A total of 418 delegates from over 20 countries including India, Nepal, US, Europe and Russia are participating in the second Tibetan National General Meeting that started in the premises of Tibetan Children's Village School in upper Dharamsala on Saturday.
Initially, the meeting was to continue for three days starting on Saturday onwards. But, now the session has been extended by a day following the advice by the Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetans-in-exile.
The Dalai Lama wanted that every participant in the meeting should be given a chance to express views on the draft amendments to the Tibetan Charter (constitution) on the devolution of his (Dalai Lama's) political authorities to the democratically elected Tibetan leadership.
Now, the delegates would present to the Dalai Lama the final outcome of the final draft preamble and the first article amendments' to the Charter on May 24.
The participants actively participated in discussing amendments to the Charter on the devolution of the Dalai Lama's administrative and political powers and responsibilities to the elected leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).
It was observed that the inaugural session was held in accordance with the Dalai Lama's decision to relinquish his formal authorities in order to bring about complete democratisation of the Tibetan polity. According to information, the delegates will deliberate on insertion of a new Preamble and Article 1 into the Charter and 39 related articles prepared by Charter Drafting Committee.
The drafting committee has amended 39 articles including the Article 19 concerning the executive power of the Dalai Lama. The amendments made to 9 executive powers assigned to the Dalai Lama in the Charter will be devolved to the elected leadership and 3 pillars of democracy, Speaker, Tibetan Government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering said in his opening statement while addressing the meeting on Saturday.
Speaker told the media persons that one of the major draft amendments made to the Charter was the withdrawal of provisions (Article 31 – 35) of appointing Council of Regency.
Earlier, address the meeting, the Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche reiterated three long-term visions of the Dalai Lama to devolve his political authorities to the elected Tibetan leadership. "His Holiness aims to complete the democratisation process of Tibetan society, to establish a sound system of governance and self-reliant exile Tibetan administration when he remain able and healthy and to sustain the exile administration until the issue of Tibet is resolved,” he said.
Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche stressed the changes made in the Charter must ensure the continuity of the special historic bond between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, safeguarding the Central Tibetan Administration as the legitimate governing body and representative of the whole Tibetan people, in whom sovereignty resides. He underscored the need to ensure Central Tibetan Administration to get recognition in the international arena and to maintain relations with governments across the world. Efforts must be made to remove impediments which might undermine the sustenance of the Central Tibetan Administration, he added.
Interacting with the media persons, Deputy Speaker of Tibetan Government-in-exile Gary Dolma told that the Dalai Lama was the guide illuminating the path, the supreme leader, the symbol of the Tibetan identity and unity, and the voice of the whole Tibetan people. "His authority is derived from centuries old history and heritage and, above all, from the will of the people in whom sovereignty is vested”, she said.
She told that the inherent rights and responsibilities included 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.
Also, she said it also included to provide guidance in various forms to the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies and Kashag (Council of Ministers) in matters of importance to the Tibetan people, including the community and its institutions in exile, at the Dalai Lama's own initiative or at the request of those bodies.
She further told that the inherent rights and responsibilities also included to 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 appoint representatives and envoys to serve the interests of the Tibetan people in any part of the world.
It may be recalled here that from the time of its founding, commonly placed in the early 2nd Century BC, Tibet has existed as a sovereign nation for almost its entire history. When the Great Fifth Dalai Lama assumed the supreme spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in 1642, the Gaden Phodrang government he established became the legitimate government of the whole Tibetan people in the three regions of Tibet. Since then successive Dalai Lamas maintained the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in this manner.
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama assumed the political leadership of Tibet, thus becoming both its spiritual and temporal leader, in 1950. The People's Republic of China invaded Tibet and coerced its government into signing the 17-Point Agreement in 1951, in which the Gaden Podrang government was designated as the "Local Government of Tibet.” However, its legitimacy as the government of Tibet was maintained and under the terms of the said Agreement the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama were guaranteed to remain unaltered.
When the People's Republic of China's authorities in Tibet violated the Agreement and resorted to the use of brute violence and repression against Tibetans, the Dalai Lama and the Kashag (council of ministers) were compelled to escape from Tibet into exile. Immediately upon arriving in India, the Dalai Lama repudiated the 17 Point Agreement on 18 April 1959. Whereas the Tibetan people recognise and look to the Dalai Lama and his Kashag as their legitimate government regardless of where it may be, the Dalai Lama established the new seat of the central Tibetan administration in India to safeguard, represent and pursue the interests of the Tibetan nation and its people without interruption.
Soon thereafter, the Dalai Lama acted upon his long cherished desire to democratise the Tibetan governance system and institutions, and in 1960 created the Commission of Tibetan People's Deputies as the elected representative assembly of the people. The Eleventh Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies adopted the Charter of Tibetans in Exile, ratified by the Dalai Lama on 28 June 1991, to be the constitutional law governing the Central Tibetan Administration in conformity with modern norms of democracy.
The Charter provided that the successive Dalai Lamas shall exercise their responsibilities as head of the Tibetan nation and as chief executive of the Tibetan administration. To complete the democratisation process and ensure that the future of the Tibetan people not be unduly dependent on one individual, and in full consideration of the challenges and goals before the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama on March 14 this year formally announced to the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies his intention to transfer all his administrative and political powers and responsibilities to the elected leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration.
In deference to the Dalai Lama's irrevocable decision to relinquish his administrative and political roles and in the face of the Dalai Lama's rejection of pleas to reconsider that decision, the Fourteenth Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies, in its additional session, adopted necessary amendments to the Charter to give effect to the Dalai Lama's directive to appropriately amend the Charter while safeguarding the continuity of the Central Tibetan Administration as the legitimate governing body and representative of the whole Tibetan people, in whom sovereignty resides.