Tibetan National Congress pays tribute to Nelson Mandela
BY EMAIL, 16 December 2013
An era came to an end on 5 December 2013 when the news reverberated around the world of the passing of Nelson Mandela, one of the most iconic and beloved figures of the 20th century. Although, everyone knew it was inevitable, it was one of those moments in history that took away your breath nonetheless. Millions around the world sent their condolences from all walks of life, including heads of State and the most influential and popular figures of our time. The word “Madiba” was uttered with reverence all over the world, on our lips, at the tips of pens, and on the channels of every television station. On 15 December 2013, millions around the world will pay their respects to him. The final curtains will be regretfully drawn on the life of this man, on his unequalled and majestic display of human dignity and unquenchable aspiration for justice. He represented the best of us and perhaps he is the last best human of the 20th century.
But it was not always like this. He spent most of his life on the wrong side of popular sentiments of the white colonial rulers in his country, and world leaders weren’t always so accommodating and gracious. He was instead labelled a communist and a terrorist by the US government and its European allies. He was on more than one occasion arrested for various trumped-up charges and had to go into hiding to evade capture. And ultimately, he was charged for conspiracy to overthrow the government and sentenced to life in prison. He spent twenty-seven years in prison before they had to finally let him go. Throughout it all, he never gave up. He held fast to the truth he knew to be true, and ultimately became the symbol of the fight he was rallying against the apartheid regime. And he won. The greatest lesson in this story is that he was neither an extraordinary man nor a particularly brilliant person. He just lived an extraordinary life.
He will live forever — so long as there are people on this planet his legacy will inspire and remain imperishably great; especially to those of us who are still oppressed under foreign colonial powers and face the same kind of alienation and rejection by the rest of the world. We have our own peacemaker, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, a fellow Nobel laureate: denied access to Madiba’s final farewell, and not one world leader or political pundit or activist said a word. We Tibetans very well understand the loneliness of Madiba’s life before all the frills and pageantry, and how he had to dig deep in his heart to continue with his struggle. There are thousands of Tibetan political prisoners living this very lonely existence in various gulags all over Tibet, tortured and silenced every day, and holding on to the very last fabric of humanity left in their hearts. And they also have not given up. We understand where Madiba came from because we are there right now. We knew the man before the world decided to know him. In that respect, he inspires us on a path of true courage and determination.
One of the legacies of Madiba was his active involvement in the African National Congress, especially in the formation of the ANC Youth Wing. Just like the African National Congress was created to combat the racist policies of the white colonists as the blacks were denied equal rights and were being treated like second class citizens in their own country, Tibetan National Congress has been inspired by the ANC to combat the racist policies of the Chinese Colonial powers inside Tibet.
Right now China’s population transfer policy has flooded Tibet with Chinese colonists, threatening to marginalize the indigenous population and make them a minority in their own homeland. Native craftsmen, small businessmen, workers and even labourers have been near completely displaced by Chinese colonists, causing tremendous social problems, and economic and psychological distress among the native population. The nomads of Tibet are being forced to leave their traditional grasslands and relocate to so-called “settlements”, with their concentration-camp-like rows of cinder block huts surrounded by high walls. What is unmistakable is that Tibetans as a distinct people and identity are being relentlessly pushed to a kind of functional extinction. In these dark and dreary times, we are fortunate to have the life of Mandela to inspire us, to give us courage and hope.
I, Jigme Ugen, on behalf of TNC, would like to take this opportunity to thank Madiba for leading us on a path full of wisdom, fortitude and great human dignity. There will come a time when our struggle shall be recognized for the truth it embodies and we too shall be free. There will come a time when all Tibetans will one day unite inside Tibet and we shall live just long enough to witness His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama take his rightful place in Potala in a free and independent Tibet.