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Tibetanlife.com: An Interview With Tenzin Tethong

posted Mar 12, 2011, 6:38 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Mar 13, 2011, 3:29 PM ]

Submitted by Drolkar, Tibetanlife.com 

The Kalon Tripa or the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in exile is being democratically elected by the Tibetan people for the third time ever. Before 2001, the prime ministers were appointed by the Dalai Lama. The current Kalon Tripa is Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche.

The elections will be held on March 20th, 2011 in Tibetan settlements all around the world. There are three electoral candidates who were elected during a primary a few months ago. These candidates are 1. Lobsang Sangay 2. Tenzin Tethong and 3. Tashi Wangdi.

I wrote to all three candidates requesting an interview for our wonderful Tibetan Life readers and so far, only Tenzin Tethong has kindly (and quickly!) responded.


1. Why is the position of Kalon Tripa now being directly elected by the Tibetan people, rather than being appointed by the Dalai Lama.

"This is a decision made by the Tibetan parliament as part of our full democratization effort. Of course it has happened with the encouragement and "push" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who decided in 1990 that the practice of his appointment of the Kalons should come to an end even though the Tibetan parliament in exile since the early 1960's approved all of his appointments to the Kashag".

2. Please tell our readers why are you the best person to become the next Kalon Tripa. What are your special qualities?

"What can I say. I have many years of involvement and experience in the life of the Tibetan community in exile and because I have worked both in the public arena and also as an officer of the Tibetan government in exile. I started with work in the public as one of the founding member and co-editor of Sheja Magazine, and as one of the conveners of the first Tibetan youth conference which resulted in the formation of the Tibetan Youth Congress. I also served as a Tibetan official and Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for many years in the U.S. Later, after my five years as Kalon, I continued in my private capacity to be involved with the Committee of 100 for Tibet and the Dalai Lama Foundation. I also teach and work at Stanford University. All these experiences and insights I believe will be of value and benefit should I become the next Kalon Tripa."

3. Many people think it's very important that the Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao have a face to face direct dialogue. Do you agree with this? Do you think it's possible? If so, what can or will you do to make this happen?

"Of course, any meeting His Holiness might have with a Chinese leader will be important and will have immediate results. However, it does not look very possible that Hu will meet with His Holiness any time in the near future. I am not sure any efforts from a Kalon Tripa will really be able to make a difference when the Chinese refuse even His Holiness' most generous offers to dialogue."

4. The Tibetan government-in-exile has the task of acquiring legitimacy as a secular institution in the eyes of Tibetans, both inside and outside Tibet. How will you accomplish this?

"We can acquire legitimacy only by doing the right things in the right way. To make all our work open, transparent, and legal wherever we are operating. And of course the work must be for the benefit and welfare of the Tibetan people, and for the freedom and rights of the Tibetan people back in Tibet."

5. Will His Holiness remain Head of State? Or will the Kalon Tripa assume this title?

"I think His Holiness will remain as Head of State.  Otherwise, there will be no legitimacy for the Tibetan government from the people of Tibet."

6. What is the first thing you would like to do or change in the government if you win?

"One of the first things to do is to ensure that the Tibetan government structure, and staff are upgraded on all levels. We have to further professionalize our working methods, and we have to ensure that the officials who remain with the service are dedicated, trained, and committed to serve the people and the cause of Tibet."

7. Do you have anything else to share with our readers?

"The primary responsibility of the Tibetan government is to work for the cause of Tibet. Even though we are in exile and works directly with only 150,000 exiles, our efforts are for the approximately six million Tibetans who suffer under Chinese rule. We must not forget that."