DHARMSALA: On Sunday in India’s northern city of Dharmsala, where the exiled government is based, hundreds of Tibetans in exile braved the rain and cold and voted for their new political leader as the existing five-year term of officeholders reaches its end.
When they cast their votes during the first round of the voting, the electors wore caps, kept social isolation and used hand sanitizer. Many helped elderly voters fill out the right applications.
In this first round of elections, two candidates, plus 90 parliamentarians, will be shortlisted for the highest government post of president. In April, the second and final round of voting will take place.
Via this, we give a direct message to Beijing that Tibet is under siege, but free Tibetans are in exile. And given the chance, the opportunity, we choose democracy, said Lobsang Sangay, who will soon complete his second and final term as political leader of Tibet. No matter what you do, being democratic and practising democracy is the joy of Tibetans, the essence of Tibetans.
Tibet’s government-in-exile, now known as the Central Tibetan Administration, was established in 1959 and has administrative, judicial and legislative branches, with candidates elected by popular vote for the office of Sikyong or President since 2011.
China claims Tibet has historically been part of its territories since the mid-13th century, and the Himalayan region has been controlled by its Communist Party since 1951. But many Tibetans complain that for much of their history, they have been largely autonomous, and that the Chinese government seeks to dominate its resource-rich territory thus suppressing their cultural identity.
Since they left Tibet after a failed 1959 rebellion against Chinese control, the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans, and his followers have been residing in Dharmsala.
There are many young Tibetans contesting this year’s parliamentary election. There is a growing realisation among the Tibetan youth that they should engage more in the government as the Dalai Lama grows older.
I think I should strive to make parliamentary correspondence more reliable and fill the knowledge database holes as someone who has learned technology, said Lobsang Sither, 38, who is contesting the current election.
Sither said that the previous regimes were primarily focused on the Tibetan diaspora and were not adequately focused on Tibetans within Tibet.