Tibetans in Exile Consider Choice for Prime Minister

Tibetans living in exile around the world will go to the polls later this month to choose a new Prime Minister - for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Northern India.

There are three candidates for the post - and all three faced off this week [Tuesday, March 1] in Washington for an internationally-televised debate. [Watch a video of the debate here.] 

Three candidates for prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Northern India - Tenzin Tethong (l), Lobsang Sangay (c) and Tashi Wangdi (r) - face off in Washington for an internationally-televised debate, March 1, 2011. Photo: VOA
The Dalai Lama escaped from Chinese-ruled Tibet to Dharamsala, in northern India, in 1959. Since then, Dharamsala has been the site of the Tibetan government-in exile. Over the years, the Dalai Lama has worked to hand over more and more of his political role to a democratically-elected prime minister.  

On March 20, Tibetans in exile will directly elect a prime minister for the third time, along with members of the 15th Parliament-in-Exile.

In October, 60 percent of Tibetan exile communities voted in primaries, resulting in three runoff candidates for prime minister.

Those three candidates held the first-ever televised debate before an audience of exiled Tibetans. The broadcast will be seen in Tibet and worldwide on the Internet.

The leading candidate is a Tibetan-American affiliated with Harvard University. Lobsang Sangay grew up in a Tibetan settlement. He is a Fulbright Scholar with a law degree from Harvard.  

“The number one problem obviously is how to solve the issue of Tibet so that we can regain our freedom and then the divided family members from inside and outside Tibet can be united in Tibet,” said Sangay.

Tenzin Tethong is a former representative of the Dalai Lama in New York and Washington. Currently, he is a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University.

“The most important responsibility for the exile government is to work for the cause of a free Tibet and for the rights of the Tibetan people,” said Tethong.

Tashi Wangdi has run a half-dozen of  the government-in exile’s departments over the years. Most recently he represented the Dalai Lama in Europe.

“It’s very important for us to see what we can do to survive as a Tibetan people in exile and be able to maintain our identity and continue the struggle until we find a solution,” said Wangdi.

By August, Tibetans-in-exile will have a new prime minister. It’s a choice than many are considering very seriously.

Voice of America, Susan Jackson, March 03, 2011