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Democracy Day: Exile Government asks Tibetans to give more importance to "duties than rights"

September 3, 2008

Phayul [Tuesday, September 02, 2008 15:13]
By Phurbu Thinley

Dharamsala, September 2: Marking the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan 
Democracy Day, Tibet's Government-in-exile today asked all Tibetans 
to give more importance to their "democratic duties than rights" in 
the Kashag's statement read out by Ven. Tsering Phuntsok, the 
minister for Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan 
Administration, here today.

Kalon (minister) Tsering Phuntsok was acting on behalf of Kalon Tripa 
(prime minister) Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, who is currently away in 
Mumbai, where the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama 
has decided to take rest sometime since Monday after undergoing 
medical tests for abdominal discomfort and exhaustion.

"The Kashag would like to emphatically state that all Tibetans should 
- at this very critical and crucial period - give more importance to 
their democratic duties than rights," the Kashag's statement said.

The statement went on to add that Tibetans "should give more 
importance to the national and community's benefits than individual's 
and organisation's; and that they should, in order to challenge the 
forces of division, strive towards combining their collective energies".

Stating that Tibetan people have endured the oppression of a foreign 
country for nearly 60 years, Kashag statement urged Tibetan people to 
learn from the sacrifices made by many heroic Tibetan men and women 
in defending Tibetan religion, culture, national identity and 
freedom, and to continue the rightful and non-violent struggle of the 
Tibetan people until the issue of Tibet is resolved once and for all.

In the statement, the Tibetan Government blamed "Chinese autocratic 
government's ultra-leftist policies" responsible to the continuous 
sufferings endured by the Tibetans inside Tibet since China sent 
military troops to rule Tibet in 1949.

As a result of China's oppressive policies, the statement said "the 
very survival of the Tibetan people is at stake today".

"Under these policies, the basic rights of the Tibetan people, 
including their political, social, religious and cultural rights are 
trampled upon by the Chinese government. Therefore, until and unless 
the nature of the People's Republic of China's polity does not become 
more open, free and transparent, it is difficult for China to be able 
to resolve the problem of Tibet," the statement underlined.

Accordingly, the statement also urged that the Tibetan people "living 
in the free world should also work towards cultivating a culture of 
openness, freedom and transparency".

The statement emphasizes that in order to establish a true democratic 
society, there is a need to maintain gender equality and that women 
should equally partake in the administrative and political work of a 
country.

Noting that Tibetan women were lagging behind men in their ratio of 
taking part in the administrative and political works, the statement 
announced that the Kashag would soon come out with a policy to 
strengthen women's power in the Tibetan society to bridge the 
existing difference in the future.

September 2 is a special day and an official holiday for Tibetans 
around world as they celebrate their democracy day.

This year completes 48 years since the exiled Tibetan leader the 
Dalai Lama declared democracy for Tibetans in 1960 and promulgated a 
constitution for a future Tibet, based on the principles of modern 
democracy.

To support his declaration of democracy, the Dalai Lama established a 
Tibetan Government-in-exile, with a parliament directly elected by 
the people, although he initially had had the sole constitutional 
power to appoint cabinet ministers and department heads.

As part of democratic reforms, the Dalai Lama, in 1991, announced the 
"Charter for Tibetans in exile", whereby, amongst other things, 
expanded the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies, (now changed to 
Tibetan Parliament) and were empowered to appoint the Cabinet (Tib: 
Kashag).

Speaking in 1991, after announcing this landmark decision, the Dalai 
Lama said: "Change is coming to the Tibetan political system. It is 
unfortunate that it happens in exile, but this does not stop us 
learning the art of democracy....This democratization has reached out 
to Tibetans all over the world.... I believe that future generations 
of Tibetans will consider these changes among the most important 
achievements of our experience in exile."

As part of further democratization, in 2000, the Tibetan supreme 
leader instituted another reform, requiring exile Tibetans to 
directly elect their Prime Minister with full administrative power. 
In 2001, for the very first time, Tibetans from 27 countries voted on 
a single day, with more than 80 percent electing Professor Samdhong 
Rinpoche as the first Kalon Tripa.

Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche is currently running his second consecutive 
term after being re-elected in 2006, securing a landslide majority of 
over 90 percent of the total votes cast.

Since the introduction of democracy, Tibetan community in exile 
experienced a constantly evolving vibrant democratic system, founded 
on "harmonious blend of spiritual and political values" as they call 
it. Much of the credit goes to the benevolent leadership of His 
Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile and exile 
home of the Dalai Lama, large number of Tibetan refugees today 
gathered at the Tsuglag-Khang (Main Tibetan Temple), the venue for 
official functions, to honour the Dalai Lama's declaration of democracy.

In commemorating the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan Democracy, the 
Kashag's statement, expressed "immense gratitude" and paid 
"obeisance" to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his "extraordinary 
efforts to transform the Tibetan polity into a genuine democracy".

The official function, kept short without any elaborate celebrations, 
sensibly due to current depressing situation inside Tibet, included 
award presentation to students who achieved outstanding performance 
in their Class XII Board exams and, official speeches from the Kashag 
and the Tibetan Parliament.

The function, which lasted not more than an hour, was attended by 
Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament Mr Karma Choephel, other members of 
the parliament, cabinet ministers, and senior government officials.

In his address to the crowds assembled at the Tsuglag-Khang, Mr Karma 
expressed sympathy and solidarity to those Tibetans who have been 
killed, arrested, injured or tortured for taking part in peaceful 
demonstrations across Tibet since March 10 this year. The Tibetans 
speaker said those brave Tibetans brothers and sister have shown 
extreme courage and faith to selflessly sacrifice their lives and 
belongings for the greater cause of Tibet.

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