There have been some discussions about the degeneration of the Tibetan society in diaspora in the months leading to the elections, with now even the politicians realizing their shortsightedness. There have been some damage but all is not lost in the broader scheme of things. In the past when there were concerns about his devolution of authority, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had said it is better that the people tread on this path of self-reliance while he was still active as he can then provide guidance if things go astray. Therefore, the recent development was something that would have happened at any time given the nature of the system and it was good that it happened now while corrective measures can be taken.
In any case, I wrote the following after the previous election cycle in 2011. Upon re-reading it, other than there being a change in the nomenclature from “Kalon Tripa” to “Sikyong” the rest of my assertion continues to be valid for the new administration under Sikyong Lobsang Sangay. Therefore, I am reposting it.
Message from the Tibetan Elections
Bhuchung K. Tsering
April 27, 2011
Today, the Tibetan Election Commission in Dharamsala, India, announced the results of the general elections held on March 20, 2011 to elect the Kalon Tripa, the Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet, and members of the Tibetan Parliament. As pointed out in the statement our organization issued today, congratulations are due not just to the winners but also to all the Tibetan people who participated in this historic democratic process. Above all, this is yet another testimony to the foresight of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his several decades-long efforts at democratizing the Tibetan governances system.
When campaigning began for the present election cycle in 2009, I wrote the following about what the next Kalon Tripa’s responsibilities would be.
“The next Kalon Tripa should devote his or her time and effort to the consolidation of the Tibetan community, becoming their spokesperson and look into creation of a system providing a continuation of leadership.
“There are three main ways to implement this provision of political leadership.
“First, the position needs to understand that the basis of the Tibetan people’s support to the leadership currently is the historical role of the institution of the Dalai Lamas. The next Kalon Tripa needs to work on a strategy to continuing this relationship and to strengthen the institution to prepare for any and all eventualities.
“Secondly, the Kalon Tripa needs to be the seen as the leader of all Tibetans and not just of the hundred thousand or so Tibetans in exile. The strength of the Tibetan leadership under His Holiness the Dalai Lama today is that it enjoys the loyalty and support of the broad majority of Tibetans who are in Tibet. The millions of Tibetans in Tibet have shown this in different ways, time and again. The next Kalon Tripa needs to find creative ways to strengthen this special bond between the Tibetan people and the leadership.
“Thirdly, the next Kalon Tripa needs to clearly comprehend the reality of the position in terms of relationship with the international community and the governments throughout the world, including that of India. Accordingly, he or she needs to come up with a strategy to secure the formal or de facto acceptance by the governments as a spokesman for the Tibetan people. He or she needs to be able to stand on his or her own feet (think beyond the structure of Dharamsala) and be recognized as being on the helms of the Tibetan leadership by the international community.”
I had written the above before there was any inkling of His Holiness the Dalai Lama deciding to devolve his political authority to an elected leadership. Now that we are faced with this new reality, Kalon Tripa-elect Lobsang Sangay la as well as our newly elected parliamentarians have greater responsibilities than before. I would urge them to think on the above points as they prepare to take charge.
As I write this, Lobsang Sangay la has, while speaking to Voice of Tibet about the election results, opined that one individual alone would not be able to do much but that he would work to the best of his ability. I believe team work is certainly something that needs to be given serious consideration as the new Kalon Tripa begins his work. Secondly, Lobsang Sangay la also said that his election is a strong message to China that under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama a new generation has taken responsibility. The Kalon Tripa-elect also went live on Radio Free Asia and Voice of America Tibetan services in Washington, D.C. today expanding on his views.
As for China, the authorities seem to have already got the message from the Tibetan elections and there is an article today entitled “On 14th Dalai Lama’s view of ‘political reform’ “ that is very defensive of the Chinese system. Given that the Chinese system does not permit Tibetans in Tibet to have a direct say in who becomes their leader (for that matter even Chinese do not have that right), the Chinese authorities cannot have the courage to welcome the positive message that the tiny Tibetan community in exile is sending in terms of political governance.
The international community, as reflected through the media coverage, has shown great interest in this Tibetan democratic process. It remains to be seen how the governments will react to the new reality and the new Administration in Dharamsala. There is continued public support whether in the United States, Europe or elsewhere to the just cause of the Tibetan people and the political leadership in all the countries would need to keep this in consideration as they try to frame a new approach to the Tibetan issue.
My Tashi Delek to all the winners in this election and wish them all success as they begin their work for the wellbeing of the Tibetan people.