(By Tsering Passang, London)
In May 2011, I told Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay in Dharamsala that I did not cast my vote to him during the 2011 Kalon Tripa election. He simply returned a smile. And then I said, ‘Majority of the Tibetan people elected you to lead the Tibet Movement as the Executive Head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and it is now your responsibility to fulfil their aspirations. I accept the election result and I will now be supporting you as my political leader as well’.
The incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay won the 2011 election with a big margin against the two heavyweight candidates – Trisur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Kasur Tashi Wangdi, who both served in the Kashag (Tibetan cabinet). Sikyong Sangay recently stated that he still enjoys a good and cordial relation with the two CTA veterans, who between them had accumulated over 70 years of public service in the Central Tibetan Administration.
In the 2016 final Sikyong election, there is only one challenger against the incumbent Sikyong Dr Sangay, who is seeking his re-election to complete the foundation of works he started during his first term. The contender is the incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, who comes across as a strong Middle-Way advocate. Tsering bagged just over 10,000 votes in the preliminary round last autumn whilst Sangay scored over a massive 30,000 votes.
Last year, Tshoktso Penpa Tsering publicly stated that he would refuse to share platforms with the Rangzen (Tibetan independence) advocate, Mr Lukar Jam, who secured third in the Sikyong’s preliminary election. The former Tibetan political prisoner failed to make it to the final round of Sikyong election due to new rules set out by the Central Election Commission.
Unlike the incumbent Speaker, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay chose not to take the hard-line stance against the former Tibetan political prisoner, who is also the current President of GuChuSum, a well-respected Tibetan NGO representing ex-political prisoners, who all escaped from Tibet into exile. The GuChuSum changed its political stance from Rangzen to Middle-Way approach in recent years.
In this 2016 Sikyong election, we have been witnessing a big change compared to the 2011 Kalon Tripa election. Unlike the previous elections, the current two Sikyong candidates criticise each other, which is acceptable as this is a part of the democratic practice. What is unfortunate is that there are strong negative campaigns on both sides compared to the 2011 election. These were primarily initiated and carried out by the candidates’ respective supporters/camps; some are utterly baseless, which are uncalled for. The Tibetan democracy and the Tibetan electorates deserve better than this.
My personal observation on the incumbents Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Tshoktso Penpa Tsering
The Tibetans in Exile have a wonderful opportunity to elect their Political Leader who can represent them both at home and abroad. We should be able to place our confidence in the chosen candidate, who will be serving the Tibetan people during the next five years as our Sikyong.
In my view, it is better to look objectively at what these two candidates have done in the past, at least during the past four to five years in their respective offices and then analyse and decide whether the candidates are likely to deliver what they said they would do for the Tibetan people to secure freedom and justice in Tibet whilst getting the Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration and its affiliated bodies in the Indian sub-continent and abroad, in order or not during the next five years as Sikyong.
The Incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering
I think Tshoktso Penpa Tsering has done an amazing job as Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament who conducted its affairs in good order during this last parliamentary term. There was only one exception when he briefly walked-out of the parliament after a Chithue raised a previously unfounded allegation against the Speaker.
Tshoktso Penpa Tsering has travelled extensively with his parliamentary colleagues and promoted the Tibetan cause in many countries in addition to his parliamentary duties in Dharamsala.
Tshoktso Penpa Tsering also seems to have some good ideas on strengthening the Tibetan communities outside the Indian sub-continent amongst his other initiatives but we have not heard these in details.
We would like to know how Tshoktso Penpa Tsering intends to implement those good ideas into practical actions, including raising the required capital funds.
We would also certainly like to hear more of his plans and policies to bring about alternative change to the incumbent Sikyong’s legacy rather than dwelling on the Kalachakra postponement and other less important issues.
Tshoktso Penpa Tsering did say that he was unable to organise the planned International Convention of World Parliamentarians for Tibet this past year due to some technicalities but nonetheless he did organise such conventions in the past, drawing international parliamentarians’ support for Tibet, which shows his capabilities.
The Incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay
Over the past four years, I have been observing Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and his administration very closely. Surprisingly, the Harvard legal scholar, who had no previous experience in administration, impressed me tremendously especially with his smart move as the ‘People’s Sikyong’ both at home and abroad.
To start with, Sikyong Sangay formed a great Kashag team, who delivered the public services beyond expectation. The only unfortunate news is the untimely resignation of Kasur Dicki Chhoyang from the Kashag.* (Please see the postscript section at the bottom of the article for details on the resignation issue.)
Some of the achievements observed over the past four years:
Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay knows how the media world works. He uses it effectively to raise the plight of Tibet throughout the world.
Sikyong Sangay sets his aims and objects high when visiting foreign countries. He is unafraid to meet with foreign leaders, senior officials and politicians to garner support for Tibet and the Tibetan people both politically and through other practical means.
As alumni of Harvard, Sikyong Sangay has an added advantage which he uses unashamedly in his favour to share the story of Tibet and the Tibetan people to influential people. He was invited by numerous high-profiled Think Tanks and delivered lectures on Tibet in various countries in addition to speaking in front of over tens of thousands of students, a move likely to engage new young supporters for Tibet.
Sikyong Sangay said that he wanted to build direct link between Washington and Dharamsala, which he did. The New York-based Office of Tibet was moved to the newly acquired office buildings in Washington.
Evidence of improved ties with the United States is visible after President Obama publicly supported the Middle-Way policy, championed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 2014.
More frequent visits by international dignitaries to Dharamsala observed in recent years. Institutional grants, US government and other foreign grants increased during Sikyong Sangay’s administration to support the Tibetan refugee community.
Most importantly, relations with the Indian Government both at the central and the states level have developed further under the incumbent administration. Thanks to the amazing work of Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and his star colleague Kalon Gyari Dolma, who fully supports the incumbent Sikyong’s re-election.
These all show that the incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay is capable of garnering increased political as well as other practical support from countries such as the US, Canada and India, who are close allies of Tibet and the Tibetan people.
Department of Home:
The FRR Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has recently provided a grant-in-aid of Rs. 40 Crore for a period of 5 years commencing from 2015 – 2016 to 2019 – 2020 to the extent of Rs. 8 crore per annum. The aid is provided to supplement the administrative expenses incurred by Tibetan settlements in India.
This is an amazing work of the CTA’s Department of Home towards the sustenance of the Tibetan settlements in India.
Department of Education:
- Increased scholarships for Tibetan students in India, Nepal and Bhutan;
- Increased and reserved scholarships for Tibetan students in Nepal
What it shows is that the Sangay’s administration can raise funds to support the education of young Tibetan students in colleges or universities with a long term goal to create a self-reliant community, once educated/qualified.
The previous yearly scholarships of 150 for college/university students, is now increased to over 630 scholarships per year. This is a massive increase!
Department of Finance:
(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2015/03/state-of-cta-finance-is-good/ )
In four and half years, the CTA budget has increased by over 100%. That is amazing achievement. In 2010, the annual CTA budget was just over 1 billion Indian rupees. In 2015-2016, the CTA budget increased to just over 2 billion Indian rupees. In 2016-2017, the CTA budget will increase to 2.2 billion Indian rupees.
The incumbent Sikyong recently stated that based on needs of the exiled community and from his past record, he is confident of sourcing new untapped funds to reach the annual budget to 2.5 billion (2500 million) Indian rupees by the end of the next Sikyong’s office term.
Department of Security:
Securing enhanced security services for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in human resource as well as financial and high-end technologies that enable the landing of plane ferrying His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Gaggal airport in the outskirt of Dharamsala during the poor weather from the concerned State and Central governments is a massive contribution.
Department of Health:
“In 2009 CTA survey, it was found that over 45% of the Tibetan exile community suffers from diseases such as Cancer, Tuberculosis, Liver cirrhosis, Diabetes and heart diseases, which require a high degree of secondary and tertiary care. Lack of an adequate healthcare coverage has been a major cause of high mortality as well as a primary cause of poverty and financial insecurity amongst the community.
Under the leadership of the Kashag of Honorable Sikyong Dr.Lobsang Sangay, the Department of Health had launched the implementation of TMS Health Plan on 1st April, 2012. Since then, TMS is being implemented successfully, for close to four years now and has provided an equitable and comprehensive healthcare coverage to the Tibetans living in India. During last four years, 49,000 Tibetans have enrolled in the TMS and more than 2000 have availed the benefits till date. However, more participation of the Tibetan public is crucial to build TMS stronger and self-reliant; and to pre-empt financial constraints faced by the Tibetans during medical emergencies.
The revised TMS Health Plan got operational from 1st April 2015 and aims to further strengthen health care mechanisms by providing sustainability to the existing TMS Health plan. With this, the revised TMS Health Plan proposes to cover all the exile Tibetan population in India.”
Based on these findings, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay has finally earned my vote in 2016! Although I extend my best wishes to both candidates but I will be praying for the incumbent Sikyong Dr Sangay’s victory in this forthcoming election which will be held on 20th March.
In the next five years, I would like to see Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay to complete his unfinished tasks and pursue more political as well as related practical support for Tibet and the Tibetan people from Europe and Asia Pacific regions.
*Postscript: Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay formed a great Kashag team in 2011. The only unfortunate news is the untimely resignation of Kasur Dicki Chhoyang from the Kashag. It is a blow to the Sangay camp as Chhoyang’s resignation comes at a critical moment of weeks before the final election which is to be held on 20 March. The erstwhile Kalon chose to submit her resignation on a weekend by visiting the Sikyong’s residence. She immediately called a press conference after tendering her resignation to the Sikyong.
In politics, resignations, back-stabbing and defection take place. It’s nothing unusual but the calm and unshaken Sikyong Sangay knows how to handle the situation. After the urgent meeting of his Kashag team on the same day of Chhoyang’s resignation, the incumbent Sikyong called a press conference and updated the latest development to the public.
Many speculated implosion within Dr Lobsang Sangay’s Kashag team after Kasur Chhoyang’s resignation but the remaining Kalons reassured their full support and trust in the incumbent Sikyong Sangay for his outstanding leadership as well as for his re-election.
Days later Kasur Chhoyang released a written document outlining qualities of a Sikyong. Chhoyang said that she supports the incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering as the next Sikyong. There is no doubt that her defection is a carefully planned political move to take vengeance against the incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay. It may well be that she knew Sangay was not going to reappoint her as a Kalon in the next Kashag.
To be fair we do not know the ins and outs of the situations and decision that led Kasur Chhoyang to resign from the incumbent Kashag but I did learn from a non-Tibetan a few years ago that Chhoyang was unhappy in her role as a Kalon at the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).
One can safely conclude that Kasur Chhoyang was unhappy with the Sikyong and therefore she carefully planned her defection for weeks, if not for months, to disrupt Sangay’s re-election. I do not think Sikyong Sangay expected this unpleasant news at the critical moment but this betrayal did shock Chhoyang’s other former colleagues.