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Members of Tibetan parliament-in-exile urge Dalai Lama to stay on as political leader

March 20, 2011

By Ashwini Bhatia (CP) – March 15, 2011

DHARMSALA, India — The Tibetan parliament-in-exile opened debate Tuesday on the Dalai Lama's decision to give up his political role with a plea by some members for the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader to reconsider.

About one-third of the 43 members who participated in the ongoing discussions proposed that the Nobel Peace laureate stay on as the political leader, said the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche.

"It is very likely that parliament does not accept his suggestion to step down," he told The Associated Press.

Last week, the Dalai Lama said he would give up his political power in the exile Tibetan government and shift that authority to an elected representative.

He asked the parliament-in-exile to amend its constitution in the current session, which ends March 25.

The Dalai Lama made the announcement during the March 10 anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in his Himalayan homeland that sent him into exile. He said the time had come "to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader."

On Tuesday, Dawa Tsering, a member of parliament, said the Dalai Lama's withdrawal would affect his emissaries' dialogue with the Chinese leadership. The leadership in Beijing has dismissed his talk of retirement as a trick playing into the hands of the international community.

"He is such an inspiration to the Tibetans in Tibet and in exile, so we feel that he should stay," Dawa said.

Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan activist, said if democracy was a public mandate, the Dalai Lama was a universal choice of the Tibetans. "Therefore, his leadership is democratic."

A new prime minister is expected to be elected in the coming weeks. Any Tibetan who has registered with the exile government is allowed to cast a ballot. Most of the electorate is made up of exiles.

The 76-year-old Dalai Lama is believed to be in fairly good health, but China's continued heavy-handed rule over Tibet has made the succession question all important within the Tibetan community.

Beijing vilifies the Dalai Lama as a political schemer, has negotiated only fleetingly with his representatives and made clear that it intends to have the final say in naming his successor when he dies.

The current Dalai Lama has indicated his successor would come from the exile community. Beijing, though, insists the reincarnation must be found in China's Tibetan areas, giving the Communist authorities immense power over who is chosen.

Many observers believe there eventually will be rival Dalai Lamas one appointed by Beijing, and one by senior monks loyal to the current Dalai Lama.

Copyright © 2011 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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