If You Desire Change in Tibetan Politics, Look to the Parliament, not the Kalon Tripa

During the 1992 presidential campaign here in the United States a slogan that became the symbol of Bill Clinton’s success against then President George Bush senior was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” This was basically to point to the reality that whatever President Bush’ positive marks in foreign affairs, ultimately it was the state of American economy that needed to be discussed and addressed.
Now, here is a thought.  The topic around the “water coolers” in the Tibetan community in exile currently is the Kalon Tripa election.
On the positive side this has brought increased awareness among the people about the Kalon Tripa. Irrespective of one’s knowledge, it has become a status symbol of sort to have an opinion on who should be the next Kalon Tripa.
On the negative side, there is an unrealistic expectation from this position with people virtually looking at this as the second coming of the Lord. On the issue of dialogue with the Chinese leadership, people who support differing political future for Tibet are placing their hope on the next Kalon Tripa to take up the cudgel on their behalf.
Given the current structure and system of the Tibetan Administration I would like to say that it is a misplaced hope if people are looking to the next Kalon Tripa to change the political position.   Just as the Democrats pointed to the economy being the real issue during the above mentioned 1992 presidential campaign,  the truth is that if the Tibetans want a change in the political path, it is the Tibetan Parliament that they have to look to, not the Kalon Tripa.  To improvize from the American slogan, in the Tibetan case, It’s the Parliament, stupid!
For evidence of the Parliament being the one that can do this, we could look at the development in 2004. In March 2004, the Tibetan Parliament, at the initiative of some parliamentarians, passed a private member’s resolution to review the Middle Way Approach if there was no positive Chinese response by March 2005. However, in September of the same year,  another group of parliamentarians introduced a resolution, that voided the March 2004 resolution. Although the March 2004 did not have the time to alter the course of the Tibetan struggle, it showed that the Parliament, if enough members concurred, could initiate such a process.
Also, if people had been paying attention to the statements by the present Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, then the Kashag has been clearly projecting the Parliament as the one that has been endorsing the present political approach.
With this being the case, it is a bit surprising that there is less “hungama,” to use an Indian term, over the parliamentary elections than about the Kalon Tripa. Even though both the elections are around the same time, the politically savvy younger Tibetans have not shown any obvious interest in the parliament. There is no separate website for possible members of the Tibetan parliament, as there is on the Kalon Tripa. There is no mock elections or debates being organized concerning the parliament as there has been about the Kalon Tripa.  On the issue of debate, while it may be impractical to organize such events in the Indian subcontinent where the constituencies are not geographical, they can certainly be held in North America or Europe from where there will be three parliamentarians. But nothing like that seems to be in the offing.
To me, both the elections need equal attention for different reasons. But if you desire a change in Tibetan politics, look to the Parliament, I say, not to the Kalon Tripa.  It ain’t going to happen this way.


13 thoughts on “If You Desire Change in Tibetan Politics, Look to the Parliament, not the Kalon Tripa

  1. European Chitue Initiative launched
    August 6, 2010

    The 2nd ETC Organizing Committee is pleased to announce the launch of European Chitue Initiative. This is an initiative to engage in a pre-election search for eligible parliamentary candidates to run for the office in the upcoming Tibetan Parliamentary preliminary elections in October 2010 and final elections in March 2011.

    The role of the next parliamentary representatives from Europe is of tremendous importance as the number of Tibetans living in Europe is on the rise today. According to the Tibetan charter in exile, Tibetans living in Europe can elect two representatives.

    “I believe that it is important that individuals committed to the Tibetan issue combined with a good understanding of the European system represent Tibetans living in Europe” said Thupten Gyatso, Chairperson of the 2nd ETC Organizing Committee which started this initiative.

    During the last general elections to the ATPD only 36 percent of the registered voters or around 800 people out of 2224 registered voters decided the two deputies from Europe.

    “This is very disheartening. A democracy is only as strong as the people who participate in the process. While we expect the Central Tibetan Administration to find a solution to one of the hardest problem, we also need to put in effort from our part as individual Tibetans,” Thupten Gyatso pointed out.

    As the oppression in Tibet continues, and there is no immediate breakthrough in the dialogue with the Chinese government, it is imperative that Tibetans use the democratic system to put forward our best candidates. This will improve our democracy and add strength to our common cause.

    Tibetans living in Europe can go to the ETC website (http://europetibetancongress.wordpress.com/) and nominate their candidates. The candidates will be listed as we receive the nominations. The only criteria is that the candidate is over 25 years old, has current residency in Europe and holds a Green Book. We believe more information and transparency will improve our democratic process. This initiative is inspired by the Kalon Tripa initiative launched by Mr. Thubten Samdup.

    1. Nyinjey la. Thanks for the comment. I would think there would need a thorough survey on the reasons behind this lack of interest in the Chitue elections. My immediate reaction would be that the reason lies with our superficial understanding of the system and the nature of the beast, if you get what I mean.

  2. I agree the reasons are far more complex than what we think. But we need to bring them out, beginning from the superficial ones. After all to dig out the diamond beneath, one should start digging from the surface! Hope you got my point! Thanks!

    1. You are right. I think we Tibetans need to learn to not pass judgment based on the superficial dirt without realizing that there could be a diamond beneath that very upper level.

      Anyway, you and I can, at our level, work to sensitize our community in our own ways. That is what I, at least, am attempting to do.

  3. Bhuchung la,

    Without any slight hesitation I am 100% with your rational thought. It is high time for everyone not to forget how MPs matter in the present Tibetan democratic system in exile. As I go on researching the present Tibetans MPs, I kind of feel how badly Tibetan masses have casted their votes and formed a team of rotten MPs. Recently, I watched the videos of recent parliament session called off and I am very much upset by their indecent way of communication when they are supposedly representing the masses. How can we gain the trust back on these MPs when they were primarily lacking the dignified way of speaking as a MP and calling off the session without compromising on the differences. Attending the parliament sessions, attending the official functions as a guest of honor and publishing annual reports are not the mere responsibilities of MPs. Rather, I think they have more serious and wider responsibilities. They can play vital part in establishing an authentic Tibetan government in exile as true representation of six millions not only in the eyes of sympathetic supporters but also for the regime that is trying every possible way to illegitimate our Tibetan government in exile. In this crucial period of our Tibetan history, if the Tibetan masses blindly elect the rotten MPs then hopes for strengthening the Tibetan struggle will be further diluted for another 5yrs. So, while we are having ‘hungama’ on bringing fledgling and dynamic Kalon tripa, so too our Tibetan brothers and sisters have to gear up in bringing up team of passionate, farsighted and liberal MPs in the Tibetan parliament.

    1. Tenzin Rangdol la,

      Your comments are appreciated. You reflect the general feeling among the populace about the way our parliamentarians have been working. While the quality of the individuals have much to do with the situation, the system as it is has also contributed to the problem. In the process of our parliamentary development, the form has been given as much prominence as the substance. Under such a situation when the individual lacks the ability to prioritize, the form dominates the substance, which is what is happening in our system.

  4. Buchung la,
    I just wish to thank you for highlighting this crucial detail. I also feel the same but got lost somewhere in my uncertainty over how to begin and where to start. I do sincerely hope that your blogs will help in provoking constructive thoughts in the dormant political consciousness of our people, or the majority of them.

    1. Dhundup Gyalpo la,

      Given the implication of the forthcoming elections on the future of what we know of as the Tibetan movement, the silent majority should be speaking up more. It is not good for me as someone who writes in English to be saying this, but the non-English speaking, non-internet populace out there needs to be empowered more in this discussion. The Tibetan radios and the TV have a crucial role to play in this.

  5. Thanks for shedding a ray of light on who or where should we be looking up to in terms of bringing about a correct Tibetan political stand. I for one would put my bet on the parliamentarians who could shape the destiny of a nation rather than Kalon Tripa. Only the democratic system could steer the lost ship in to the right direction. it is a stupidity on our part to expect a miracle or the likes of Gandhism from every individuals. Our enemy is China, a nation without principles. So, people it is time to get real. Seek refuge in democratic set up of government. Even the Gandhism wouldn’t have worked in the face China even if we have had him with us. So let us embrace our parliamentarians.


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