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Do Roman Catholicss Know

Photo: AFP

the Dalai Lama was on the CI A payroll
($180k/yr) from the late 1950's to 1974?


Behind Dalai Lama's holy cloak
THE Dalai Lama show is set to roll into Australia again next month and again Australian
politicians are getting themselves in a twist as to whether they should meet him.
Rarely do journalists challenge the Dalai Lama.
Partly it is because he is so charming and engaging. Most published accounts of him breeze on as
airily as the subject, for whom a good giggle and a quaint parable are substitutes for hard
answers. But this is the man who advocates greater autonomy for millions of people who are
currently Chinese citizens, presumably with him as head of their government. So, why not hold
him accountable as a political figure?
No mere spiritual leader, he was the head of Tibet's government when he went into exile in 1959.
It was a state apparatus run by aristocratic, nepotistic monks that collected taxes, jailed and
tortured dissenters and engaged in all the usual political intrigues. (The Dalai Lama's own
father was almost certainly murdered in 1946, the consequence of a coup plot.)
The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US1.7
million a year from the CIA.
The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai
Lama's public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1989.
The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA's payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly
receiving $US15,000 a month ($US180,000 a year).
The funds were paid to him personally, but he used all or most of them for Tibetan government-
in-exile activities, principally to fund offices in New York and Geneva, and to lobby
Details of the government-in-exile's funding today are far from clear. Structurally, it comprises
seven departments and several other special offices. There have also been charitable trusts, a
publishing company, hotels in India and Nepal, and a handicrafts distribution company in the US
and in Australia, all grouped under the government-in-exile's Department of Finance.
The government was involved in running 24 businesses in all, but decided in 2003 that it
would withdraw from these because such commercial involvement was not appropriate.
Several years ago, I asked the Dalai Lama's Department of Finance for details of its budget. In
response, it claimed then to have annual revenue of about $US22 million, which it spent on
various health, education, religious and cultural programs.

The biggest item was for politically related expenditure, at $US7 million. The next biggest was
administration, which ran to $US4.5 million. Almost $US2 million was allocated to running the
government-in-exile's overseas offices.
For all that the government-in-exile claims to do, these sums seemed remarkably low.
It is not clear how donations enter its budgeting. These are likely to run to many millions
annually, but the Dalai Lama's Department of Finance provided no explicit acknowledgment of
them or of their sources.
Certainly, there are plenty of rumours among expatriate Tibetans of endemic corruption and
misuse of monies collected in the name of the Dalai Lama.
Many donations are channelled through the New York-based Tibet Fund, set up in 1981 by
Tibetan refugees and US citizens. It has grown into a multimillion-dollar organisation that
disburses $US3 million each year to its various programs.
Part of its funding comes from the US State Department's Bureau for Refugee Programs.
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.
The Dalai Lama might now be well-known but few really know much about him. For example,
contrary to widespread belief, he is not a vegetarian. He eats meat. He has done so (he claims)
on a doctor's advice following liver complications from hepatitis. I have checked with several

doctors but none agrees that meat consumption is necessary or even desirable for a damaged
What has the Dalai Lama actually achieved for Tibetans inside Tibet?
If his goal has been independence for Tibet or, more recently, greater autonomy, then he
has been a miserable failure.
He has kept Tibet on the front pages around the world, but to what end? The main achievement
seems to have been to become a celebrity. Possibly, had he stayed quiet, fewer Tibetans might
have been tortured, killed and generally suppressed by China.
In any event, the current Dalai Lama is 72 years old. His successor a reincarnation will
be appointed as a child and it will be many years before he plays a meaningful role. As far
as China is concerned, that is one problem that will take care of itself, irrespective of whether or
not John Howard or Kevin Rudd meet the current Dalai Lama.
By Michael Backman, May 23, 2007