Fri, Mar 11, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Dalai Lama to step down as Tibetan political leader

AFP, DHARAMSALA, India

The Dalai Lama yesterday said he would step down as political head of Tibet’s exiled government, but continue to push the Tibetan cause in his key role as its spiritual figurehead.

In a speech on the anniversary of a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama said he would seek an amendment allowing him to resign his political office when the exiled Tibetan parliament meets next week.

“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,” he said in Dharamsala, the seat of Tibet’s government-in-exile in India.

“Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect,” he said.

China, which brands the 75-year-old Nobel peace laureate a “splittist” bent on Tibetan independence, responded by accusing him of playing “tricks” to deceive the international community.

“He has often talked about retirement in the past few years. I think these are his tricks to deceive the international community,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) told reporters.

The Dalai Lama’s temporal duties are largely ceremonial and he had already pronounced himself “semi-retired” following the first direct election in 2001 of a prime minister as the formal head of the exiled government.

His remaining political power is now likely to be devolved to the prime minister, boosting the role’s profile.

In his speech, the Dalai Lama acknowledged “repeated and earnest” requests from within Tibet and outside to continue as political leader, but appealed for understanding of his decision.

“My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility,” he said. “It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened.”

His speech made it clear that he would not be withdrawing from public life and remained “committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet.”

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