Tibetans in Sydney cancel Dalai Lama Nobel commemoration event

President of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay offers prayer holding a traditional bowl of sweet rice during the swearing-in ceremony of the new Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, on 1 December 2018.

President of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay offers prayer holding a traditional bowl of sweet rice during the swearing-in ceremony of the new Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, on 1 December 2018. Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

By Lobsang Wangyal

McLEOD GANJ, India, 1 December 2018

The Tibetan community in Sydney will not celebrate the 29th anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize on the Dalai Lama due to squabbles over the visit of the President of the Central Tibetan Administration to the event.

The cancellation was announced by the executive members of the Tibetan Community of Australia, New South Wales, citing fear of infighting among the Tibetan people in the area after some Tibetans have said they would protest against president Lobsang Sangay.

In a five-page announcement, the members said that they received calls and emails stating that some Tibetans would hold a protest if Lobsang Sangay attended, while others have said they would protest if Sangay was not invited to the event.

“Should there be any ugly scenes, the worst would damage the reputation of the Dalai Lama, and cause immense distress among the Tibetans, particularly in Tibet,” the announcement said.

Sangay is scheduled visit Australia to attend the ‘Thank You Australia’ event in Canberra from 3 to 8 December.

Speaking to Tibet Sun, the President of the Tibetan Community of Australia, NSW, Nigan, said that the executive members received phone calls, emails, and WeChat messages that the protests were because of the ousting of former North America Representative Penpa Tsering. Some had said that there wasn’t any dialogue between Tibetan representatives and the Chinese authorities. A few others had said that the Sangay had not lived up to what he promised during his election campaigns.

In contrast, some people have been calling and saying that they have 400 people with them to protest if the event is held without president Sangay — causing a dilemma to the executive members.

Lhakpa Tshoko, the Representative of the Dalai Lama for Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia at the Tibet Information Office, Canberra, Australia, has written that the cancellation of the event was solely due to president Nigan and a few of his colleagues bearing a personal grudge against president Sangay.

Tshoko has charged Nigan and a few of his colleagues with having instigated some people to write warning letters of protest. His letter on Thursday then stated that all the programmes of president Sangay in Sydney remain cancelled.

In reply to representative Tshoko’s accusations, the executive members denied all the charges and said that the decision was not that of president Nigan and a few members alone. It was decided by all the executive members so as to avoid any ugly scenes among Tibetans during the event before non-Tibetan guests.

They have further asked Tshoko to name the people that have been instigated to write those warning letters. The executive members have contended that levelling accusations without evidence was meant to malign their goodwill and reputation.

Some feared that due to the infighting, the weekend Tibetan Learning Centre, where about 90 children are taught Tibetan language and culture at a local school, could be taken away. Nigan said that there were some who expressed fear about this situation.

There are about 2,300 Tibetans living in Australia. Sydney has the biggest concentration with about 800 living in various suburbs. Other areas with Tibetan population include Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, and Perth.

The anniversary of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for the Dalai Lama is commemorated by Tibetans all over the world.


Note: Story updated on 2 December at 3:20 pm IST, correcting paragraph 7, that some people called the executive members, not 400 people.
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