Exiled Tibetans get a young PM in Lobsang Sangay (Night Lead)

April 27th, 2011 - 10:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Dharamsala, April 27 (IANS) US-based Lobsang Sangay, who considers India his second home after Tibet, was Wednesday elected the new Kalon Tripa, or the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile. The 43-year-old represents a new crop of Tibetan leaders who were born in exile, widely travelled and networked.

Sangay, a senior fellow of Harvard Law School who was born in Darjeeling in 1968, has been chosen in the third direct elections for the Kalon Tripa held March 20. He will succeed 71-year-old incumbent Samdhong Rinpoche, who was chosen twice to the post.

Sangay’s five-year stint, which begins in June, is expected to be full of challenges, with the Tibetan parliament giving a nod to the transfer of political power from Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to the newly elected political leader.

In a message from the US, Sangay urged “every Tibetan and friends of Tibet” to join him in their “common cause to alleviate the suffering of Tibetans in occupied Tibet and to return the Dalai Lama to his rightful place in the Potala Palace.”

Sangay’s tenure is likely to receive more attention from the Indian government and the international community since he will be more powerful than his predecessor Samdhong Rinpoche as the Dalai Lama has already announced his retirement from his political role.

The necessary amendment in the Tibetan Charter to transfer political power of the Dalai Lama to elected representatives, especially the Kalon Tripa, will be made May 25-28 in Dharamsala.

However, Tibetan leaders here say that that not much is going to change in the Tibetan hierarchy as the Dalai Lama will be consulted by the leaders for all major decisions.

“The new Kalon Tripa will get the support of His Holiness and the Tibetan community. He will have to perform well in his new role,” Karma Yeshi, who has been re-elected to the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, told IANS.

Sangay’s father, who was settled in a village near Darjeeling, fled Tibet in 1959 along with the Dalai Lama.

“I will do my utmost to fulfill the responsibility you have placed in me… Together, I am confident we will march together towards a better future,” he said in a message.

Sangay was once dubbed a “terrorist” by China because of his earlier association with the militant Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest group of exiles.

A Fulbright scholar, Sangay did his early schooling at Darjeeling and studied law from Delhi University before moving for doctoral studies to Harvard.

Election official Jamphel Choesang told IANS that Sangay got 27,051 votes.

The Dalai Lama’s emmissaries Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Tashi Wangdi, the other contestants, received 18,405 and 3,173 votes respectively.

As many as 49,184 of the total 83,399 Tibetans-in-exile voted across the globe - except in Nepal and Bhutan.

Incumbent Rinpoche had become the first directly elected prime minister for a five-year term in September 2001 after the Dalai Lama called for a directly-elected political leader of the exiles.

Rinpoche could not re-contest as the Tibetan constitution bars any individual from holding the office for more than two terms.

The Dalai Lama, 75, and his supporters fled Tibet and took refuge in India when Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa in 1959.

He has since headed the Tibetan government-in-exile here but this year decided to give up his political authority.

Some 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

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