Friday 23 May 2008

85th Birthday Anniversary of the Chogyal of Sikkim

This spring the world’s attention was drawn to Tibet, where on 10th March this year the people commemorated the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan upheaval against the Chinese occupation. The protests spread from Tibet across the whole world and along the route of the torch relay for this year’s Olympic games people demanded: “Free Tibet!”.

In the Southern part of the Himalaya another occupied territory did not attract any attention at all: Sikkim. The Kingdom which had defended its independence for 300 years against powerful neighbours was annexed by India in April 1975 and became the 22nd state of the Indian Union. The 85th birthday of the 12th Chogyal of Sikkim gives me the opportunity to focus on the fate of the tiny Himalaya Kingdom.

Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal, Twelfth Consecrated Ruler of Sikkim, was born in Sikkim’s capital Gangtok on 22nd May 1923. The Denzong Chogyal was the second son of the late illustrious Chogyal Sir Tashi Namgyal, who will always be remembered as Sikkim’s gracious, enlightened and benevolent ruler.
In 1935 he continued his studies at St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, and completed his studies at Bishop Cotton School, Simla, in 1941.

As the Heir Apparent, Gyalsay Palden Thondup Namgyal undertook the Indian Civil Service Training Course at Dehra Dun in 1942 and thereafter returned to Sikkim to look after the administration so that the needs of the people could be taken care of.

Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal was keenly alive to the needs of the people and as Heir Apparent had exercised direct personal supervision over various departments of the government of Sikkim. He was his father’s adviser on external affairs and led the Sikkim team, which negotiated the Treaty with India in 1949-1950. By contract Sikkim became India’s “protectorate” on 5th December 1950, not unlike Nepal and Bhutan that were forced to sign similar treaties after the British had left the subcontinent. So far the other two Kingdoms could maintain their independence. If Nepal will be able to keep the two greedy neighbours outside the borders should the country be declared a republic, is in doubts.

The Chogyal was connected with a number of cultural and academic bodies in Sikkim, India and abroad. He had been the President of the Mahabodhi Society of India since 1953 and he led the Sikkim delegation to the Sixth Buddhist Council that was held in Burma in 1954. He participated in the 2500 Buddha Jayanti Celebrations in India in 1956, and was the only member of the Working Committee from Sikkim. In March 1959 he attended the 2500 Buddha Jayanti Conference in Japan and represented Sikkim at the Sixth World Fellowship of Buddhists conference in Cambodia in 1961. In 1958, under the patronage of Maharaja Sir Tashi Namgyal, he set up a centre for Mahayana and Tibetan studies at Gangtok , and this world famous centre bears the name of “Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.”

In August 1950, he married Sangey Deki, daughter of Yapshi Samdu Phodrang of Tibet. Sangey died in June 1957. In March 1963 he married Hope Cooke, grand daughter and ward of Mr. and Mrs. Winchester Noyes of the United States of America, which drew a huge media attention to the tiny Kingdom. The Chogyal had three children from his first wife, namely Tenzing, Wangchuk and Yangchen. His second wife bore him Palden and Hope. After his father’s death, Palden was crowned as the Twelfth Chogyal of Sikkim on 4th April 1965. (Please note the photo, where his US-born wife Hope Cooke is sitting at his right on a lower throne.)

Among the honours and distinction the Chogyal held were: The Order of the British Empire (1947), Padma Vibushan, India (1954) and Commander de l’Ordre de l’Étoile Noire, France (1956).

The Indian invasion
Small numbers of Nepalese had been migrating to Sikkim from about the 15th century, but it was only under the British that the Nepalese began entering Sikkim in great numbers, entirely upsetting the traditional ethnic balance of Sikkim. This social engineering was done by the British to weaken the traditional Lepchas – Bhutia strength. The Eleventh Chogyal and representatives of two of Sikkim’s largest parties, the Sikkim State Congress and the Sikkim National Party, agreed in May 1951to a parity formula . According to this formula, the seats in the state council were to be divided equally between the Bhutia-Lepcha group, and the Nepalese. The Sikkim State Council was then institute in 1953.

In April 1973, after making allegations that elections had been rigged, ethnic Nepali protested in front of the King's palace, demanding civil rights and the sidelining or even removal of what they called the "feudal" monarchy. Palden Thondup Namgyal, the King of Sikkim, ultimately gave in and signed an agreement on 8th May 1973.

The document called on India to provide a chief executive, and to hold elections for an assembly. The agreement was the first step in the disappearance of the Kingdom of Sikkim. The inhabitants of the Kingdom are in no doubt that the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her local agents fomented the unrest. Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial and imperialist attitudes were are a major concern in the 70s. Asked in 1998 by the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, why the Sikkimese army did not resist the Indian invasion, a former captain of Sikkim's army replied: "The Indians soldiers had joined the army because they were hungry and received a warm meal; to shoot at them would not have been in accordance with our Buddhist faith. We knew four days in advance about the invasion, but the King had ordered not to fight."

In 1975, Sikkim’s Prime Minister “appealed” to the Indian Parliament for representation and change of Sikkim's status to a state of India. In April 1975 the Indian army moved into Sikkim, seizing the capital city of Gangtok, disarming the Palace Guards and putting the Chogyal under house arrest.
A “referendum” was held in which 97.5% [!] of the votes cast (or counted!) agreed to join the Indian Union. China did not recognize India’s occupation of Sikkim until 2003, which led to an improvement in the Sino-Indian relations. In return, India announced its official recognition of Tibet as an integrated part of China.

The Chogyal never renounced his throne and hoped till the end that justice would win.

On 29th January 1982 Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal died a heartbroken man from cancer in New York. His second son Wangchuk inherited the rights to the throne after the Chogyal's eldest son Crown Prince Tenzin had died in a car accident on 11th March 1978.

Monday 19 May 2008

King Constantine II's portrait enjoys a prominent place in the Melburnian home of a Royalist Greek family.

The Greek Royalist Association of Australia
One of the countless republican myths is that the Australian Monarchy is only supported by British immigrants and Anglophile Australians. Nothing could be more wrong than that. Multiculturalism is flourishing among Monarchists in Australia. The motto could be: Join the Monarchist groups and learn about Australia’s diversity!

One example is The Greek Royalist Association of Australia that assembles the loyalist Greeks in Australia. Or as their website says: “An association of Greeks and Philhellenes who support the principle of Monarchy.”

To honour the feast day of Saints Constantine and Helena Greek Royalists – and a couple of Philhellenes – gathered on 18th May 2008 to listen to a talk on ‘His Majesty King Paul and His Legacy’. John Fanarakis, who originates from one of the Dodekanes Islands, remembered his first encounter with King Pavlos (1901-1964) and praised the political stability Greece enjoyed during the King’s 17 years of reign. It came to an abrupt end in 1964 when the King died of lung cancer.

The photo shows King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie dancing with Greek soldiers. The poem is dedicated to "the King over the waters".

This pamphlet is available from the Greek Royalist Association of Australia.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Monarchists are the better Democrats
Among the Australian media The Epoch Times is certainly not one of the most important newspapers. With its Falun Gong background and its editorial spearhead against the Chinese Communist Party the weekly is certainly a unique project. On one topic, however, there is no difference to other Australian newspapers and electronic media: It is strongly biased against the Australian Monarchy and in favour of “a” republic.

In his article Republic gets “Thumbs up”, but so does the Queen, author Shar Adams assumes every Australian – or nearly every Australian – would follow the republican bandwagon once an unconstitutional plebiscite with a non-binding vote might be called and “a resulting ‘yes’ vote would then initiate a referendum for 2013 that would decide the model”.

And what, may I ask, if the Australian people will once again vote NO?

There is no plan B.
Republicans - and Shar Adams included – only draw their future ideas in connection with a republic: Professor Clive Bean, head of the School of Humanities at Queensland's University of Technology: "When the process does get under way, one of the most significant factors will be the leadership shown by the Opposition because when we go to a referendum on the matter, which we will have to do at some stage, referendums are easy to defeat if both sides of Parliament aren't in favour of them. With John Howard's departure, the balance of opinion within the hierarchy of the Liberal Party I think will probably be much more in favour of a republic so it may well be that they will get in behind it, but that may well depend on the details for the model and how the process is presented."

And The Epoch Times rejoices: “Leader of the Opposition Brendan Nelson has indicated he will bow to popular consensus, but that he is personally happy keeping things as they are.

The Epoch Times equally presumes times would work in favour of “a” republic, when Major General Jeffery will be replaced in September this year by Australia's first female viceroy, Quentin Bryce, ”who is considered to be a strong supporter of an Australian republic” pretends Shar Adams, ignoring the fact that she is an outspoken supporter of the present Constitutional Monarchy.

Here we go again: two declared Monarchists, Brendan Nelson and Quentin Bryce, are claimed by the republicans. They may not be republicans yet, but who could resist these charming republicans? Or whatever these anti-monarchists think of themselves and their convictions.

Republicans want the whole country therefore cannot tolerate someone being a Monarchist. Of course it is good practice for a democrat to accept a majority rule and a vote in a referendum has to be accepted by every democrat worth that term. Certainly Brendan Nelson would do. But would the republicans accept another referendum that favours the Australian Monarchy? Or let’s put it the other way round: How many chances would Monarchists get should a referendum be won by republicans? Would there be a re-run in ten years time to give the people back the Monarchy should opinion polls show a massive demand for a Monarchy?

You may give the answer yourself.

Even Her Majesty is more of a true democrat than most republicans that publish in the Australian media. In March 2000 Her Majesty said in Australia:

I have always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for you, the Australian people, and you alone to decide by democratic and constitutional means. It should not be otherwise.

I shall continue faithfully to serve as Queen of Australia under the Constitution to the very best of my ability, as I have tried to do for the last 48 years. It is my duty to remain true to the interests of Australia and all Australians as we enter the 21st century. That is my duty. It is also my privilege and my pleasure.

Well spoken, Your Majesty.

Thursday 1 May 2008

Public or re-public? - That is the Question
Considering that the adherents of a republic rarely know what they want instead of the Monarchy and have they hardly ever wasted a thought on what “republic” really means. The origin of the term is “res publica” or the "common cause".

Now have a look, what our republicans are doing: They sell the common good and privatise public property. To be more precise: They privatise the profit, but socialise the deficits.

The public transport in Melbourne is a good example. Transport Minister Lynne Kosky, I am sure a life long republican just like the present Prime Minister, publicly said she is not interested in running the public transport system in Victoria. Her recent tour of public transport in Europe was about private deals not public benefit. In fact the much praised public commission model for transport in Zürich was rejected out of hand by Mrs Kosky. Far better to do deals protected by “commercial–in–confidence” secrecy.

Do you recall Mr. Iemma, the man who would sell The Man from Snowy River? (He was behind the plan to sell off the Snowy River Power scheme). Now New South Welsh Premier, Morris Iemma, despite promising before the last state election not to privatise the NSW electricity system, is in a tussle with the NSW union movement who actually expected him to keep his promise. This has put Emperor Kev I in a difficult position, caught between the powerful NSW right wing and the equally powerful NSW union movement. Oh! as for the public ... they don’t even get a look in.

Mr Iemma and Mr Rudd may be republicans but they cannot privatise public assets fast enough. More deals to be done behind closed doors … even the promise not to privatise the power system was made behind closed doors between the Union and Mr Iemma.

The public were never and are not part of the discussions in any way.

PPP = private profit preferred …

If you cannot trust the public service and the public assets to the politicians, why would you give them total power by making one of them president of a republic? To whom would they sell the country?