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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Former Tibetan parliamentarian, Thubten Samdup's project on "Electing the next Kalon Tripa"

September 3, 2008

ELECTING THE NEXT KALON TRIPA The Urgency of New Leadership

MONTREAL, SEPTEMBER 2nd, 2008.  On this 48th anniversary of 
Democracy Day, Thubten Samdup, a former member of Tibet's Parliament-
in-exile, is calling on the international Tibetan community to 
prepare to elect the next the Kalon Tripa.  He has undertaken a 
personal initiative to establish a vital process of pre-nomination; 
one that places the greater part of the onus on all exiled Tibetans 
to actively participate in the selection of candidates for the office 
of Prime Minister.  Samdup has undertaken this project in order to 
help bring forward dynamic contestants for the upcoming election in 
2011.

Idealism and Energy

Inspired by the excitement, idealism and energy generated by the 
candidacy of Senator Barak Obama in the United States', Samdup has 
cited the need for Tibetans to be roused to inject a similar 
enthusiasm and vision in their political process.  Pointing to the 
urgency of the task-at-hand, he has emphasized the time factor, and 
the need for a greater diversity of candidates, as two major concerns.

The incumbent Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, will serve his 
term until August 2011.  "Although this date is some years away, it 
is the opportune moment to begin our search for upcoming candidates.  
We have three years to find a worthy leader.  It would be 
irresponsible to put off a search for candidates any later, as this 
period affords us just enough time to proceed.  To wait any longer 
would be to court disaster."  Samdup is concerned with establishing 
an acceptable margin of time preceding the election, one that affords 
sufficient latitude to allow for a grassroots process of selection to 
unfold at a reasonable pace. Also of concern, is the issue of 
diversity.  The pre-selection process, it is expected, will deliver a 
greater measure of choice -responsive to changing times.  This would 
be arrived at by seeking to expand the range and diversity of 
perspectives represented by candidates running for the office of 
Kalon Tripa.  The goal is to offer a more diversified group of 
candidates with contrasting viewpoints - reflective of the base.  "In 
launching this project I am urging the community to meet its civic 
obligation, and be actively engaged in bringing change and choice in 
our election process," said Samdup.

Decisive Role of the Next Prime Minister

The next Kalon Tripa's term, five years in duration, will prove a 
decisive one.  His Holiness will be turning 81 by the end of the next 
Kalon Tripa's term, making the role of the next Prime Minister all 
the more crucial.  "This new candidate must assume a greater load," 
said Samdup.  "The next Kalon Tripa must be someone with strong 
leadership skills, capable of leading the government, and bringing a 
clear vision that is bold and vibrant enough to also seize the 
interest and imagination of the young."

Responsibility and Privilege

Since 2001, the Kalon Tripa has been elected directly by individuals 
who make up the Tibetan Diaspora.  With the responsibility and 
privilege to elect a prime minister now resting squarely with the 
Tibetan people, it is incumbent on the community around the world to 
respond promptly and earnestly to this call, he said.  "In seeking 
and nominating candidates, we should aim to find someone who is at 
least equal in dedication and integrity as Samdhong Rinpoche."

"I believe it is imperative that we establish a process that will 
allow Tibetans, with proven leadership skills, to put their names 
forward as candidates in the 2011 elections."

The New Pre-selection Process

* A website entitled KalonTripa.org, will be set up, to invite all 
Tibetans in the Diaspora to put forth the names of those they believe 
would make the best candidate for the next Kalon Tripa.

* The KalonTripa.org website will be opened in October 2008.  Name 
recognition is necessary in all elections.  New candidates will need 
this time to effectively present their platform, and address various 
key issues.  Constituents will need the time to get to know the 
candidates, and understand their message.

* In order to submit a name to the website, all nominations will have 
to be supported by at least 25 Tibetans who are currently hold Green 
Books The nomination paper must be authenticated by the local Tibetan 
Welfare Officer.

* The website will provide Tibetans with a photo of the candidate and 
present a brief bio on each nominee.  Candidates would be provided 
with equal space to present their platform.

* Once there are a few nominees on the website, Tibetan TV, radio and 
print media would be encouraged to begin interviews, introducing the 
candidates.  A televised debate, to be held in Dharamsala close to 
election time, is also planned.

* The website will be closed a few months before the Tibetan Election 
Commission sends out its circular, announcing the official election 
nomination for the next Kalon Tripa.

A Personal Initiative

Samdup stressed this is a personal initiative and is not driven by 
any special interest group.  It is the result of reflection and 
extensive consultation with government officials in Dharamsala, NGOs 
and community leaders.

He stated two main goals:

1) to bring about a greater measure of choice, by seeking to expand 
the range and diversity of candidates running for the office of Kalon 
Tripa;

2) to avoid leaving the selection process too late, thus, averting 
two possible worst-case scenarios that could result from working 
within too short a time frame: one such scenario would be "finding 
ourselves with no candidates for the office of Kalon Tripa, and 
having the Tibetan parliament-in-exile request His Holiness to 
appoint the next Prime Minister."  The other risk is that too few or 
no new nominees would take part in the election contest, thus leaving 
a candidate to virtually become Kalon Tripa by default.

"We cannot allow this to happen, and must do everything possible to 
avoid this outcome."

A Time for Change and Choice

In the past, the Tibetan Diaspora has benefited from many gifted and 
skillful political leaders who have served the community well, Samdup 
noted.  He hopes many of these will opt to run for the office of 
Kalon Tripa in the upcoming election.

However, not all views among the political base have been 
sufficiently well represented.  The Tibetan community holds many 
divergent opinions and evolving ideas concerning their historical 
predicament.  These views and voices, while not adequately 
represented, nonetheless have the support of large numbers of 
constituents.  This is particularly the case among the young, who are 
eager and ready to play a leadership role and inject new ideas that 
will shape their future - given the opportunity. It is of paramount 
importance to engage youth in the election process. 75% of the exile 
population today is under the age of 45. The participation of this 
demographic group is vital to the life and vibrancy of the Tibetan 
political process.

According to Samdup, the goal should be to generate a wealth of 
candidates, each offering a diversity of positions reflecting the 
varied perspectives and experiences of the community.

"It is time for change and choice in our election process," he 
concluded.  "I believe that IT technology can provide the leaders in 
our community with a platform to express their opinions and provide 
all Tibetans with the opportunity to debate key issues and ultimately 
choose the leader who best reflects their views."

Samdup's hope is that by assembling a strong and divergent group of 
candidates, offering distinct visions and new political platforms, 
organic political parties would eventually emerge and a healthy 
democracy would thrive.

For further information, please contact Thubten Samdup: 514-867-6770 
samdup@tibet.ca
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