By Tenzin Choenyi
I am a member of the Tibetan community in exile and have never been actively interested in Tibetan diaspora politics, but the issue of Tibetan Supreme Justice Commissioners (TSJC) resigning from their post in March and returning to their post in May lack of legal basis stand up, if I may say so.
The current conflict over the legitimacy of the TSJC is bigger than Cholkha, Choelug and ideology. The only reason the 9th session of the 16th parliament in exile could not meet is not Cholkha (Three Provinces) but the Constitution (Charter).
Many of us see it as two groups of MPs i.e. Amdo and Utsang on one side and Khampa and Choluk on the other in a simplistic way, but how did they even come to this difference of idea?
Just to understand the Chronology of the dispute on the Legitimacy of TSJC:
Each session must take place 6 months after the previous session mandated by the charter, that is to say a spring session (March) and a monsoon session (September). In 2020, the member of the TPiE standing committee asked to postpone the monsoon session by specifying article 6 of the charter “Respect for international law and the laws of the country concerned. It must be ensured that all laws of the Tibetan Central Administration, executive decrees and its regulations comply with international law and, in particular, with the laws of the host countries. But TSJC argues that the reason for the postponement of the session does not apply, citing the host state Himachal and neighboring states Haryana and Punjab held their parliamentary sessions.
The speaker of parliament tried to negotiate with the TSJC. However, TSJC denied all of their claims stating that they are defendants in the case and therefore cannot meet to negotiate.
August 21, 2020: TSJC sent a letter to 11 permanent members of the TPIE stating that the indefinite postponement of the parliamentary session was unconstitutional. Therefore, they cannot postpone the September session and have given them a deadline before September 14th. If they did not meet the deadline, they would be penalized; they would revoke their right to vote and run for office.
September 18, 2020: The TSJC penalized the 11 members of the Standing Committee by denying them their right to vote in the preliminary vote of the 17th legislature.
The 11 permanent members of the TPiE were then not allowed to vote in the preliminary vote in 2021.
On March 25, 2021, March session, the Standing Committee of the TPIE purchased BILL NO-39, which mainly concerns the abolition of the TSJC. They held a secret ballot and obtained a 2/3 majority in parliament, which resulted in the dismissal of the three TSJC judges.
When the parliamentarians ousted the three TSJCs from their functions, the three former justice commissioners held a press conference on March 26, 2021 accompanied by a press release clearly mentioning their resignation (བཤོལ་ བ །).
But when they joined on May 24, 2021, they mentioned that they said they recused themselves (ལས་འགན་ བཤོལ་ བ ། / རེ་ ཞིག་ བཤོལ་ བ །) which was not at all mentioned in the previous statement. The TSJC joined his post at the request of signature campaign letters sent by former chief justices and commissioners of justice, former kalon tripa and kalons (ministers), former Chithues and many former officials of the CTA. With the exception of the letter from former kalons, which was hand-delivered to the secretariat of parliament (ཚོགས་ སྒྲུང་ ལས་ འཁུང་) by former Kasur Tenpa Tsering, the rest of all the signature campaigns mentioned above were online / never physically delivered to parliament secretariat by hand, so not all such petitions are considered valid and counted as yig khyam (ཡིག་ འཁྱམས་) according to the rules and understandings of the parliament secretariat.
Right now, all thinking Tibetans are feeling the terrible repercussions and ripples of not having the TSJC’s August office. Without TSJC, who will take the oath of the newly elected Sikyong, election of the 17th term president and vice-president of parliament, nomination of new kalons and adoption of the budget session.
These consequences should have been felt from the start by the TSJC, Sikyong at the time, president and vice-president and parliamentarians of the 16th term. It seems that when you look back, the Chithues are happy that they managed to remove all three TSJCs. The TSJC has also just reminded parliamentarians that their quotes from the charter were neither legal nor correct, but they chose to resign. All former offices and dignitaries are responsible for creating such a situation.
This is not to discuss whether Chitues votes to impeach the TSJC is correct or not, but the acceptance and announcement of the TSJC to step down in March at the press conference loud and clear, then come back in May in rephrasing that they have challenged and not resigned.
If the TSJC are endowed with common sense and seriousness, they should have consulted Tibetan legal advisers / experts before resigning.
Usually the ruler of a country is called a great statesman because he can see all the repercussions / consequences and future problems well in advance and then make the decisions and take the necessary actions.
(The opinions expressed are his own)
The writer is a member of Tibetan civil society and is based in Dharamshala.