2012 with members in India, Europe, and North America. Since its founding, TNC has contributed to the Tibetan cause, for example taking the lead in the campaign to move the Nobel Summit from Cape Town to Rome so His Holiness the Dalai Lama could attend. In light of the upcoming elections, I respectfully request that TNC be included without delay in the list of officially-recognized Tibetan organizations and institutions.
According to the rules that the Election Commission (EC) recently released, Tibetan organizations now have different rights depending on whether or not they are officially recognized. Only officially-recognized organizations now have an unrestricted right to free speech in Tibetan elections. Non-recognized organizations are not allowed to make any statements of support whatsoever for any candidate, without express written consent of the individual candidate, if their activity involves any financial expenditure whatsoever. The penalty for violating this rule is the loss of the right to vote for five years.
This new rule is highly unusual, since it conditions the right to free speech on official permission, and sets up a two-tier system that treats organizations differently. A TNC member recently asked the EC for clarification, and was informed by the EC that the list of officially-recognized organizations is currently limited to: the tsokpas for the three Tibetan provinces, TWA, TYC, NDPT, Gu-chu-sum, Ngari Welfare Association, Tibetan National unity organization, Welfare Association of Pokhra, Nepal.
The EC has not released any guidelines on how an organization becomes officially recognized, or what criteria are used to decide. In light of the EC’s mandate as the guardian of Tibetan democracy, I can assume that the criteria are neutral and aimed at ensuring maximum democratic participation.
I therefore respectfully request that TNC be included without delay in the list of officially recognized organizations. We wish to participate fully in the Tibetan democratic process, and under the new rules we cannot do so without official recognition.
We trust that the EC will have no problem recognizing us so that we can participate in the Tibetan democratic process. If you would like any additional information about our organization, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you decide not to recognize us, we ask that you please provide us with the specific reasons and criteria that you used to make your decision. If the power to recognize an organization rests with a different CTA body entirely, please advise on the steps the EC will take to ensure that the effects of this this new rule are fair, impartial, and depoliticized.
Given the fast-approaching election dates, we respectfully ask that you please inform us of your decision within two weeks.
Thank you for your assistance and your continued guardianship of the Tibetan democratic process.
President, Tibetan National Congress