Change of guard for Tibet soon

Frontrunner will take part in the debate from Bylakuppe

The debate will be the last before the adults of the 150,000 Tibetan refugees living in India and other countries around the world take part in a global poll to elect one of them to the office that has just become all the more important after Dalai Lama announced his plan to retire from the political leadership.

Lobsang Sangay, who is believed to be the frontrunner in the race to the Kalon Tripa’s office, will take part in the debate from Bylakuppe, while his rivals Tenzin Tethong and Tashi Wangdi will join from Washington DC and Dharamshala – the seat of the Government-in-Exile – respectively.  And, with Dalai Lama making public his plan to retire, the question that all the three contenders are most likely to be confronted with during the debate is obvious. How well are they prepared to take the baton of leadership the 75-year-old monk wants to pass on to one of them?

Sangay, who did his masters and doctorate from Harvard Law School, is ready with his reply though. “None can fill in the shoes of Dalai Lama. It will be challenging, but we will have to take up the challenge, as he himself wants us to and preparing us for,” he told Deccan Herald in New Delhi on Friday.

The 43-year-old expert on international law will reach Bylakuppe on Saturday.
The debate on Radio Free Asia will give him the last chance to reach out to the electorate spread around the world and seek their support for the polling, which is scheduled to take place on March 20 next.

This is the third time the Tibetan refugees are taking part in a global poll to elect the Kalon Tripa.

Samdhong Rinpoche, a highly revered monk and scholar among the Tibetans, had won the two previous elections – in 2001 and 2006.

His second five-year term will end next May.  Sangay, a Fulbright Scholar, was much ahead of Tethong and Wangdi in the primary elections held in October last year.
The visiting Research Fellow at East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School, however, will know his fate only when the results of the final poll will be declared towards the end of April.

Asked how he views Dalai Lama’s announcement for retirement from political leadership of the Tibetans, Sangay said that it was a “natural evolution” of the process the supreme spiritual leader of the community had initiated soon after he had fled from Chinese-occupied Tibet to India in 1959.

Recalling that Dalai Lama had been trying to expose the exiled Tibetans to democratic practices since 1960, Sangay said: “Unlike other communities and nations that ushered in democratic system of governance due to struggles by people at the grass-root level, Tibetan democracy is a result of a top down initiative. We embraced democracy because Dalai Lama relentlessly encouraged us to.”

He said that democracy would not only further “consolidate the foundation of the Tibetans’ struggle” for genuine autonomy of Tibet, but make it more sustainable too.

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