I am glad that we have been able to hold this congress. I have three points to make today. First, as I have always emphasised, there is a need to further democratise our system. We have endeavoured to have experience in the working of our democracy during the last 31 years. In the 1960s, I drafted a democratic constitution (for future Tibet). However, dramatic changes have taken place in different parts of the world during the last few years. In the case of our Tibetan issue, we have reached a stage where we have a hope for a happy end. I, therefore, feel that this draft constitution needs to be revised so that we can have a total democratic set-up.
However, as I have mentioned earlier, it is difficult for one or two of our people to do the job immediately. Everywhere in the world, there is a tradition of seeking the advice of experts and then undertaking the task. Therefore, I would like to appoint some Tibetans to take primary responsibility on this. They should consult Indian and foreign experts and then come up with a draft constitution in which will be enshrined those values which go to make a truly democratic system. If possible, this draft constitution must be ready by 1992. Then we can invite opinions from the exiled Tibetans and also, as far as possible, from the people in Tibet, and adopt this draft constitution for the time being. The final decision will be made on the auspicious day when the Tibetans in exile and those in Tibet meet. I am thus thinking of setting up a committee to undertake this task.
Then during the last 31 years, we have made all efforts to implement in exile the draft constitution which was promulgated long time back. However, since this document, meant for implementation in an exile situation, was made in the form of a constitution of an independent country, its total implementation was not possible.
We have to see that during our period in exile, democracy is fully practiced. We have had discussions on this before. We have discussed during the time when Kundeling (a former member of the Kashag) and others were there about having an association registered, because our present situation in India is not stable.
Such an association, we thought, may bring stability. A draft bye-law for such an association was even prepared. Whatever the case may be, we have been thinking on these lines earlier. Now, I was thinking that during the period we stay as refugees we should have a guideline, call it constitution or anything else, which will make our Administration a truly democratic one.
I have decided to make such a guideline. If possible, it should be ready around the Tibetan Democracy Day in 1991. There is a need to change the functions and composition of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, I hope the next Assembly will be elected around 10 March 1991. If this is done, the Assembly will scrutinise the draft bye-law prepared for our exile Administration. The next Assembly will perhaps be a legislative body.
Regarding the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, so far, I had the ultimate authority of selecting its members. Although elected by the people, the final selections were done by me. This practice has to change. From now on, the people’s decision will be final. I feel that the Dalai Lama should have no role here. The future Assembly will be entrusted with the power of appointing the Kalons. The present Assembly, which has come up through the old procedure, stands dissolved from today. Let us immediately begin the work for the election of the next Assembly. Being a legislative organ, the next Assembly will discuss the bye-law and take appropriate decisions.
The present meeting should decide the election procedure. As suggested by people’s opinions collected so far, the number of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies must be increased. However, all the Deputies need not stay in Dharamshala. A few working committee members can stay here and the rest must function in different communities. But they can all meet in Dharamshala from time to time to discuss important matters.
The present meeting should also discuss if it is useful to have two houses, upper and lower, of the Assembly as suggested in some of the opinions. Otherwise, we may divide the Assembly into two groups. We may, for example, divide it in the ratio of one-thirds or two-thirds. And the composition of one group may remain the same as now, which takes into consideration not the exile population but the reality in Tibet: equal representation from all the three provinces of Tibet, plus representation from the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bon faith.
The other group may consist of one deputy for each 500 people in exile or one for over 1,000 people. Although the Assembly may be one house, it may be internally divided into these two groups. I would like the current meeting to discuss this point.
Earlier there used to be one woman deputy elected to the Assembly. However, lately we have not been able to reserve any seat for women Now that we are going to expand the composition of the Assembly, I would like you all to consider having some women representatives in the future Assembly. Since the current Assembly is dissolved today, you may discuss if it is necessary to have some people to continue the work of the Assembly till the next Assembly comes up. Since 10 March 1991 is only some months away, it may not make much difference. However, you may probably like to think about some other alternatives.
In Tibet we had a tribunal. Likewise, we will have to make provisions for a judiciary system in our constitution for future Tibet. Needless to say, the judiciary has to be an independent and impartial body as is the case in other democratic countries. But while in exile we have to give it an appropriate name in deference to Indian law.
It is up to you to decide on the name. For all practical purposes, it should have the power to settle our internal disputes and look into people’s grievance against, for example, the Council for Home Affairs or the Council for Tibetan Education. Earlier they were looked into by either the Kashag or the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, or by a committee especially formed for a particular case. But from now onwards, there should be a special department to deal with such matters. If a poor, humble individual feels that he has not had a fair deal from the Kashag, he should be able to approach an independent and impartial authority to seek justice. Give it whatever name you think fit.
As far as the question of the Prime Minister is concerned, most of the collected opinion expressed the need for such a post. However, there is no consensus on whether the Prime Minister should be appointed or elected. Most things are like this. When one talks about something, it sounds good and practical. But in reality, everything depends on human beings. In the past, we talked about this. For many years, we said that there is a need for someone between the Dalai Lama and the Kashag. But we could not find a suitable person. This problem remains even now. Therefore, I think that it is better to shelve this idea for the time being.
For the moment, it may be better if one of the Kalons is made a Kalon Tripa (Chief Kalon). Now seniority should not be the criterion for this post. Rather, it is better to hold timely elections. The voting for this post may be conducted within the Kashag, or by a slightly larger electorate. Whatever the case may be, one Kalon must be elected to the post of Kalon Tripa for a term of one year. The voting for this must be conducted once every year. And if a particular Kalon Tripa is capable, he may be re-elected for subsequent terms. When the bye-law is made, the Kalon Tripa may be vested with sufficient power. In practice, the Kalon Tripa will be the virtual Prime Minister. We will follow this system for the time being and gradually see how it works. Regarding the appointment of prime minister by me, although the Dalai Lama may be considered as the prime minister or the president, yet he has not come up through election. The election of a prime minister is not very convenient at this stage.
Whether we can find models in other countries or not, the election of our Kalons should be done through methods that are appropriate to our reality.
All the present Kalons submitted their resignation on 9 May and their term in office has been terminated in accordance with our old system. Thus we have brought to an end the term of the Dalai Lama-appointed Kalons.
As soon as the election of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies is completed, the new Assembly will have to elect new Kalons. However, as we have got no Assembly now, the next Kalons must be elected by this meeting. I think it is good to fix the number of Kalons at seven. In the past, we have had a varied number of Kalons. But our efforts have been to appoint Kalons from all the three provinces of Tibet, irrespective of creed or sex. This point must be kept in mind. It makes no difference whether the new Kalons are elected from those who have already resigned or from elsewhere.
Let us first divid this meeting into sub-groups and hold preliminary elections in all these groups. Since we need seven Kalons, we can nominate 21 candidates with the highest number of votes in all these groups. This done, we can hold a joint meeting and elect seven Kalons from the list of the 21. Now only those candidates with 70 percent or more votes should be declared elected. Suppose if only four or five candidates manage to win the required number of votes, we should have another voting to elect the remaining three or two Kalons.
If the remaining candidates fail to get the 70 percent even after the second voting, then we can decide only on the four or five Kalons. Normally when we elect the members of the Assembly, the first few get overwhelming majorities and some get very few votes. And since we need a certain number of deputies, some candidates with very few votes have to be declared winners. This does not make for a good system. Therefore, it is necessary to fix some sort of qualifying point.
Now that the Kalons will be elected, there will be corollary changes in the recruitment of staff members. The situation of the National Working Committee will also undergo changes. We will get the opportunity to discuss this later.
I will formulate my ideas on the new constitution and discuss it in a meeting attended by exiled Tibetans. Everyone is welcome to express his or her opinion on this matter. Of course, the finalisation of this constitution will be done when the exiled Tibetans are reunited with our brethren in Tibet.
We must have a simple and precise bye-law for our exile Administration. When we say that we are trying our best to implement our old constitution as far as possible, it becomes rather ambiguous. If we have a clear-cut democratic bye-law during our exile life, it will not only be easy for us to explain our system to our own people and to foreigners, but will also make our work easier. Together with this, we will have some sort of judiciary or an independent committee which can act as a watch-dog on the Tibetan Administration.
The other thing to discuss is the new Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies: expanding its size; improving the electoral system; whether there should be upper and lower houses in the Assembly, or upper and lower Assemblies, or only one Assembly with two groups of deputies; should it be divided into two halves of equal size or in the ratio of one-thirds or two-thirds. Since the future Assembly will have a very important role to play, it is necessary to discuss this properly.
In short instead of a prime minister, we will decide on the election of a Kalon Tripa from within the Kashag. For this you may discuss on how many more voters should there be in addition to the Kalons. The Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies will elect the future Kalons. For the time being the new Kalons must be elected by this meeting. The Dalai Lama’s seal of approval and selection is not needed. Only make sure that the election system and the vote percentage are discussed and finalised properly. It is good to decide on a strict method right from the beginning.
Lately, I have been emphasising the importance of democracy not because I have no interest in working for the Tibetans or because I am losing my determination. I have been telling both our own people and the foreigners that I will continue to work for our cause until our issue is resolved. Once our issue is resolved, I will stay outside the Tibetan government. This is my right and seems better for Tibet’s long-term interest. As long as we are in exile, I will continue to serve the Tibetan community and will readily contribute my service whenever we are faced with heavy odds. Irrespective of whether I hold a post or not in a free Tibet, I will continue to enjoy the respect of every Tibetan till I die. Therefore, I will be always available whenever the need arises. In case, we are faced with problems which can be solved only by the Dalai Lama, I will be there. I will do whatever is possible. But it is important that people are able to act on their own through democratic processes without relying on the Dalai Lama. Therefore, I will ask you all not to worry. Tashi Delek!
Note: His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivered the above speech extempore in Tibetan. This English translation is not issued by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and any comparison, therefore, should not be made with the one in Tibetan. This is only for information of the visitors who can’t read Tibetan. In case of doubts, consider the original speech in Tibetan.