Tibetan Democracy Under Seige

Nepali Police Raid Tibetan Election Center-Kathmandu October 3, 2010


The decision by Nepal’s Government to send in its bully boys to remove ballot boxes being used by exiled Tibetans to determine their next Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa) and Members of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile is another troubling indication of how low the Nepalese authorities will stoop to appease communist China, with whom it is becoming something of a willing accomplice in the violent oppression of democratic freedoms. Within Nepal exiled Tibetans lead a precarious existence, ever subject to state persecution from an authority keen to demonstrate its support for the Chinese regime by suppressing any expression of dissent towards China and its illegal occupation of Tibet. This recent example is a serious violation of political freedoms and harassment of a refugee community, yet it has attracted virtually no international condemnation from those nations who parade their flags as symbols of freedom and democratic values, hypocrisy and national interest prevails again it appears!

Among the nearly 80,000 exiled Tibetans worldwide who have registered to vote, the election is generating considerable interest, with final rounds for Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister taking place in March and September 2011 to replace Mr. Samdhong Rinpoche. Candidates and nominations for that office include Mr.Sonam Topgyal, Mr.Lobsang Jinpa and Mr.Ngaba Tsegyam (Chushi Gangdruk an organization dedicated to Tibet’s independence) Mr. Tseten Norbu (formerly of the Tibetan Youth Congress) and Mr. Lobsang Sangay, Mr. Tenzin Tethong Namgyal, former Mr. Pempa Tsering, and Dolma Gyari.

While the election is of supreme importance to the democratic process within Tibet’s exiled community, it has to remembered that democracy, as understood within liberal western thinking and experience, remains in an incipient state within Tibet’s exiled society. There are no competing organized political parties as such, nor constitution guaranteeing rights to assembly, or the creation of dissenting political bodies. There is however an overarching body politic, a collection of seemingly disparate groups sharing one commonality, the advocacy of an doctrine defined and authored by the exiled Tibetan Administration. This dogma is entirely intolerant of and dissmissive towards any notion of  Tibetan independence,  and has been for years unsleeping in its efforts to marginalize and silence those who dare to speak out in favor of Tibetan national identity. While it ignores key rights formalized in its own Charter

Emerging Democracy Or Dominant Orthodoxy?


On the surface much has been said by the Tibetan leadership about open and transparent democratic process, any meaningful enjoyment of such political freedoms, in the context of realizing positive change of policy and direction; as it relates to the Tibetan cause, remains seriously disadvantaged. Dominated by a conservative political culture over which presides an administration, to which even the mildest form of criticism is considered treachery or betrayal. This subject has been given intelligent evaluation in a number of essays by Jamyang Norbu

Under such constraints it is therefore difficult to envisage in what substantial manner the election of a new Kalon Tripa will engineer the sorely needed progression demanded of exiled Tibetan politics, until the collective political will of Tibetans is allowed free expression, by that we mean an absence of the societal censorship, suffocating orthodoxy and manipulation which currently prevails, then democracy will be little more than a cosmetic distraction.

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