The Dalai Lama’s Brother, Gyalo Dondrub

According to Tibetan sources, an older brother of the Dalai Lama called Gyalo Dondrub has taken advantage of the exile situation to gain increasing personal influence.

‘In Tibet, the family of the Dalai Lama was respected, but had no political power. Gyalo Dondrub, however, has used the changed situation in exile to gain a powerful influence over Tibetan politics.’274

Various established Tibetan ‘noble families’ such as Phala, Surkhang and Yuthog actively used their influence to achieve great benefits for the Tibetan exile community.

‘In old Tibet, political matters were in the hands of the nobility. After the successful escape from Tibet, it was these families in particular who established settlements, schools and political representation in foreign countries.

‘They however stood in the way of Gyalo’s ambition. In the mid-1960s he succeeded in setting public opinion against Surkhang and Yuthog, who were thus forced to leave India and move to Taiwan. Phala was assigned as representative in Switzerland and thereby lost his direct influence in India.’275

To this day Gyalo Dondrub remains one of the most powerful figures in the Tibetan government and community.

‘He [Gyalo] is continuously occupied with ‘secret’ business behind the scenes, and although he maintains contact with the CIA, he is the only direct contact the Dalai Lama has with the communist leadership in Beijing. He is regarded as the ‘secret boss’, and his role, as well as his goals are unclear.’276

Kensaku Okawa comments on a speech given in Taiwan on 29 October 1967 by a former minister of the Tibetan exile govern- ment, Yuthok Tashi Dhundup:

‘Yuthok criticized many of Gyalo’s activities, for example, (1) Gyalo dominates DL [Dalai Lama] and controls TGE [Tibetan government in exile] through his brother; (2) Gyalo embezzles TGE’s budget and invests it into his own business; (3) Gyalo embezzles the donations intended for the Tibetan guerrilla force; (4) Gyalo controls TGE by tactics involving bribery and boycott against its officials. This talk reveals not only Gyalo’s growing influence in TGE, but also the discord between him and officials such as Yuthok.’277

A picture begins to emerge of a government dominated and controlled by the Dalai Lama and his family.

‘In Tibet, a family member of a Dalai Lama was legally barred from holding office, something that changed in exile, where Gyalo Thondup [or Dondrub] and others later became ministers. Much controversy surrounds Gyalo Thondup whom Tibetans believe to be the main architect of the Dalai Lama’s plan to integrate Tibet into China under increased cultural autonomy.

‘Recently, another brother of the Dalai Lama has claimed that today only three families, including his, run the exile government … “the Tibetan exile government is run by three families, one of which is mine’’ [that is, the Dalai Lama’s family, or Yapshi Taklha family] … the old Gelugpa elite in the exile government had largely been replaced in the 1960s. The family of the Dalai Lama, [admits] to running the government from behind the scenes for decades …’278

And as Michael Backman reports in his article Behind the Dalai Lama’s holy cloak:

‘Like many Asian politicians, the Dalai Lama has been remarkably nepotistic, appointing members of his family to many positions of prominence. In recent years, three of the six members of the Kashag, or cabinet, the highest executive branch of the Tibetan government-in-exile, have been close relatives of the Dalai Lama.

‘An older brother served as chairman of the Kashag and as the minister of security. He also headed the CIA-backed Tibetan contra movement in the 1960s.

‘A sister-in-law served as head of the government-in-exile’s planning council and its Department of Health.

‘A younger sister served as health and education minister and her husband served as head of the government-in-exile’s Department of Information and International Relations.

‘Their daughter was made a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile. A younger brother has served as a senior member of the private office of the Dalai Lama and his wife has served as education minister.

‘The second wife of a brother-in-law serves as the representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile for northern Europe and head of international relations for the government-in-exile. All these positions give the Dalai Lama’s family access to millions of dollars collected on behalf of the government-in-exile.’279

It is not only Gyalo Dondrub’s position on Tibetan independence that has attracted the most censure from Tibetans, but also the way in which he has manipulated his position as the Dalai Lama’s older brother and thus the secular head of the Yapshi Taklha family, the Dalai Lama’s family, which has been automatically co-opted into the Tibetan aristocratic system.

As it is clear that the source of Gyalo Dondrub’s power lies in his closeness to the Dalai Lama, and that the Dalai Lama has done nothing to restrain his brother, it is the Dalai Lama who must take responsibility for his brother’s bullying and destructive actions.