Parliament Amends Charter on Devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Formal Authority

DHARAMSHALA: The 14th Tibetan Parliament-Exile, after three days of intense deliberation during its additional session, gave its stamp of approval for the devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s administrative and political powers to the democratically elected Tibetan leaders.

The Parliament today presented the amendments to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his ratification. After giving his approval, His Holiness will fully vest the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and in particular its democratic leadership organs with the powers and responsibilities formerly held jointly by him and the CTA to represent and serve the whole people of Tibet.  

During the additional session from 26 – 28 May, the Parliament approved a new preamble and inherent rights and responsibilities to be assigned to His Holiness the Dalai Lama under Article 1 of the charter. 

The preamble underlines “safeguarding the continuity of the Central Tibetan Administration as the legitimate governing body and representative of the whole Tibetan people, in whom sovereignty resides”. It also enshrines Tibet's position as a sovereign nation from the early 2nd century BC until the invasion by the People's Republic of China in 1951, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's efforts in introducing democratic reforms after coming into exile in India since 1959.

Under Article 1, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the “Protector and Symbol of Tibet and Tibetan People”.

His Holiness’ duties will be to provide advice and encouragement with respect to the protection and promotion of the physical, spiritual, ethical and cultural wellbeing of the Tibetan people, to remain engaged in the efforts to reach a satisfactory solution to the question of Tibet and to accomplish the cherished goals of the Tibetan people.

He will provide suggestions in various forms to the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and Kashag in matters of importance to the Tibetan people, including the community and its institutions in exile, at his own initiative or at the request of those bodies.

He will meet with world leaders and other important individuals and bodies to speak on behalf of the Tibetan people, to explain and discuss their concerns and needs as well as to designate representatives and special envoys appointed by the cabinet to serve the interests of the Tibetan people in any part of the world.

The powers vested with His Holiness the Dalai Lama as head of the executive under Article 19 have been delegated to the Kalon Tripa. 

Accordingly, Kalon Tripa is empowered to approve and promulgate bills and regulations passed by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.

Other responsibilities have been devolved to the parliament and the judiciary.

Another landmark amendment made to the charter is the annulment of Council of Regency enshrined in Articles (31 – 35), provisions which earlier empower the council to assume the Dalai Lama’s role in circumstances when the latter is not acting as head of the state.  

The Parliament approved that the title of “Tibetan Government-in-Exile” be changed to “Central Tibetan Administration”. 

The title of “Bod Shung Gaden Phodrang Chogle Namgyal” in the emblem was also changed to “Denpanyi Nampar Gyalgyur Chig” (translated as Truth will Prevail).

The additional session of the parliament was convened against the backdrop of a four-day national general meeting on the proposed amendment to the charter from 21 – 24 May. 

Over 418 delegates representing Tibetans from across the world, who attended the national meeting, unanimously approved proposals to appeal to His Holiness to assume the role of ceremonial head of state in addition to the Preamble and Article 1.
During his meeting with the delegates a day after the meeting on 25 May, His Holiness categorically rejected the proposal for the ceremonial head, but gave his consent to the Preamble and inherent rights and responsibilities to be assigned to him in Article 1. The new duties are not binding on His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In a letter issued to the Parliament on 27 May, His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested changes in the Article 1 and called for immediate amendment to the charter.

Change 'Watershed' in Tibet’s History

The Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament termed the devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s formal authority as a watershed in Tibet’s history and said the 14th Parliament lived up to His Holiness’ aspirations and visions for the both short and long term benefit of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

“The 14th Tibetan Parliament successfully carried out the democratic reforms in accordance with the faith and confidence entrusted on our ability by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Speaker Penpa Tsering said in his closing remarks at the additional session of the Parliament.

“The appeal made during the second national general meeting to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to remain as the ceremonial head reflects the strong feeling of the Tibetan people,” he said.

“On the one hand we feel sad with the change, but our sadness is far outweighed by the happy feeling that His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visions to fully democratise the Tibetan polity have been realised,” he said.

He applauded the Kalon Tripa, his cabinet members, and the members of the Tibetan Parliament for their concerted efforts and responsibility towards heralding the landmark democratic reform.

In his address, Kalon Tripa Prof Samdhong Rinpoche said it is a matter of great pride that a significant amendment to the Charter was made within a short period.

Kalon Tripa said the change brings a blend of sad and happy feelings.

“We feel happy as the long cherished aspiration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to hand over his political authority to the democratically elected Tibetan leadership is fulfilled. Secondly, the Tibetan people get the opportunity to become self-reliant and build a robust administration when His Holiness the Dalai Lama is still amidst us in good health. So we must not squander this precious opportunity,” Kalon Tripa said.

“The feeling of sadness was brought about by the common appeal made by the Tibetans to His Holiness not to devolve his political authority,” he added.

He reiterated the Kashag’s responsibility to duly carry out the aspirations and visions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Kalon Tripa praised the parliament speaker on how he supervised the House during the entire session on charter amendment.

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