President Dr Losabg Sangay speaking to members of media in Dharamshala, India. Photo: TPI/Yeshe Choesang

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Dharamshala, India — President of the Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay Tuesday expressed profound sorrow over the demise of former Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes and said the people of Tibet has lost a versatile personality who excelled as “the strongest voice on Tibet and a truly a great friend of Tibet.”

Fernandes, a lifelong socialist despite his political adventurism that included Cabinet posts in two ideologically opposite governments where he ousted Coca-Cola in 1977 and oversaw the Kargil war in 1999, died Tuesday at his residence after a prolonged illness. He was 88.

“I had the privilege of meeting George Fernandes on a number of occasions and events during my days at Delhi University from 1988-94. He was then the strongest voice on Tibet whether he was serving inside or outside the government,” President Dr Sangay said in his condolence message dated January 29, 2019.

President said: “We lost a truly great friend of Tibet. May his soul be reborn soon and continue to serve for the betterment of humanity, India and Tibet.”

President further recalled, “During his tenure as Defence Minister, George Fernandes was the first Indian official to call out China as the No. 1 threat of India, which Indian people are now realising as true.”

As a mark of respect and mourning, the Central Tibetan Administration has organised a prayer service at T-Building in Dharamshala, India, on January 30, 2019.

In his condolence remarks, Officiating President Kalon Karma Yuthok Gelek expressed his profound sadness and condolence to Smt Leila Kabir, wife of George Fernandes and his son Sean Fernandes. He said, “George Fernandes was a staunch supporter for the cause of Tibet. He offered a tremendous amount of support whenever Tibetans were in need.”

Speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Pema Jungney also offered his condolence on behalf of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Tibetans in and outside of Tibet, over the demise of Former Defence Minister of India, George Fernandes.

In the condolence letter, Speaker expresses sadness over the demise of Former Defence Minister George Fernandes and offered condolence to the surviving family members. He also said that Tibetan people are eternally grateful for his strong and consistent support for the cause of Tibet since from 1959s. He had raised his voice for Tibetan cause in and outside the perimeter of the Indian parliament. He was invited to Dharamsala for several times and we were deeply honoured by his distinguished presence on the 48th Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day, 10 March 2007, with other Members of All Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet.

Fernandes, who served as the defence minister in the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpyee between 1998 and 2004, had been crippled by illness and had withdrawn from public life. His last stint as a parliamentarian was as Rajya Sabha MP between August 2009 and July 2010. A native of Mangaluru, Fernandes was the founder of the Samata Party. He rose to fame as an anti-Emergency crusader and civil rights activists and served as a Union Minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai that came to power in 1977 to 1980.

According to media reports, a number of leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajanth Singh, BJP president Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had visited the bereaved family at their residence on Tuesday to pay their respects. Several leaders, veteran politicians and his admirers, from Mangaluru to Muzaffarpur converged at the residence on Wednesday as well to pay tribute to the departed leader. A pall of gloom continued to hang over his residence, while police security personnel kept vigil outside.