On Sunday, 31 October, I received a short message that simply said, “Riki is no longer with us”. I immediately felt a great sense of loss and immense sadness. And it will not be just me; his many friends and colleagues around the world will share this loss.
Riki was a truly unique person who dedicated so much of his life to Tibet. I first met him in 1997 and it is down to him that I became absorbed by Tibet. During my early days in post at Tibet Society and Tibet Relief Fund, Riki quietly became my mentor, looking out for me, giving me good counsel and unceasingly gently boosting my confidence.
I was always entranced by his reminiscences of the early days of Tibetans coming to the UK and his work at Tibet Society (his first job). Having been allocated a young Tibetan living in Darjeeling (India) as a pen friend whilst still at school, Riki went on to be part of the UK’s history with Tibetans from that beginning up until yesterday.
In 2018, Dechen Pemba, who had known Riki all her life, had a wonderful interview with him. It gives a great insight into Riki and how the Tibet movement progressed in the UK. It is also lovely to hear Riki talking about Tibet, a cause he always held so close to his heart. He modestly said, “I’ve gained immeasurably in the shaping of my life, my values, in so many ways in this relationship (with Tibet).
He will be much missed by his family, friends, all of us within the Tibet world and the other worlds where he also worked such as Georgia and, latterly, Tanzania.
We will be lighting incense in the office through this week.
Kale Peya Riki la
CEO Tibet Relief Fund
Former CEO Tibet Society
Riki remembered by Zara Fleming
Zara Fleming, Trustee, Tibet Relief Fund, lecturer, Arts Society, tour guide and Buddhist art consultant
It is a great honour to have been asked to write a few words about Riki, who was a very special individual and one whom I feel immensely privileged to have had as a friend for so many years.
I first met Riki in 1974, shortly after joining the Tibet Society, which was the only organisation supporting Tibet at that time. I did voluntary work in the office for a while and it was Riki who then recommended me to be on the Society’s Council.
Riki became a very good friend and taught me so much about the Tibetan situation and the workings of the Society and Tibet Relief Fund in those early years; he was always there to offer guidance. And our friendship grew over the years, as we organised Society events, exhibitions, lectures and visits by prominent Tibetans. Sometimes there was a crisis over a visa for a Tibetan visitor or a stressful situation with an event, but Riki would wisely address the problem in his wonderfully calm manner.
For me, Riki has always been the lynchpin of Tibet Society, the glue that held everything together and even though the circumstances of the Society and Relief Fund have changed over the years, Riki was always the constant presence. He did an enormous amount for Tibet, particularly through his parliamentary and Buddhist connections and was utterly dedicated in all that he did. He had some rough patches during his life, but always managed to rise above them with tolerance and acceptance … and with a smile.
I last spoke to him earlier this year when he was in Tanzania and agreed to have a proper catch-up when he was allowed back into the UK. Sadly, when he arrived back it was to go straight into hospital and although I wrote messages, we were never able to talk again. So it was with very great sadness when I heard the news that Riki was no more.
I find it very hard to believe that I shall no longer see him again, but I will always remember him as he is in this photograph (above) – wearing his colourful bow tie and with such joy on his face at being with His Holiness. He had such warmth, kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit, together with an amazing capacity of never giving up, no matter what obstacles were in his way.
My heart goes out to his family and his friends all over the world, a true friend of Tibet and the Tibetan people who will be much missed but never forgotten.