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Tibetans thrilled over new prime minister

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Dharamsala : With Tibetan prime minister-elect Lobsang Sangay all set to take his oath of office Monday, Tibetans settled across the globe are excited about their new political leader, with some specially arriving here from abroad for the ceremony.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the Tibetan government-in-exile, told IANS: “The oath-taking ceremony will be a historical occasion. Tibetan diaspora will attend the ceremony along with Chinese delegates settled in the US and Australia.”

The swearing-in ceremony will be held at the central courtyard of the Tsuglagkhang, the main temple here, Monday at 9 a.m. Sangay will assume office after the event.

The new Kalon Tripa (prime minister-in-exile) will play a greater political role after the Dalai Lama, 76, announced his retirement from active politics. The Tibetan spiritual leader officially renounced his political powers May 30.

Sangay, the 43-year-old senior fellow of Harvard Law School who was born in India, was chosen in the third direct elections for the Kalon Tripa that were held March 20. He will succeed the incumbent, Samdhong Rinpoche, who was chosen twice to the post.

Rinpoche only had symbolic political powers as the major political decisions were taken by the Dalai Lama. It is for the first time that the government-in-exile will have a political leader other than the Dalai Lama.

“I have specially come here from the US to greet and wish the young, energetic leader,” said Mark Baker.

“I am very happy that someone from the younger generation has come to lead the future of the Tibetan freedom struggle. It’s an important symbolic change as it shows that Tibetan struggle is not going to go away with the passing away of the older generation,” Lobsang Wangyal, director-producer of Miss Tibet pageant and a journalist, told IANS.

“Now we have the responsibility to give Sangay the support he needs to make our common cause a success,” he added.

Sonam Tsering, a shopkeeper, said: “We are keeping our fingers crossed as the key responsibilities now rest on the shoulders of the Kalon Tripa, who lacks experience of public office. For decades, His Holiness was donning both political and spiritual responsibilities.”

Sangay told IANS: “With the growing age of the older generation, it is the responsibility of the younger generation to take the movement forward and seek a resolution to the Tibetan problem.”

The Dalai Lama, a Noble laureate, 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, including India.

Some 140,000 Tibetans live in exile around the world, with over 100,000 living in India.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])