Dalai Lama to resign as political leader in exile

Mar 10, 2011

In a statement today, the Dalai Lama said he intends to step aside as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

He said he is doing so because Tibetans now have freely elected representatives, representatives who are also in exile, who can speak for them.

From the Dalai Lama's statement:

Today, within the framework of the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, the Kalon Tripa, the political leadership, and the people’s representatives are directly elected by the people. We have been able to implement democracy in exile that is in keeping with the standards of an open society.

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.

Since I made my intention clear I have received repeated and earnest requests both from within Tibet and outside, to continue to provide political leadership. My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened. Tibetans have placed such faith and trust in me that as one among them I am committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet. I trust that gradually people will come to understand my intention, will support my decision and accordingly let it take effect.

The Christian Science Monitor dismisses the Dalai Lama's intent to resign his political leadership as a "trick." From the Monitor:

“He has often talked about retirement,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. “We think these are his tricks to deceive the international community.” The Tibetan government-in-exile based in the Indian town of Dharamsala, which the Dalai Lama is seeking to strengthen by relinquishing authority, is “an illegal political organization,” Ms. Jiang said.

In the article one journalist and author who specializes in Tibet says that "the Dalai Lama is just too towering a figure to retire from a political role," says Tim Johnson, "the struggle for greater freedom for Tibetans is embodied in his persona."