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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Always Beggars?: A Comment on Gyari Dolma's Interview

August 1, 2010

Editorial Board
the Tibetan Political Review  (TPR)
July 30, 2010

As the 2011 Kalon Tripa election nears, Tibetans
need to seriously evaluate the candidates so that
their decision is well-informed.  As the
Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review,
we have not committed to supporting any
candidate.  In order to further the spirit of
democratic debate, we plan to comment on and
critique the policy platforms of the individuals
nominated as Kalon Tripa candidates, toughly but
fairly.  We do this not as any sort of "experts"
but simply as Tibetans.  In this article, we turn to Ms. Gyari Dolma.

In a June 7, 2010 article in Outlook India,
Dolma-la opposes Tibetan refugees taking Indian
citizenship.  Now, there is nothing inherently
wrong with this position.  Many Tibetans
--including His Holiness the Dalai Lama -- make
statelessness a matter of principle.  For these
people, taking another country's citizenship is
akin to abandoning their Tibetan-ness.  Other
Tibetans feel differently, believing that dual
Tibetan/foreign citizenship is entirely possible.  Both views have validity.

Dolma-la, however, does not call on Tibetans to
reject foreign citizenship on the grounds of
principle.  Rather, she invokes purely material grounds.  She states:

"While many Indians are dying of malnutrition and
hunger, our Tibetan community is very
well-looked-after, thanks to substantial foreign
aid. Once we become Indian citizens, we will lose
much of that aid, and will have to fend for ourselves."

Let us accept for a moment Dolma-la's assertion
that Tibetan refugees in India are "very
well-looked-after," even though the economic
condition of some settlements is
difficult.  Perhaps Dolma-la did not mean to
gloss over the challenges of improving life in
the settlements, which will be a key task of the next Kalon Tripa.

A more troubling issue is Dolma-la's assertion
that the success of Tibetan refugees is -- and
should be -- based on foreign hand-outs rather
than their own hard work.  It sounds as though
Dolma-la wants Tibetan refugees indefinitely to
continue their stateless existence in order to
garner foreign sympathy and charity.  If this is
Dolma-la's economic plan for the settlements, we
worry for both moral and pragmatic reasons.

Morally, we believe Tibetans should plan for a
day when they do not need to hold out their hands
for alms.  Do Tibetans really want to become a
people who cannot "fend for
themselves"?  Dolma-la seems to believe that
fending for yourself is something to avoid, but
isn't self-reliance a noble goal?  Isn't
over-reliance on charity something that leads to
dependency and lack of motivation ?  Isn't it
time for the Tibetan people to cast away the
patron-seeking mentality and stand up for themselves?

Pragmatically, Dolma-la's position also has a
problem.  It is not a sound economic plan for the
Tibetan settlements to depend on continuous
"substantial foreign aid."  What will happen if
that aid dries up?  Shouldn't Tibetans be working
on improving education, opportunity, investment,
and plugging the Tibetan refugee community into
the globalized world to succeed on their own?

If Dolma-la has been misquoted, we encourage her
to clarify her position.  Perhaps she has a plan
to economically revitalize the Tibetan
settlements.  Perhaps she has a vision on
bringing opportunity and education to Tibetan
youth, and how to bring together Tibetans living
in settlements, Indian cities, and the West.  If
she does, she should share it with the voters.

We are also surprised by Dolma-la's
characterization of Indian people "dying of
malnutrition and hunger."  The Indian people have
been generous enough to host Tibetan refugees for
over five decades.  While India contains both
poverty and affluence, it should be unthinkable
for a member of the Tibetan government-in-exile
to make a comment that is both flippant and
possibly insulting about one's hosts.  Politeness
aside, this is not politically astute.

In conclusion, we know that sometimes the media
takes things out of context, so we welcome
Dolma-la to clarify.  Based on what she said in
this article, however, we are troubled by
Dolma-la's position on Tibetans remaining
stateless to bring in foreign handouts.  We
believe it is wrong to continue dependency rather
than seek self-reliance.  We also believe it is
not pragmatic to rely on foreign hand-outs
indefinitely.  Lastly, we do not believe it shows
good judgment, politically, to insult Tibetans'
hosts in India.  These are all opposite of the
traits the Tibetan people need in the next Kalon Tripa.
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