Tibet News Kalon Tripa

An Interview With Tenzin Tethong

Tibet News Kalon Tripa.

The Kalon Tripa or the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in exile is being democratically elected by the Tibetan people for the third time ever. Before 2001, the prime ministers were appointed by the Dalai Lama. The current Kalon Tripa is Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche.

The elections will be held on March 20th, 2011 in Tibetan settlements all around the world. There are three electoral candidates who were elected during a primary a few months ago. These candidates are 1. Lobsang Sangay 2. Tenzin Tethong and 3. Tashi Wangdi.

I wrote to all three candidates requesting an interview for our wonderful Tibetan Life readers and so far, only Tenzin Tethong has kindly (and quickly!) responded.

Here is his photo and interview...

Tibet News Kalon Tripa,Tibetan election,Tibetan Pictures

1. Why is the position of Kalon Tripa now being directly elected by the Tibetan people, rather than being appointed by the Dalai Lama.

"This is a decision made by the Tibetan parliament as part of our full democratization effort. Of course it has happened with the encouragement and "push" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who decided in 1990 that the practice of his appointment of the Kalons should come to an end even though the Tibetan parliament in exile since the early 1960's approved all of his appointments to the Kashag".

2. Please tell our readers why are you the best person to become the next Kalon Tripa. What are your special qualities?

"What can I say. I have many years of involvement and experience in the life of the Tibetan community in exile and because I have worked both in the public arena and also as an officer of the Tibetan government in exile. I started with work in the public as one of the founding member and co-editor of Sheja Magazine, and as one of the conveners of the first Tibetan youth conference which resulted in the formation of the Tibetan Youth Congress. I also served as a Tibetan official and Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for many years in the U.S. Later, after my five years as Kalon, I continued in my private capacity to be involved with the Committee of 100 for Tibet and the Dalai Lama Foundation. I also teach and work at Stanford University. All these experiences and insights I believe will be of value and benefit should I become the next Kalon Tripa."

3. Many people think it's very important that the Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao have a face to face direct dialogue. Do you agree with this? Do you think it's possible? If so, what can or will you do to make this happen?

"Of course, any meeting His Holiness might have with a Chinese leader will be important and will have immediate results. However, it does not look very possible that Hu will meet with His Holiness any time in the near future. I am not sure any efforts from a Kalon Tripa will really be able to make a difference when the Chinese refuse even His Holiness' most generous offers to dialogue."

4. The Tibetan government-in-exile has the task of acquiring legitimacy as a secular institution in the eyes of Tibetans, both inside and outside Tibet. How will you accomplish this?

"We can acquire legitimacy only by doing the right things in the right way. To make all our work open, transparent, and legal wherever we are operating. And of course the work must be for the benefit and welfare of the Tibetan people, and for the freedom and rights of the Tibetan people back in Tibet."

5. Will His Holiness remain Head of State? Or will the Kalon Tripa assume this title?

"I think His Holiness will remain as Head of State. Otherwise, there will be no legitimacy for the Tibetan government from the people of Tibet."

6. What is the first thing you would like to do or change in the government if you win?

"One of the first things to do is to ensure that the Tibetan government structure, and staff are upgraded on all levels. We have to further professionalize our working methods, and we have to ensure that the officials who remain with the service are dedicated, trained, and committed to serve the people and the cause of Tibet."

7. Do you have anything else to share with our readers?

"The primary responsibility of the Tibetan government is to work for the cause of Tibet. Even though we are in exile and works directly with only 150,000 exiles, our efforts are for the approximately six million Tibetans who suffer under Chinese rule. We must not forget that."

Tenzin Tethong's Biography

Tenzin N. Tethong la is a Distinguished Fellow, Tibetan Studies Initiative, at Stanford University. He teaches in the History Department and the Continuing Studies Program, and is an Executive Committee member of CCARE (Center for Compassion & Altruism Research and Education), an initiative of the Stanford School of Medicine within the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences.

Mr. Tethong is a former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New York (1973-1986) and Special Representative of His Holiness in Washington, D.C. (1987-1990). He began his work in the exile Tibetan community as a part-time teacher/student at the first Tibetan refugee school in Mussoorie in 1960. In 1967 he joined the Education Office of the Tibetan government in exile as a secretary and translator.

In 1968, he teamed up with his brother Tenzin Geyche and a friend Sonam Topgyal, to start Sheja Magazine, an educational publication, one of the first Tibetan non-governmental initiatives in India. Two years later, as one of four conveners of the first Tibetan Youth Conference, which resulted in the formation of the Tibetan Youth Congress, he served in its first leadership executive committee. During this period he also served as Editor of Tibetan Review succeeding Tendzin N. Takla when the paper moved from Darjeeling to Dharamsala.

During his tenure in New York, he established The Tibet Fund and Potala Publications as part of the Office of Tibet, and played a key role in the formation of several Tibetan initiatives in the U.S. and Canada among which are the U.S. Tibet Committee, the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey, and Tibet House – New York.

In 1980, he headed the Second Delegation of Tibetan exiles sent by the Tibetan government to tour Tibet and China. When he was transferred as Special Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Washington, D.C., he established the International Campaign for Tibet which helped secure greater understanding and support for Tibet, including U.S. refugee assistance, radio programs, scholarships, and immigration opportunities for 1,000 Tibetans to the United States.

In 1990, he was one of the first Kalons elected – one of three – by a special Congress of Tibetan exiles in Dharmsala, and served in various portfolios which include Finance, Home, International Relations, and as Kalon Tripa, serving for five years in Dharamsala.

In 1995 he moved to California where, among his many activities, he was advisor to "Seven Years in Tibet", and joined the board of the Committee of 100 for Tibet. He is one of the founding members and current President of The Dalai Lama Foundation, an international organization dedicated to the promotion of peace and ethics. He also serves in an advisory capacity for the local Tibetan Community Center project, and recently launched "Tibet in Exile — Fifty Years", an online documentation effort to commemorate the last fifty years in exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.

Stay tuned for more Tibet News Kalon Tripa interviews...

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