By Nawang Phuntsog, Professor of Education, Fullerton, California
As soon as His Holiness announced on March 10, 2011 that He will transfer the responsibility of leading the exile establishment to the next elected Kalon, my body became numb as if I had been hit by a boulder. I begin to ponder what might be the impact of His decision on the Tibetan struggle since His Holiness is the one that “can not be substituted by anyone,” as stated by the current Kalon Tripa in his recent media interview in Dharamsala, India.
The struggle for Tibet will continue as it is a generational and national identity issue, but it is at a critical stage within the seismic global changes occurring with a frantic and ferocious speed unbeknownst in human history. It is within this context where His Holiness’ leadership is all the more irreplaceable and irresistible, as He represents the most visible symbol of the Tibetan struggle and its spirit. For over five decades, His Holiness has been an iconic symbol, and the Tibetan issue has received international support and legitimacy due to its unmistakable link with the leadership stature of His Holiness, who represents peace, non-violence and truth. Tibet and His Holiness are inseparable, as they have always been. Coming at the heels of the election, His Holiness’ March 10th pronouncement takes on added significance.
When I just moved to the U.S. for my graduate studies in the mid 1980s, more people knew of “The Dalai Lama” than they did of “Tibet,” and now it is a different story due mainly to the tireless and self-less efforts of His Holiness to internationalize the Tibetan struggle. Tibet is one of the most contentious issues at the nexus of the U.S. and China foreign policy, as it can clearly be discerned when President Obama brought it up in his 2010 White House press meeting during the much-anticipated visit of President Hu Jintao.
The determining factor in the Kalon election ought to be “experience” more than anything else since the next Kalon will have to take on the reigns of leading the Exile Government head on with no time for honing on skills. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi had practiced law over 20 years in South Africa in his fight for civil rights prior to returning to India to assume the leadership role.
Even when one applies for a job, one is expected to list relevant experiences as a way to justify that the applicant is indeed suitable for the job, at least experientially. As the old Tibetan saying goes, “When one lacks experience, it is as if the individual is climbing a steep rocky mountain without one’s hand.” When one has not navigated a ship of any size in the turbulent sea of politics and bureaucracy, one is far more likely to sink than sail through the ebbs and waves of the ocean.
Our struggle has also reached a critical level with all the changes taking place in the world, and hence, we must elect a candidate who has a wealth of experiences to this position so that he will start work on the first day without a hiatus, which is likely when one has not had prior experience that has a bearing on this exalted position. In conclusion, I would like to urge all going to the poll on March 20th to ponder carefully before casting their precious ballots. Look at the three Kalon candidates and make sure the one you elect has prior experiences, possibly in all major sections of the Tibetan establishment in exile. At this time, we cannot afford to elect one who has yet to take the boat on the shore let alone sail it in the ocean of uncertainty.
Editors' Note: As always, publication of any article does not necessarily imply endorsement by the Editors.