DHARAMSHALA: Ven Khenpo Sonam Tenphel and Ven Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok were sworn in as the new Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile at a swearing-in ceremony held today at the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission, Gangchen Kyishong.The oath of office was administered by Mr Kargyu Dhondup, the Chief Justice Commissioner.
Forty-four members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament voted to elect its new Speaker and Deputy Speaker yesterday. Even after three rounds of voting, there was a stalemate between Khenpo Sonam Tenphel and Mr Pema Jungney who got 22 votes each for the post of Speaker. Therefore, members of the parliament unanimously requested Mr Sonam Choephel Shosur, the Chief Election Commissioner to accept both of them as Speaker on a time-sharing basis, to which he agreed. It was then decided that the first half of the Speaker’s term – from 30 May 2016 to 30 November 2018 – will be chaired by Khenpo Sonam Tenphel while the remaining term will be chaired by Mr Pema Jungney.
Although appointing two Speakers on a time-sharing basis is not specified in the Tibetan electoral rules and regulations, it is not unprecedented, as a similar thing has happened during the 14th Tibetan Parliament between Mr Penpa Tsering and Late Mr Karma Chopel.
The election for the Deputy Speaker ‘s post was won by Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok with a decisive mandate of 38 votes.
Ven Khenpo Sonam Tenphel was born at Rekhe in Kham in 1974. At the age of 13, he joined Nari Tashi Choeling monastery and received education in preliminary Buddhist teachings, meditation and rituals. He came to exile in 1993 and received an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Later he joined Namdroling monastery in South India and received monastic education in both Buddhist sutra and tantra teachings and earned a Lopon degree. He also served as an assistant teacher and later, as a teacher at Namdroling monastery. As appointed by Kyabje Drubwang Penor Rinpoche, he also served as a disciplinarian at the monastery for three years. In 2011, he received Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy from Karma Kuchen Rinpoche. He was earlier elected to the 14th Tibetan Parliament as a representative from the Nyingma school of Buddhism. In 2011, he was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. Khenpo Sonam Tenphel was elected as the Speaker of the 16th Tibetan parliament with Mr Pema Jungney on 30 May 2016.
Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok was born in 1962 at Leh, Ladakh, India. He obtained his Acharya degree from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS), Varanasi in 1988. From 1983 to 1987, he served on various Student Committee posts at the CIHTS. In 1989, he helped organise the first International Tibet Support Group Meeting. He served at the CIHTS from 1989 to 1991. From 1992 to 1994 he served as an academic administrator and Tibetan language teacher at the TCV School Suja. From 1994 to 2004 he was the Joint Secretary of the National Democratic Party of Tibet and later became its president. In 1999 he founded the Bharat Tibet Sahyog Manch (BTSM) and attended the UNCHR Sub-Committee Session at Geneva on 3 August 2000. From 1997 to 2004 he has been an active participant at various National and International Conferences. He was the president of the Ngari Chithun Association and former executive programme officer at the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre. In 2006, he was elected as a member of the 14th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile as a representative from the U-tsang province and was re-elected in the 15th Tibetan parliament.