By Sonam Wangdu
This is His Holiness’ third attempt to make the Tibetan people responsible for deciding on their future by giving up His political powers.
The first attempt came in 1994 when He announced that His policy popularly known as the ‘Strasbourg Proposal’ was not working and called on His people to come up with ideas and suggestions.
The 2nd attempt was the ‘National Emergency meeting in Dharamsala, India in November 2008 to discuss and come up with recommendations (because the Middle Way approach had not worked). In both cases we, the people in exile, failed Him miserably. We could neither present Him with an alternative, no matter how bad they might have been, at least show Him some sort of thinking process to give our democracy a sign of life. Now, this time, He has gone much further than previous two attempts, and in His decision to devolve His political role, I support His decision.
However, I do not agree that the institution of the Dalai Lama is out-dated; the institution is the most potent unifying force of the Tibetan people . It is not in conflict with modern day concept of democracy; I do not see even a remote chance of His Holiness becoming a dictator or a despot ruler of His people so the current developments in the Arab and African countries are not applicable to the Tibetan situation.
That said, there are a number of issues to consider before His decision can be implemented:
First, since the Office of Tibet in foreign countries are representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this designation has to change. If the representatives can no longer be of His Holiness, who will they represent?: The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)?
Second, the Special Envoys in Washington, DC and Switzerland must change; they cannot play a political role in His name when His Holiness has given up His political leadership. So here again who will they represent?: The Central Tibetan Administration?
Third, His Holiness has to renounce the Middle Way policy as being solely His policy. He tried to do it in 1994 and again in 2008 but each time it was thrown back on His lap. In His new position, His Holiness has no political role.
As long as His Holiness sticks to the Middle Way policy, Tibetan officials elected or appointed, and those who choose not to take responsibility to shape Tibet’s future, will hide behind His Holiness’ Middle Way policy as their justification to do nothing oruse it as an obstacle to any initiative to change or formulate a new policy. This in my opinion has been our biggest problem in making democracy work in our society.
I do believe that there are experienced leaders in the Tibetan community who have served the cause of Tibet and the Tibetan people well. They may have been cautious of openly expressing their views because any challenge to the Middle Way policy have been used as a challenge to His Holiness, which is, of course, not true but it is very easy to confuse, manipulate and mislead the Tibetan public.
I do not believe that His Holiness will ever abandon Tibet, the Tibetan cause and the people, this we must trust. He will be there when we need Him but we must not hold Him hostage of our fears or misplaced loyalty. I think His Holiness should disconnect Himself with the Middle Way policy, publicly renounce it and force the Tibetan people to come up with a new policy. This will represent a real change.
Finally, I see His move as a way to legitimize the Tibetan government in exile as the representative of, with authority to act on behalf of the Tibetan people. I dare say that this is the 2nd most important gift of His Holiness after a democratic form of government in exile with a Constitution. I do agree with His Holiness that a government cannot depend on one individual, it must depend on the institution of a good government whose life span is longer than an individual. The Tibetan government in exile must step up to the plate and assert itself as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people to deal with the affairs of the State
I believe strongly that we Tibetans, especially those in exile can represent the best of future Tibet by keeping our just cause alive and intact to pass on to the next generation of Tibetans. I also believe strongly that we remember our brave brothers and sisters in Tibet who risk their lives to keep the spirit of Tibet alive. We must be inspired by their courage and their resolve to always remember that we have a job to do until Tibet is free to determine our future.