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21may20110oo91Dharamshala: Saturday May 21 marked the opening of the Second Tibetan National General Meeting at the upper TCV school auditorium in Dharamshala. The meeting is meant to address the issues regarding proposed amendments to the current Tibetan charter as laid out by the Charter Amendment Drafting Committee which has been set up to deal with the practicalities of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama's denouncement of political power.

After the initial opening ceremony with the traditional chanting of monks, the singing of Tibet's national anthem and a minute's silence for the fallen heroes of Tibet, the 418 delegates from various parts of the world including the US, India, Russia and Europe, were divided into 10 working committees by each delegate drawing a number by chance. For the next three days the temporary committees will be deliberating on a preamble to the charter, article number 1 - which pertains to His Holiness' new position of protector and symbol of the nation - as well as 39 related articles, including article 19 concerning His Holiness the Dalai Lama's executive powers.

"The responsibility of the delegates here is to improvise on the texts, on wordings, on paraphrasing things that they think might help making the drafts more effective, particularly on the preamble and the article number one", said the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Penpa Tsering, during a press briefing shortly after the opening ceremony had concluded.

The current Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, also addressed the delegates, highlighting the importance of maintaining the legitimacy of the Tibetan Government in Exile, regardless of the changes that could be made in the charter. He also said "I hope this session will pass the preamble unanimously without change".

Commenting on the three sections of article 1, the Kalon Tripa said they were added "because they are the people's aspirations". "Tibetans wants His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a national symbol and also as their guardian, but if His Holiness no longer want to do all this, then the charter doesn't have the power to enforce this on His Holiness" said Samdhong Rinpoche.

Working simultaneously with two scenarios, the amendment drafting committee has submitted two drafts; one where His Holiness the Dalai Lama's responsibilities have been delegated to the different relevant branches of the CTA, and another one, as suggested by experts, where there is a third person elected to be head of state, in which case article 19 - pertaining to His Holiness responsibilities - would vary slightly from the first draft. The second draft is in response to a scenario where the Tibetan Government in Exile would announce itself a Republic, which would then mean the election of a person to become head of state.

21may2011rK91Speaker of Parliament, Penpa Tsering, said that the second draft did not enjoy full support of the committee, but was, however, sent along with the first one on the advice of certain experts. Deputy Speaker Dolma Gyari added that, in order not to confuse matters, the second draft had not been disclosed to the public until now. The Kalon Tripa also mentioned the second draft and said, "we don't really know how this is going to work out, so this is one of the discussions that are taking place - whether there will be a people's leader or whether this will not be passed, it is just a proposition".

After the meetings conclusion on May 24 - one day later than initially planned in an attempt to satisfy every delegate's need for commenting on the amendments - Penpa Tsering said "the draft will be taken to the house, as it was presented to the parliament secretariat, and any further modifications to the amendments will be brought by the standing committee of the house, which will reflect the views of this national general meeting".

Deputy Speaker, Dolma Gyari, told members of the media that the address of His Holiness regarding his political exit, was to the 14th house and that he, in that same address, also specifically mentioned that this house should finalize his decision. "We have no option but to try to move ahead as per the vision of the Dalai Lama and in deference to the wishes of His Holiness" said Gyari on behalf of the parliament and added that "the present house feels duty bound to at least try to complete the task given unto us during our term". The current house's term ends on May 29 with the new MP's being sworn in already on May 30.