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3rdseptember201011Bylakuppe: Four Tibetan prime-ministerial candidates yesterday (September 3) faced tough questions during a public debate held in Bylakuppe, south India. The audience included many Tibetan monks and members of the younger generations.

The volunteer organisers invited 13 candidates, based on nominations made by exile NGOs, of which the four speakers who came forward were each given five minutes to air their views on the Tibet issue, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Dolma Gyari, deputy speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, told the audience, "Most exiled Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, live in India, Nepal and Bhutan. We should follow His Holiness' advice to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, as we face many difficulties in foreign countries.Therefore, it is essential that we should work harder for the continuation of our cause and to keep our identity alive."

3rdseptember201015Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, former minister of the Tibetan government in-exile, said the people will choose the next prime minister. "I started to join debates," he said, "because I think all of us should take responsibility nowadays...Even though we don't live in our homeland, we should show our legacy to the world, and show that we are developing...our democratic system."

Dr Lobsang Sangay, legal scholar and expert on Tibet and international human rights, criticized Chinese misconceptions of the future of the Tibetan government in-exile. "I think this is a historic debate," he said, "as no such a debate has previously been organized before the Tibetan preliminary elections.

"It gives a strong signal to the Chinese government and President Hujin Tao that they are totally wrong to arrogantly think the Tibetan government in-exile will completely collapse as the older Tibetan generations-in-exile pass away.

3rdseptember201013"People inside Tibet are fooled by the Chinese government, who claim the Tibetan government-in-exile is undemocratic and plans to restore the old system, but this debate gives a different signal - it provides a great opportunity to the younger Tibetan generations, like me, who have grown up in exile.

"We have an old saying - the Gaden golden throne belongs to no-one. It means if any mother's son has rich educational qualifications, he has as much right to the throne of the Tibetan prime minister as anyone. We have a stable democratic system if anyone is allowed to stand for Kalon Tripa (prime minister)."

Mr Penpa Tsering, speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, told the audience, "My promise to contribute to the Tibetan cause has always been unshakable, but I only made my decision to stand for prime minister in the last 15 or 20 days.

3rdseptember201014"My father advised me to work for the Tibetan government, but I worked for my family as its situation was very poor. However, now I am the speaker of Tibetan parliament and have been dedicated to the Tibetan government for last 14 years.

"I worked as director of the Tibetan Parliament and Research Centre for seven years and visited most of the Tibetan settlements. Recently, I have met Tibetans and had the opportunity to get to know them while traveling to foreign countries.

"When I look back on my experiences, I have had great opportunities, and I have to take responsibility whether in an official post or not."