Tibet parliament prepares for Dalai Lama retirement

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 12:16 PM

By Abhishek Madhukar

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - Tibet's parliament-in-exile has formed a committee to hand over political power from the Dalai Lama, in a signal his devolution of power will get approval despite opposition from lawmakers.

The 75-year-old Dalai Lama, the global face of the Tibetan exiled movement, shocked many Tibetans by announcing he would hand over power, seen as transforming the government-in-exile into a more assertive body in the face of Chinese pressure.

The move comes a day after 83,000 exiled Tibetans across the world voted to elect a new leader. Two of the main contenders have hinted they could move beyond the Dalai Lama's "middle way," the policy of negotiating some autonomy from China.

"We have set a small committee to plan how to deal with the devolution of power. The committee will meet this afternoon, and the honorable speaker has instructed the parliament to submit a report," said Samdhong Rinpoche, Tibetan prime minister-in-exile.

Many lawmakers fear a diminished presence for the Dalai Lama, whose trademark smile has brought Hollywood stars and the international spotlight to the Tibetan movement based in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama who has described himself as "semi-retired" and has called for reforms for decades, has rebuffed pleas from Tibetans to stay, stressing the importance of a democratically-elected leader to spearhead the movement.

He will continue in his role as Tibet's spiritual leader.

Tibetans fear that China will use the thorny issue of the Dalai Lama's succession to split the movement, with one new Lama named by the exiles and one by China after his death.

The three candidates are all younger than the Dalai Lama, and will have to answer to more frustrated young voters, many based in countries like the United States where the Tibetan cause is often seen in a simpler bad-versus-good battle rather than the real politics that many veterans in Dharamsala see.

The result of the election will be known in April.

That generation has criticized the "middle way" for producing no results despite a 2008 rebellion against Chinese rule in which at least 19 people -- possibly hundreds -- were killed.

(Writing by Henry Foy; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)