Dharamshala: -During the morning session of the first day, September 4, 2012, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began his three day teaching on Shantideva's "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" at the main Tibetan Temple in Dharamshala, India. His Holiness will continue from the 5th chapter of Shantideva's book.
My fellow Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, all those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and everyone who has a connection to Tibet and Tibetans: due to the foresight of our ancient kings, ministers and scholar-adepts, the complete teaching of the Buddha, comprising the scriptural and experiential teachings of the Three Vehicles and the Four Sets of Tantra and their related subjects and disciplines flourished widely in the Land of Snow.
When the parliamentary secretariat asked if the Kashag had any agenda to be included in the first session of the Fifteenth Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, we said that the Kashag had no other agenda other than to offer our greetings. Later the Honourable Speaker has given the Kashag this opportunity to make clarifications on some issues, which we readily accepted. Earlier when the Kashag offered greetings to the members of the fifteenth parliament, we specifically did not mention the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker because we thought it would be more auspicious to offer our greetings after you led the first day of this session.
Honourable Speaker, during your tenure of the past two and half years, though there were many important and complicated issues in the parliament, you have worked hard to manage and guide the procedures regarding the passing of laws. You have been re-elected by the fifteenth parliament through majority vote for which I and my colleagues in the Kashag would like to offer our heartfelt greetings. As your Honourable Speaker stated in your opening remarks of this session, we hope that the discussions and the proceedings in the parliament in terms of passing laws will attain a higher standard. Likewise, the Kashag would like to offer our warm greetings to the Honourable Deputy Speaker, who has admirably chaired this session of the parliament for one sitting with open-mindedness and in accordance with proper parliamentary procedures. We were satisfied with the election of the Deputy Speaker and feel that the choice was appropriate.
At this critical juncture in our history, though the term of the fourteenth parliament is nearing its end, it has successfully carried out the works regarding amendments to the Charter. This is a matter of great pride and happiness. Many educated Tibetans from inside Tibet sent messages saying that things went well this time. The Kashag acknowledges that proceedings regarding passing of laws went very well. However, whether a work is done well or whether that work is of historic importance or whenever there is change or new initiative, one section of society always remains dissatisfied and will say this is wrong. This is a phenomenon common to all human beings, including the Tibetans. That is why over the last few weeks those people, who do not have to shoulder any responsibility, have been writing and saying many things on the internet and other news media. We do not see these as something that is to be surprised about. After a while these will naturally disappear like airless balloons. However, among the general populace and especially in the media, there are cases of people, who in order to confuse the public use terms and words that have nothing to do with reality. We hope that these are done and said out of ignorance and not intentionally. There are many issues on the internet, print media and in the streets. Though these are something that doesn't deserve one's attention, taking this opportunity we would like to briefly clarify on some of the important ones.
Some popular news media are using the term ‘new charter'. We have heard people say that on 29 May 2011 a ‘new charter' was passed under which this and that was done. We have neither passed a new charter nor do we have plans to do so. In 1991 the eleventh Tibetan parliament adopted the Charter for Tibetans-in-Exile. This charter includes Chapter 11, which has provisions for making amendments to the Charter. This should be clear even to ordinary people that this is no new charter and especially the media must know this. If each amendment is considered as a new charter, then this should have been the twenty-fifth new charter. There were twenty-four previous amendments in the past. This is the twenty-fifth. We must categorically state that this talk of a ‘new charter' is absolutely not true.
Secondly, we have seen and heard in the media by some people who said that the exile Tibetan government (tsenjol bod zhung) and the Tibetan government (bod zhung) has been dissolved. In 1959 the Ganden Phodrang Government of Tibet was forced to relocate from the Tibetan capital Lhasa to Lhuntse Dzong and that same government, which re-established itself in India, has been functioning for the last 52 years with democratically evolved charter and appropriate distribution of power with provisions for checks and balances amongst democratic institutions such as the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. The legitimate government of Tibet established since 1642 has absolutely not been dissolved. All forty-four members of parliament are right here at this moment engaged in legislative affairs. There is neither any reduction of a single member nor any change in the functioning of the parliament. This is the first session and agenda are being made for the second session. Everyone can see that there is not even a single change in the legislative body. Regarding the executive branch, a new Kalon Tripa directly elected by the people is right here in our midst. He will takeover the responsibilities before long. His responsibilities, functioning and power have increased and not reduced. As for the judiciary, over and above its previous responsibilities, it is given some new duties, which were held by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the Head of State. These responsibilities are being carried out.
Arrangements are being made to hold workshops on exile Tibetan laws and to produce more lawyers in all Tibetan settlements from 2011 onwards in Nepal, Bhutan and India. In spite of seeing the fact that there is not a single change in the three pillars of democracy but improvements, some people say that the Tibetan government (tsenjol bod zhung) has been dissolved. This is something that we should be alarmed and suspicious about as why and for what purpose this is being said. That is why I, taking responsibility as the Kalon Tripa, in this session of parliament, would categorically like to state that the three pillars of Tibetan democracy and the Charter are intact as they were before and that nothing has been dissolved.
The only change that has taken place is change of some terms. This, too, is not something that is new but has been there with us since the day in 1959 when the Ganden Phodrang Government led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama was forced to re-establish itself in exile and had mutual agreement with the Government of India to call the exile establishment - the Central Tibetan Administration - in English. We have been using this term since 1959. In Tibetan, we have directly not translated the Central Tibetan Administration and have used Tsenjol Bod Zhung, which when translated into English becomes Tibetan Government in Exile. Those who felt that there might be some benefits in using this English term have done so. One impact of using this term, which was seen by all the members of the parliament, was the cooperation between the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The funding for the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre was reduced drastically and the international TSG conference could not be held because of lack of funding from this foundation.
Until now we have been able to use various terms because of the immense charisma of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Even if there was a problem, it could be cleared because of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's charisma. In the new circumstance when His Holiness the Dalai Lama has devolved all his power, it makes no sense for us to continue to use a small term that will create difficulties for us. Is it a mature political strategy to consider the term more important then it's meaning? If one is a strategic thinker, the meaning should be considered more important than the term. We have a pending case in Himachal Pradesh State High Court and criticisms against us that are daily published in the newspapers in South India. If we can solve these problems by cleverly using certain terms, we do not see any reason to consider the term itself important. It is of vital importance that the Tibetan administration and its three pillars of democracy continue to remain in India until the issue of Tibet is resolved. If a situation arises under which the offices of the exile administration have to be operated like other non-governmental organizations, it will be a great loss for both the short and long-term, apart from the fact that we will face innumerable difficulties. During the recent meeting (the Second Tibetan National General Meeting) some people said that Offices of Tibet are registered offices and these could function without His Holiness the Dalai Lama's name being attached to them. If they are considered as NGOs and function as one, it may be all right. For us that would not be enough, and hence it is important to have the legitimacy and the status to represent the six million Tibetans. With His Holiness the Dalai Lama's permission we have worked hard to have these Offices of Tibet under His Holiness the Dalai Lama's name and made provisions in the Charter to fulfil this. This was done with long-term view and for the survival of the exile administration. If we only need the term and not the substance of the exile Tibetan administration, then a registered NGO should suffice. It would not be correct for people to take out one small issue and then talk about it without looking at the overall picture.
We have come across many people who have expressed that the term was changed because of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's order and particularly under internal pressure. We are extremely saddened to hear that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is considered as someone who will fall under external and internal pressures without understanding a bit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's wisdom and achievements. It is exceptionally strange that some people while from their mouths state that we must single-mindedly pray to His Holiness the Dalai Lama but in reality regard His Holiness the Dalai Lama as someone who is easily swayed under pressure. I am not talking about whether one has faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama or not. Even for a non-believer, one must truthfully judge His Holiness the Dalai Lama based on facts. I think this was not done.
Furthermore, to those who say that this term was changed under Indian or Chinese pressure or with hopes for Sino-Tibetan dialogue, I would categorically like to state that they are a thousand miles from the truth.
Honourable Speaker, regarding Sino-Tibetan dialogue, we have submitted the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the People's Republic of China. In this document we have knowingly and intentionally used the term Tsenjol Bod Zhung or the Tibetan Government in Exile. We knew that this would enrage the Chinese side, but we used this term with reasons. We do not fear to use this term while communicating with them.
In the course of the Second Tibetan National General Meeting, I visited two committees to clarify on the amendments, during which I made it clear that currently there is neither pressure from India nor from China regarding the name change. Furthermore, I said that it would be unnecessary to hold on to a name, which may give rise to pressure in future that will be hard to handle. The bottom-line is that, I can confidently state to this session of the parliament that there is neither pressure from China nor from India or from within the Tibetan community on His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If any one can prove me wrong, then I will accordingly be available to face it. Otherwise, we cannot accept this talk to link His Holiness the Dalai Lama's name with this baseless talk.
In reality democracy, its culture and its essential principles are inherent in His Holiness the Dalai Lama' mind. As result for the past 52 years, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has not once instructed the parliament to pass this or that law. I was the interim Speaker of the parliament, when it ratified the Charter for Tibetans-in-Exile. There were two deputy speakers. When we presented the ratified Charter to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he stated that he had hoped certain terms such as secularism could be adopted in the Charter. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama clearly said that he would not put forward his requests since it was already ratified by the parliament in accordance with democratic process.
On the other hand, His Holiness the Dalai Lama clearly stressed that the repeal of the articles in the Charter regarding the impeachment of His Holiness the Dalai Lama should not have happened. Since this concerned him, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that he had the right to have a say on it. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that this would not violate the principles of democracy. Other than this, His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested that it would be good to reassess points relating to local assembly and local administrative heads, but he left it entirely to the parliament to decide what to do. Such statements signify that His Holiness the Dalai Lama respects the parliament's ability to make decisions.
Not long after the Charter was adopted, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to issue a few ordinances regarding Article 21 of the Charter. Each and every word used in these ordinances were left exactly as they were approved by the Standing Committee of the Parliament and His Holiness the Dalai Lama did not change a single word. Similarly, during the Monlam Chenmo or the Great Prayer Festival and during his meeting with the participants of the conference, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave detailed suggestions on the term change. Other than these, I have not heard that His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued statement to the parliament during this session on what or what not to do. I believe that the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker also did not receive any statement to this effect from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The insertion of the Preamble in the Charter is related to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's inherent powers. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has the right to have a say on these points. But this does not violate any democratic principles. Even if His Holiness the Dalai Lama rejects the insertion of the Preamble in the Charter, it does not violate democratic principles. In a democratic society if an elected person resigns from his position, nobody considers it as undemocratic. If this is considered undemocratic, then how about the parliamentarians and Kalon Tripa candidates who have resigned or withdrawn from elections? In respecting democratic ideals, His Holiness the Dalai Lama accepted the Preamble as was requested by the exile parliament and the Second Tibetan National General Meeting. However, there were a few terms in it, which His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not generally use, which he said should be changed. Nothing was said other than this. Based on a few changes in some section of the Preamble, other changes in the amendment are being made in this ongoing session of the parliament through majority vote. These changes were not made because of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's instruction. I think it is important that everyone should know about this.
The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile convened the Second Tibetan National General Meeting in order to solicit the Tibetan people's aspirations. But the parliament has the right and responsibility to pass laws irrespective of whether these laws are in accordance with people's aspirations. After the election, the people do not have the power in their hands to make laws. Whether people understand or whether the process of passing laws reflects people's aspirations or not, as long as the laws are passed in the parliament by majority vote, these must be recognized as democratic. However, if these are to be considered as undemocratic, then there can only be direct democracy and not a democracy based on representation. If it is perceived that there are procedures which go against democratic principles, then it would have been the fault of the parliamentarians and not of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As per the Charter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has the right to advise the parliament, which His Holiness the Dalai Lama accordingly did. But it is entirely up to the parliament to decide whether to abide by his advice. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has never given any orders in the past, nor has given one now nor will he give any in the future. It is clear that His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advice is for consideration for the members of parliament and this is not part of procedures in making laws.
There are also many people speculating and criticizing that the amendments are carried out frantically within a short period of time and that this is not appropriate. We do not see this opinion as realistic because the current amendments in the Charter were carried out particularly to devolve His Holiness the Dalai Lama's power. And it is clear that this devolution of power to the elected Tibetan leadership has not come up suddenly as mentioned in His Holiness the Dalai Lama' statement to the parliament, which states that he has talked about this since 1969. It has been forty years since 1969. I don't think this is a short period of time. It is us who have failed to act, but His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given us ample time.
However, if concerns are raised about haste with which the amendment on certain terms, which are not associated with the devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama' power, then we can spend more time to further make amendments. The same legislative powers of the 14th parliament will be vested onto the 15th, and it is not as if the 15th cannot amend the laws passed by the 14th parliament. Therefore, if new opinions can be brought up by spending more time, then the Charter can be amended anytime in future by 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th parliament and so on. They will have the same power to make laws or repeal existing ones. However, it has become clear that the amendments regarding the devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama' power could not be delayed any further. This was the reason why amendments had to be completed before the 14th parliament's term expired. We do not see anything inappropriate or improper.
I have attempted to briefly express the Kashag's viewpoints and the real situation. In future should any individual, members of the parliament or the Honourable Speaker have any doubts or questions, I am willing to offer clarifications at any time. Honourable Speaker, I thank you again for giving this opportunity to make these clarifications.
NB: This is the English translation, if there are any discrepancy, the Tibetan version should be final and authoritative.