Thursday, March 4, 2010


Ever since the Tibetan Government in Exile was established in India, the initial twin objectives of rehabilitating Tibetan refugees and restoring freedom in Tibet were put into actions. Different administrative departments were formed to look after welfare of the people. As of now, more than 52 major and minor settlements were established along with 77 different schools in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Under the restoration of freedom in Tibet, the Commission of Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan Parliament in Exile) was instituted and hence after the Tibetan Government in Exile became a democratic institution in 1960. Many democratic reforms were subsequently introduced and the most significant one was the direct election of Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister), which is of great importance to the survival of Tibetan issues.

This year, with the near completion of 50 years in exile and of freedom struggle, diasporic Tibetans are eagerly waiting for the next crucial moment of Tibetan history, which is the Election of Kalon Tripa in 2011. With just a year left, it already became a talk of the street in all the Tibetan settlements where people show an overwhelming and serious interest, which is a good sign of nurturing a healthy democracy. Kalon Tripa election is the highest-level election where people directly elect their political leader, which is supposedly rare in the present world political scenario. In a case like India, the world largest democracy, both the President and the Prime Minister are traditionally non-elected political leaders. Even in the United States, the primary presidential candidates were chosen by their respective parties and not by public. But, in our case, by the highest virtue of democracy, Tibetans in all over the world except in Tibet can franchise their vote for Kalon Tripa. This is the ultimate strength of democracy even though Tibetan government in exile is a Stateless government. But, if the Tibetan people still abstain from this election similar to 2001 and 2006 election, then, it indicates a different stories representing sick and failing democracy.

Kashag as the apex administrative body in the Tibetan Government runs under the stewardship of Kalon Tripa, it is essentially pivotal to have a efficient and charismatic leader who is dedicated, educated, decisive, and above all, a courage to carry on Tibetan freedom movement et al. Indeed, it is hard to find a quality leader from our mere one hundred and fifty thousand Tibetans settling around the globe. On top of that, with the eligibility age of 35, the number goes down even less. But, this is a test of our democracy as well as a test of our struggle for the past five decades. Since the world communities recognize Tibetan refugees as the most successful refugees in the world, which set an exemplary to the other refugee communities. Five decades of various democratic reforms with the smooth transition of political leadership to the people has been hailed all over the world.

A democratic reform: transitory to maturity
After the post colonization era, many nations adopted democracy as a result of sheer hardships and struggle. It is deemed essential for the progress of nation as it guarantees value of individual thoughts and freedom. In exile, we are blessed with democracy, generously granted by our benevolent leader. Soon after the inception of Tibetan Government in Exile, the constitution was drafted. In 1990, His Holiness the Dalai Lama relegated the then Tibetan parliament members and Cabinet ministers nominated by him. He withheld his political power and ultimately gave a right to the people to choose their parliament members.

On several occasions, His Holiness recommended earlier a need of an appropriate leader who can take a decisive authorities on political matters, but the matter was not taken seriously as majority of the Tibetans does not want to relinquish the command of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But in 2000, with an immediate recommendation of His Holiness, Parliament in exile amended a charter and had enacted a law to provide direct election of Kalon Tripa. In 2001, the first directly elected Kalon Tripa- Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche took the oath of office on 5 September 2001 after an overwhelming and impressive win. Again in 2006, he was reelected to the post of Kalon Tripa. Since the exile charter commissioned only two terms for an individual to be Kalon Tripa, the incumbent kalon Tripa will relegate the post to his successor who will be elected later in 2011. But one has to understand that although Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche won the election twice in two consecutive terms, the participation of the people engaged in election was just a mere 30 percent of the total registered voters. It shows that the people were otherwise less involved with the whole process. This is a sad case of immature democracy or else walking on an initial transitory stage of democratic practices. In that case, few questions arise on the role of the people and the readiness of accepting a new system. Where were the majority of the people who were absent from the election? Are people politically cautious about the importance of the Kalon Tripa election?

First two elections: A call for awakening public cautious

For a decade, for two terms as a Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche was an obvious choice of the public with consideration to his educational background, long-term experiences and a thorough historical knowledge on Tibet. Within his tenure as a Kalon Tripa, so many drastic changes and developments took places on the financial system, political engagement and the sustainability of Tibetan settlements. During Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche's dual term of Kalon Tripa, many initiatives were taken, such like formulating education policy, privatization of commercial enterprises, organic farming and dialogue process with China. When Rinpoche initially joined the office in 2001, the Tibetan Government in exile laid three principles of administration based on truth, non-violence and genuine democracy. It was typically a Buddhist dogma, which if followed to an extreme may seems irrational and not pragmatic to this twentieth first century world politics.

Rinpoche carried some of the reforms within the system based on those principles and most of them except for the privatization of government owned business sectors failed. People still has many opinions on its success. Privatization of government business sectors in the early stage yielded a surplus budget due to the sale of the sectors but it clear off the possible source of income for the government in the future, just like killing a hen, rather than having eggs. With the closure of business sectors, the objectivity of self-reliant system broke into crunch and hence has to rely on voluntary contribution of the Tibetans and the foreign donors, along with the contribution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Rather than privatization of the business sectors, if the government looked at the other alternatives of enhancing entrepreneurship, it could help as another source of running the government in the future.

The political engagement with the Chinese was restarted during Rinpoche’s tenure after a decade long gap of silence. But one may also call it a deliberate action from the Chinese side submissive to the European Parliament’s resolution on Tibet in 2000 with three years contract on China. It can be a coincidence. Rinpoche, in order to start the dialogue, instituted a task force to work on the negotiation tactics and procedures and met more than a dozen times. In the early talks, it was considered a confidence building measures. But recently after concluding the ninth round of talk, the matter still remains unresolved without any major developments except for presenting a Memorandum, which was excessively challenged by the Chinese government in 2008. In a brief, China played tricks right from the start and continues to play even now. In 2008, Olympic game and the Tibetan mass movement were the prime reasons behind the talk so that China can show cast the Olympic game in a smooth manner, without much embarrassment. In 2010, Obama’s meeting with Hu Jintao might be a factor behind the recent Sino-Tibet talk.

The best thing happened over the past decade of Rinpoche’s tenure help educated people to concentrate more on politico-social affairs. With ups and downs, along with the implementation of various policies helped create public opinion, which is one of the intrinsic parts of democratic system. With more public cautiousness on politico-socio affairs, I feel that Tibetans will participate in Kalon Tripa election with more seriousness.

Why is next Kalon Tripa important?
It is good to see general populace concerned about the next Kalon Tripa. Many group discussions and talks were held, videos were made to view the public opinions, articles and notes with jotted with thick lines, talk shows were aired on radio services, and a website was created to make people aware about this coming election. So many things are happening just for Kalon Tripa election. Do we know why everybody talks about it and why Kalon Tripa election is so important?

As the plight of the Tibetan peoples freedom movement draws a renewal attention throughout world communities, Tibetan government in exile is in need of a top executive who can stand with China to put Tibet issue on table. As a stateless governmental system, we have so many problems which need to resolve at an earnest, such like sustainability of Tibetan Settlements, Education system, unemployment, migration, health care and above all our freedom struggle. Since the Tibetan government in Exile is the sole representation of the Tibetan people in exile and in Tibet, utmost importance should be given to the freedom struggle. But, the persistence threat of voluntary marginalization of Tibetan identity and cultures due to the migration is a serious cause of concerns. In exile, most of the settlements are presently guarded by old aged people, with young ones settling in distant abroad. Some of our established schools in the settlements are near to close with the lack of pupils, graduates are scattering around Indian metros with the lack of employment opportunities in our community. Even on the health wise, HIV Aids is silently killing our community, which is unknowingly spreading wide across our community. These are some of the issues, which the Kalon Tripa needs to formulate policies.

What should we do?
We still have one year to elect our Kalon Tripa. So, first thing we need to do is to register yourself so that you will become eligible as a voter. If you are not a registered voter, even though, you are above 18 years old, your right of vote will be terminated. If we need a leader who can lead us, we all have a right and duty to vote. Once you miss the election, you lose the power to judge your government because he or she does not represent you.

Here are the options to go for the election
1) College students:
a) Write to the Tibetan Election Commissioner for opening a polling booth in your college of localities. (Considering the logistic and financial constraints)
b) If it is not possible, go to the nearest polling booth close to your localities and regions.
c) Engage in discussions, debate and choose the most eligible one (regardless of region and sectoral basis)

2) People in Scattered Areas: (including monks and nuns)
a) Write to the Tibetan Election Commissioner that you are located in such region, which is distant from Tibetan settlements and ask to designate a local election commissioner in your area. (Considering the logistic and financial constraints)
b) If it is not possible, go to the nearest polling booth close to your localities and regions.
c) Engage in discussions, debate and choose the most eligible one (regardless of region and sectoral basis)

3) Rest of the World (other than India, Nepal and Bhutan)
a) Write to the Tibetan Election Commissioner that you are located in such region, which is distant from Office of Tibet or the Tibetan Community Organization and ask to designate a local election commissioner in your area. (Considering the logistic and financial constraints)
b) If it is not possible, go to the nearest polling booth close to your localities and regions.
c) Write to the respective Office of Tibet about the election procedures.
d) Engage in discussions, debate and choose the most eligible one (regardless of region and sectoral basis)

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