The sorry state of Tibetan Parliament

DHARAMSALA, 13 June: Almost a week after the members of the 17th Tibetan Parliament-in-exile (TPIE) took their oath of office in two separate ways, the political limbo looks likely to continue. 

While Article 47 of the Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile requires the MPs to their oath of office from the pro-tem Speaker after the latter takes the oath of office from the Chief Justice Commissioner, what divided the 17th TPIE is a legal limbo surrounding their oath-taking ceremony.

On Tuesday, twenty-one MPs of the Tibetan Parliament took their oath of office from the pro-tem Speaker Dawa Tsering who was administered the oath by the Chief Justice Commissioner who was removed by the TPIE in March, while 22 MPs who held it unlawful took their oath in front of the Charter and a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

The unprecedented manner in which the members of the 17th TPIE took the oath of office was necessitated after the Chief Justice Commissioner and the two Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission impeached by the 16th Tibetan parliament in March performed a u-turn and announced their resumption to offices nearly two months after accepting their impeachment though they called it illegitimate. 

While it goes without saying that the impeachment of the justices by over two-thirds of the MPs courted criticism in plenty, the trio’s unceremonious resumption to offices has also left many dumbfounded.

After the members of the 17th TPIE took the oath of office in an unprecedented manner, their days of business came to an abrupt end in the afternoon after the Chief Election Commissioner(CEC) Wangdu Tsering Pesur told the Tibetan legislatures that the election of the new Speaker and Deputy Speaker can only be conducted when the house meets the quorum and that he received only the list of 21 MPs who took their oath of office through the pro-tem Speaker.

Here is how the two groups view each other’s oath-taking ceremony.

Those who took oath from the pro-tem Speaker stated on Saturday that the other group should follow the same or else they can not simply recognise them as MPs. 

“We can not go beyond Article 47 when it comes to the oath of office as prescribed by the Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile,”  ten MPs from Amdo province and nine from U-Tsang of the 17 TPIE said.

The group claims that the resolution passed through Motion No 39 should be declared null and void as it goes against Article 5 of the Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile. 

When asked if they will accept if 22 MPs will contest the same outside the parliament declaring a resolution passed by the parliament goes against so and so Articles and that it should also be invalidated, MP Dhondup Tashi said that he sees no objection in doing so as he reasoned that the charter invalidates any laws, executive orders, and regulations that are in violation of any of its provisions.

The group also declared that as 21 MPs having realized and concurred that Motion No 39, the resolution to remove the justices was against the charter and urged them to resume their official responsibilities, the resolution is no longer backed by two-third of the MPs.

Representatives of 20 MPs from Dotoe Province and religious sects, the MPs who took their oath in front of the Charter and the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated that with the Justices of the TSJC impeached by the parliament, there is no set of rules and regulations for the present oath-taking ceremony.

The group further said that proposal of a uniform oath-taking ceremony of the 17th TPIE from the pro-tem Speaker after he takes the oath before the portrait of the Dalai Lama has failed to reach the consensus at the meetings and deliberations held between MPs representing the three provinces and four schools of Tibetan Buddhism as well as North America and Europe, the different constituency of the Tibetan parliament as such the lawmakers of the 17 TPIE were left to choose how they will take the oath of office from the two options as proposed by the MPs from North America and Europe to conciliate the MPs at either end of the equation.

MP Adruk Tsetan said that though there is no provision in the Charter to take the oath in front of the Charter and a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it was officially organised by the Parliament Secretariat and that it does not go against the Charter while adding that that the unceremonious return of the justices to their offices took the Article 47 of the Tibetan Charter, the provisions for the MPs to take their oath of office out of the equation.

The group also stated that the CEC has told them that the signed documents by the 44 MPs pertaining to their oath of office is in order and declared that they are ready whenever the CEC schedules the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker of the 17th TPIE and that they have decided on their standing committee members of the parliament.

Though both sides have said that they are open for deliberations and discussions, the political limbo that has left the Tibetan Parliament in the sorry state for now looks unlikely to dissipate anytime soon as it stands.

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