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Speaking of Kalons

posted Aug 31, 2011, 6:40 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Aug 31, 2011, 8:22 AM ]
By the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review

The 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile meets from September 16 to October 1 of this year.  One if its key tasks will be to consider candidates for the seven Kalons (ministers) nominated by the Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister), Lobsang Sangay.  In order to ensure that the Tibetan people get the best administration possible, it is imperative that the names of the nominees be publicly disclosed now so that they can be thoroughly vetted.

Under Article 21 of the Tibetan Charter, the Parliament votes whether to confirm the Kalon Tripa’s nominees for the seven members of the Kashag (Cabinet). These seven Kalons are: Nangsi Kalon (Home Minister), Chidrel Kalon (Minister of Information and International Relations), Sherig Kalon (Education Minister), Choedhon Kalon (Religion Minister), Desung Kalon (Security Minister), Troeten Kalon (Health Minister), and Paljor Kalon (Finance Minister).

The Kalon Tripa will likely nominate qualified individuals to these important positions.  However, we believe that any democracy is made stronger through checks and balances.  The Central Tibetan Administration’s functioning would be improved by fully vetting the Kashag nominees.  This vetting is a duty that constitutionally falls to the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.  Not carrying out a full vetting would be a dereliction of the Parliament’s duty. 

Tibetan democracy is structured similar to a presidential system (with a directly-elected executive separate from the legislature) rather than a parliamentary system (where the head of government is the leader of the legislative majority).  In presidential systems such as the American and Tibetan ones, the legislature has the important power to vote whether to confirm the chief executive’s Cabinet.

Looking to the example of the United States, the President informs the Senate (the upper house of Congress) of a particular Cabinet nominee; the Senate investigates this nominee, including holding confirmation hearings where the nominee is questioned under oath.  The Senate then votes on whether to confirm the nominee.

                                            Hillary Clinton answers Senators' questions during her 
                            confirmation hearing for her nomination as Secretary of State, January 2009

The purpose of this confirmation process is three-fold.  First, the Senate assures that the nominee is qualified.  Second, Senators can get the nominee’s views and policies on record.  Third, the Senate serves as a political check by ensuring that the Cabinet nominee is politically acceptable, not only to the President (who nominates) but also to Senators (who confirm).

Some may feel that the President should have the power to appoint whomever he/she wants in the Cabinet, but as a practical matter this system promotes political moderation.  It is grounded in the principle that while the President is the head of government, it is ultimately the legislature that is the representative of the people.

Based on this example, we believe that Tibetan democracy would benefit by the Kalon Tripa immediately informing Parliament of his seven Kalon nominees.  The Parliamentary Standing Committee, and individual Chitues (Members of Parliament), should immediately begin the vetting process for these nominees.  This process should include calling the nominees to testify before the full Parliament beginning on September 16.  With a full vetting process for the Kalon nominees, it will ultimately be the Tibetan people who will benefit from a better administration.

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