Tibetan diaspora to meet ahead of Dalai Lama's retirement

Last Updated: Wed, May 18, 2011 04:10 hrs

Dharamsala, May 18 (IANS) A grand congregation of exiled Tibetans will be held in this Himachal Pradesh town this weekend, ahead of the community giving its stamp of approval for Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to hang his boots.

The crucial meeting of Tibetan diaspora has been called two days before the parliament-in-exile gives the green light with three-fourths majority in the house of 43 MPs to amend the Tibetan Charter (constitution) that allows the Dalai Lama to retire from political authority.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who will retain his role as spiritual leader after the charter amendment, is however, not attending the three-day session of exiles.

'The second Tibetan National General Meeting will be held from May 21 to discuss threadbare the issues related to smooth transition of political powers vested with His Holiness,' Tenzin Norbu, a spokesperson for the parliamentary secretariat, told IANS.

He said over 500 delegates of diaspora, mainly settled in India, Nepal and Bhutan, would participate. 'It's, of course, a rare pivotal session.'

The first such meeting of Tibetans was held in Bylakuppe near Mysore in Karnataka in August 2010. It focussed on various issues like political affairs, promotion of democracy, advocacy for Tibetan issue, sustenance of the settlement, education, health, economy, religion and culture.

Another official associated with the upcoming meet said all present and former members of the cabinet and parliament-in-exile, newly elected prime minister and social activists among others have been invited. Even the newly elected lawmakers have been invited.

'The aim of the watershed session is to hear views of all the invitees and to know their feelings and thinking,' he said.

The crucial meeting will be followed by a special four-day session of the parliament to be held from May 25 where the actual amendment to the constitution will be carried out.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), said the only agenda of the meeting is proposed amendments in the constitution.

The parliament-in-exile on the last day of the budget session March 25 formally accepted the Dalai Lama's proposal to relinquish political authority and decided to hold its special session by May-end to amend its charter to pave the way for retirement of the 75-year-old spiritual leader.

The parliamentarians also agreed that they were bound by a 'special responsibility' to find a logical conclusion to the issue before the five-year tenure of the 14th parliament comes to an end May 30.

They also accepted the recommendations of a three-member committee submitted to the parliament March 23.

The committee, that also included Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche and Deputy Speaker Dolma Gyari, suggested that the majority of the powers vested in the Dalai Lama be transferred to the prime minister, including the power to make laws, by amending the constitution.

The Dalai Lama formally announced his political retirement at the onset of the budget session March 14. On March 18, the parliament passed a resolution urging the Dalai Lama to reconsider his retirement plans. The resolution was signed by 37 of the 38 members.

A day later, the Nobel laureate publicly appealed to Tibetans to accept his decision by making necessary amendments in the Charter of Tibetans to pass on his political authority to an elected leader.

'The rule by spiritual leaders or the rule by kings is an outdated concept. In reality, I have been describing myself as a semi-retired person for the last 10 years,' the spiritual head told a gathering here.

Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama's office, said: 'His Holiness would not attend the session. He has already clarified his stand.'

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since 1959 when he fled his homeland after a failed uprising against the Communist rule. His government-in-exile is based here but is not recognised by any country.

Some 140,000 Tibetans live in exile around the world, over 100,000 of them in India.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)