The Dalai Lama to give up political role in Tibetan movement

Dharamsala: The Dalai Lama, who has been carrying on a six-decade-long struggle for freedom of Tibetan Buddhists, on Thursday announced his decision to retire as political head of Tibetan government-in-exile and to hand over his "formal authority" to a "freely-elected" leader.

The 75-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, however, made it clear that he was committed to playing his part for the "just cause" of Tibet.

Making the announcement in his speech on the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day here, the Nobel Peace Laureate said he will formally propose to the Tibetan parliament in-exile on Monday to make necessary amendments to the Charter for Tibetans-in-Exile reflecting his decision to devolve his "formal authority" to an elected leader.

"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," The Dalai Lama, who had escaped to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, told hundreds of exiled Tibetans at the Main Temple in this hill resort.

The new Parliament will be elected when Tibetans across the world will vote on March 20.

The Dalai Lama said ever since he made his intention to retire from active politics, he has been receiving repeated requests both from within and outside Tibet to continue to provide 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," he said in his 15-minute speech in Tibetan language.

Hundreds of people, including children and women, had gathered at the temple to pay tributes to people who laid their lives for the cause of Tibet and to listen to the Dalai Lama`s annual speech.

The spiritual leader said he believed that gradually people will come to understand his intention, will support and accordingly let it take effect.

However, he will continue to be the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama had earlier expressed his intention to step down as political head, but this is the first time he is publicly making his intention clear and asking the Tibetan people to accept his decision.

The Dalai Lama, who was just 15 when he was appointed `head of state` after Chinese troops moved into Tibet, proposed sending fact-finding delegations to Tibet and said he would encourage the despatch of representatives of independent international bodies, including parliamentarians.

"If they were to find that Tibetans in Tibet are happy, we would readily accept it," he said.

Reacting to the Dalai Lama`s statement on his retirement, Prime Minister of Tibetan government-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche said the political transition which the spiritual leader wants is unlikely to happen immediately.

"Despite His Holiness` request, the Tibetan and the government-in-exile do not feel competent to lead ourselves independently without the Dalai Lama. It is a very long and difficult process. We have to think in an innovative manner to solve the issue," he told reporters at a press conference later.

He said the Dalai Lama wants to completely retire from politics as he feels that "political leadership should not be confined to one person and individual."

To a specific question, he said the Tibetan parliament-in-exile would have to find an innovative way to "accommodate" the aspirations of the Tibetan people and the desire of the Dalai Lama.

"It appears that the resolution of the His Holiness will not be passed. In that case there will be a deadlock. We are urging members of Tibetan parliament to find a wise way so that people`s aspirations are also met," he said.

The Dalai Lama also said the Tibetan government-in- exile has to find a way to keep the dialogue process going with the Chinese government.

Referring to the "Jasmine Revolution" in the Middle East in his speech, the Dalai Lama said he was a firm believer in non-violence and people-power and these events have shown once again that determined non-violent action can indeed bring about positive change.

"We must all hope that these inspiring changes lead to genuine freedom, happiness and prosperity for the peoples in these countries," he said.

The Dalai Lama also used the occasion to thank the Indian government for generously helping Tibetans preserve and promote their religion and culture and ensuring the welfare of Tibetans in exile.