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Misunderstanding Kundun’s Message

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Thursday, Jan 6, 2011
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There has been a lot of brouhaha about the recent Kundun’s pronouncement that he might possibly seek to relieve himself of the political and administrative duties in the next six months, which is to say he is going to take a much lesser role in Tibetan politics, if any. A lot of people predictably ran around like headless chickens, requesting his H.H not to abandon Tibetan people, and I believe the parliament was in the process of initiating a resolution beseeching His Holiness to rethink his most honourable position. Most of it might be genuine but I dare say some of it was mere pubic show and I guess I understand why to a certain extent. I personally think such request is silly. It is done under the presumption that Kundun will actually and truly abandon us to wander around in the Gobi desert while he will retire into a cave and close out the outside world. That we all know is not true. Most ordinary Tibetans, whatever their station in life, with normal capacity and faculty would never abandon their people or their country and compared to them, Kundun’s love and compassion for his people is a million times stronger. So, we really need to stop being like Little Chicken and think rationally. He will never abandon us and he will never stop working for Tibet and Tibetans in this world or the next, whether he holds a political office or not.

If you have been paying attention, you would have noticed that this has been in keeping with his long term plans for his people for a while now. From the very beginning, he has been moving ever so slowly in this general direction, from the initial introduction of democratic principles in exile Government, to the parliament elected by the Tibetan people, the introduction of Kashag elected by the parliament, and finally to the Kalon Tripa elected by Tibetan people. Now, he is ready to release the final political power vested in him to the democratically elected Katri come March 2011. That is why it becomes extremely important the next Katri be able to handle the difficult task ahead of him. That doesn’t mean Kundun thinks he can no longer lead his people and somehow his wisdom has diminished over the years. He doesn’t need that validation because the love, respect, and reverence for him from the Tibetan people is unshakeable and also because you can’t un-become Dalai Lama. What that means really is that Kundun feels this is the right time for the Tibetan people to take the political rein of the Exile Government and that he now has faith in the maturity of Tibetans to step up and lead themselves. In other words, he is saying stop leaning on me and start leading yourself just like the rest of the world. There is going to be a time when I am not going to be here and now is the time to make sure the transition is smooth and Tibetan Government in exile operates calmly and professionally even without me. That I think is not only a great honour and trust bestowed upon us but also a true mark of his wisdom and his vision for his people.

What that also means is that with great power naturally comes great responsibility and accountability. Personally, quite honestly, I believe the accountability factor has been missing in the picture. Whenever we have an issue, people have been hesitant to complain as they could not be sure whether it came from the office of H.H or whether it was something concocted in the office of Kashag. That is not helped by the general penchant of elected officials to forswear to Kundun’s benevolent wisdom to be their sole purpose for the endeavours. With this change, I would expect powers to be to be more accountable for their policies and decisions. Hopefully, it will be reflected in the next administration. Whatever your opinion of Samdhong Rinpoche may be, I think he at least didn’t try to pass the buck when some of his policies like closing Government owned businesses or his organic farming were criticized. There have been many instances also where genuine concerns about certain policies were termed as personal criticism of Kundun and the person unfortunately ostracized. Kundun had to personally intervene a few times to clarify he welcomes such criticism and it is the correct procedure of a democratic institution. He went even further and personally added amendment in the constitution, against the wishes of his advisors and the Kashag and Tibetan people in general, to make himself removable from office if the parliament deems it necessary. Unfortunately, we keep missing the point of the whole vision Kundun has planned for us time and time again.

I believe it is the correct move and the right time. We should honour and respect this decision because it is not something given out lightly. And also because, contrary to the mass hysteria, it doesn’t mean he is abandoning us altogether. Think of it more like a father gently letting go of the bicycle he has been pushing for his child all this time because that is the only proper way to learn. At least, that is my understanding after reflecting on Kundun’s past actions and the choices he has made for us so far. Perhaps I might be reading too much into this but I don’t think I am going to second guess Kundun’s decisions.

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