My candidate, Lukar Gem [Lukar Jam], is out of the race after a brave and historic fight. We are now left with two choices in the 2016 election for Sikyong (Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration): Penpa Tsering and Lobsang Sangay.
I choose Penpa Tsering. I prioritise qualities, not issues, with my choice. This is because the dismissal of Lukar Gem was also the loss of issues important to our struggle. Both Tsering and Sangay are Umaylam followers: I choose Penpa Tsering.
Penpa Tsering is a man with two decades of governmental experience. This experience is an asset that has propelled him into becoming a competent leader. There is depth to any topic he speaks. His moderating skill at Parliamentary proceedings is well known. He is a man of the people — a leader. In contrast, I feel that Lobsang Sangay’s results have failed to match his promises.
Lobsang Sangay’s declaration of Lithang pungdrik is a classic case of negative regionalism. It is perhaps for this reason that Lobsang Sangay does not support the reinstatement of a local assembly in Bylakuppe, the biggest settlement in exile, where U-tsangs form the majority. It appears he doesn’t want to see U-tsangs running the show democratically.
Every important CTA-related post is given by Sangay to people from his province. He appointed Lobsang Nyandak as head of Tibet Fund, Kaydor Aukatsang as Washington Dhonchoe, and Chophel Thupten as South Zone Chief in Bangalore, India. All the appointees are people from his province. Does this ring a bell? Each of his appointees has a history of demotion or termination for unsatisfactory performance, but he reinstated them. There are many more such examples.
The Dalai Lama’s security was breached by a shugden nun at a hotel in California in February 2014 under Lobsang Sangay’s watch. Nine RTYCs broke up from the TYC Centrex under his watch. Think about it. Who could be behind it?
Kaydor removed the Dalai Lama’s photo from the Washington Dhonchoe Office and replaced it with Sangay’s picture. This is highly disrespectful to the Tibetan people and to the Dalai Lama who served Tibetans for well over 60 years of his life.
Also on Sangay’s house mortgage allegation, to this day he has not come clean. All he needs to do is to show his tax papers, which he has not done since Tibet supporter Maura Moynihan charged him three years ago. He could not respond to her allegation even once. If you are not guilty, why remain silent?
Lobsang Sangay states that CTA got Rs 1,000 million during Samdhong Rinpoche’s tenure, and he boasts he got Rs 2,008 million during his tenure. This is no big deal; foreign aid is no individual leader’s achievement. The grant is pre-decided largely based on inflation of everyday expenses. It does not depend on how skillful a Sikyong is. All he has to do is ask, and they grant. From 2016 to 2021 the next Sikyong Penpa Tsering shall have got Rs 4,016 million, but again no big deal.
Besides, begging foreign governments or NGOs for funds is certainly not a good example of the self-reliance mantra that Lobsang Sangay has been reciting.
Dashing our hopes
Sangay will go down in history as the first Sikyong to make the following staggering statements to international media:
“Tibetans, we never had a country.”
“We are not asking that democracy be implemented or be allowed inside Tibet.”
“We are not asking for democracy for Tibetans inside Tibet.”
Lobsang Sangay has dashed all our hopes to the ground. Forget genuine autonomy, he did not succeed in securing even a single round of talks with his Chinese counterpart during his entire tenure. He gave a false sense of hope to the voters that during his term His Holiness would return to Tibet. He got voters believing that he could achieve what His Holiness himself could not achieve in five decades.
On the education of Tibetan children, he has failed us. The overall achievement in education during his term is portrayed as being 1,000 times better than Samdhong Rinpoche’s term. How does he account for that when in actuality the standard of our children’s literary Tibetan has gone from good to worse?
For 12th class of 2013, seven schools in science average only 69.5%, seven schools in commerce average only 59.2%, 13 schools in arts average just 59.6%. There are no statistics for 10th class at all. Why? The overall passing percentage for 12th class of 2014, involving 16 schools, is only 62.9% and for 10th class, involving 26 schools, the average is 58.2% only. To gain admission in a well-reputed college in India such as Madras Christian College, you need a minimum passing average of 85% in commerce. And in science it’s worse, you need minimum 95%. On the brochure the colleges may demand less percentage for eligibility, but in actual fact the competition is that tough — too many admission seekers and too few seats. Well, where do our students stand educationally? No statistics for 2011, 2012 and 2015 are available on the CTA education website, which makes me wonder if our schools must have done poorly. What else could be the reason?
Sangay promised us that he would produce 5,000 PhDs or specialists during his term. How many do we have now? Five? Regardless of whether Lobsang Sangay has been successful or not, all these five years we the people have given him a chance, but not any more! This time Penpa Tsering, with a clean record of dedication and performance for 20 years of governmental service, deserves a chance.
One Lithangpa by the name of Lobsang Jampel — a sanjor and an ex-monk from Hunsur Gyumey monastery — who lives in New York — went as far as issuing death threats to Largya Dhakpo, an U-tsang community leader, for criticising Lobsang Sangay’s poor performance and lack of transparency in the execution of his official duties. Police investigation is underway. Well, his threat illustrates the degree to which regional pride and interest are involved in the Sikyong election.
“If you do not vote for Lobsang Sangay and if he loses the election we will not pay the greenbook contribution,” said Karsang, a Lobsang Sangay supporter, on a chat app. I wish him good luck on this because I can’t care less. “If Lobsang Sangay loses, provincial frictions and violence will erupt and the Dalai Lama will be disturbed and he will not live long,” said another supporter of Lobsang Sangay. This is a scare tactic. Do not fall into this trap. Trust me life will go on. The poll I conducted over the phone with 20 friends and acquaintances from each province produced this result. 70% of the U-tsangs, 20% of the Amdos, and 100% of the Dhotoes voted for Lobsang Sangay. What do you see here? Judge for yourself. And choose your path.
Qualities of a Sikyong
The qualities we voters should be looking for in our Sikyong are initiative, experience, integrity, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Penpa Tsering possesses all of these. He is bold, confident and articulate. We witness this in the Parliamentary sessions and in his speeches. If there is one man any Tibetan politician is afraid of in Gangchen Kyishong, it is Penpa Tsering! Penpa Tsering is honest. Also he is a tough nut to mess with. He is shrewd, decisive, and resolute. It is for these qualities that chithues like Tenpa Yarphel can’t stand him and hurl baseless murder allegations in the Parliament to let doubt settle in the public mind. It is vote politics. What the allegation ironically achieved is more sympathy and support toward Penpa Tsering from the U-tsang public.
Neither Juchen Thupten nor Sonam Topgyal nor Tenpa Yarphel had the guts to actually report Penpa Tsering to the police or take him to court — because they don’t have a case in the first place. Also Penpa Tsering’s ex-wife acha Pema and her three grown children have never ever supported the murder allegation. Realising that this murder allegation is not holding much water, supporters of Lobsang Sangay have stooped to attacking his occasional love for whisky.
To this day Penpa Tsering has not slacked off once on his official duties. Penpa Tsering deals comfortably with regional and sectarian tensions that come with the job. For example, during a 2009 Parliamentary commotion fuelled by regional politics, and the 2015 Jonang demonstration for two seats to represent their sect, he proved his mettle. He didn’t flinch once. But can he admit mistakes and learn from them? Can he be straight and not lie just to get votes? Can he sift through complex ideas? Can he recognise empty words when they come from his staff or supporters? Does he know how to hire a good team? Most important of all, like the Dalai Lama he is inclusive and non-provincial, non-regional, and non-sectarian. Yes, he can! And he’s proved so with 20 years of experience.
Does he know how to deliver a good speech? Penpa Tsering speaks the best Tibetan! Natural, macho and assertive with the right volume, pace, tone and timbre at the right occasion. With no shortage of inspiring speeches, he is at the top of the political game. Despite coming from non-English medium school his English is far better than Lobsang Sangay’s Harvard English.
Does he know when to stay quiet? He is emotionally stable and stoic even in the midst of chaos in the Parliament. Like a true Amdo warrior he looks problems squarely in the eye and does not shy away behind the wall of diplomatic neutrality for so-called community harmony. Does he know how to read public opinion? Has this candidate ever faced a true crisis? Does he have the equanimity to handle the erratic and unpredictable pressures of the office? How is he with uncertainty? He is strong like a rock, a calm boulder that weather storms.
Leadership is actually the sum of these attributes. On primary Election Day, 100,000 U-tsang voters must take a leap and vote for Penpa Tsering!
Attend every Penpa Tsering talk in thousands. Every time he enters a stage for speech or debate in the coming months; serve him with screams, loud applause, and multiple standing ovations.
Slogans can be “The Leader of leaders!” “Samdhong Rinpoche’s son — Our Choice!” “Penpa Tsering, 2016 Sikyong!”
Will Penpa Tsering win?
Honestly at this point I am not sure he will win. 70% of the voters in exile are people from U-tsang province, my province. And my people are sleeping. Not only are they sleeping, but they admit their deep love for sleeping. It is as if a sleeping beauty contest is being conducted. They have invested so much in their sleep for so long that they refuse to be awakened. They resist and fight me to ask “Who are you to interfere in my sleep?” Their fallacious reasoning is that as long as a candidate is a good man it doesn’t matter who gets there. That’s as vague as it gets. Mark Twain said, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled!” How should we, supporters of Penpa Tsering, tackle this kind of rejection of reason?
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