Ready for epic journey to Lhasa: new Tibetan PM

August 8th, 2011 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Dharamsala, Aug 8 (IANS) The Dalai Lama was ready to embark on an epic journey back to Lhasa, Lobsang Sangay said Monday, as he took over as the new prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile. He also said that Tibetans would resist as long as China repressed them.

“Though I have never been allowed to set foot in Tibet… My late father, like many of our parents, could not return to Tibet. Together, we will ensure the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, reunite our people, and restore freedom in Tibet,” 43-year-old Harvard educated Sangay said in a message read out at a function where he took his oath of office in this northern Indian hill town.

“We are always ready to embark on this epic journey from Dharamsala, the abode of Dharma, to Lhasa, the abode of Gods. From the town where the Dalai Lama lives, to the city where he belongs,” said Sangay, who took over as prime minister for a five-year term.

The ceremony was presided over by the 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who was draped only in his spiritual robe.

Addressing a gathering of more than 5,000 people, the Dalai Lama said in his native dialect: “Today is the most important day in the last 2,000 years. Now we have a successfully elected political leader who we call ‘Sikyongwa’ (top government leader). We should be proud and happy.”

The Dalai Lama had, in May, devolved his “formal authority” to the elected leadership of the exiles.

Sangay is the first to become the political successor to the Dalai Lama, who said “during my time as leader, we have changed and become completely and fully democratic. We’ve done this even in our situation as refugees.”

A senior fellow of Harvard Law School, Sangay took over the reins of the government from 73-year-old monk scholar Samdhong Rinpoche, who held the post for the past 10 years in two five-year terms.

For a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue, Sangay, once dubbed a “terrorist” by China because of his earlier association with the radical Tibetan Youth Congress, is now pursuing the Dalai Lama’s advocacy of genuine autonomy for the people of Tibet.

“Despite the tragedy in Tibet, we want the world to know, especially Chinese friends, that we remain firmly committed to non-violence… we will continue the ‘middle-way policy’, which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet within China.”

“We believe in a peaceful resolution for Tibet, which means a peaceful process and peaceful dialogue. We are also willing to negotiate with the Chinese government anytime, anywhere.”

But he said: “As long as Tibetans are repressed, there will be resistance, and waning respect for China.”

“Our struggle is not against the Chinese people, nor is it against China as a country. Our struggle is against hard-line policies of the Chinese regime in Tibet.”

According to Sangay, born in a refugee settlement in the eastern Indian hill town of Darjeeling in 1968, the political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalisation and environmental destruction in Tibet was unacceptable.

“But three years ago, in 2008, Tibetan men and women rose up against the Chinese rule in Tibet. They spoke out against Chinese oppression… Let me be clear, the Tibetan administration does not encourage protest.”

On starting dialogue between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese, Sangay told reporters that “if Chinese are interested in talking only to the Dalai Lama’s envoy then he would facilitate the talks. If China wants to talk to him directly, he is also ready for that”.

On constitution of Kashag (the cabinet), he said: “I will have three elders to continue the existing successful policies and programmes and four younger members to bring in innovation and 21st century know-how to make the Tibetan administration and movement more effective”.

Sangay studied law from Delhi University before moving to Harvard for his doctoral studies. He has been chosen in the third direct elections for the Kalon Tripa that were held March 20.

He polled 55 percent of the votes cast by Tibetans around the world.

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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