Respected Honorable Sikyong,
I was rightfully alarmed at the tone and escalating attack on political prisoner turned activist and poet Lukar Jam after he lamented the death of the well-known Tibetologist Eliot Sperling. There was, as we all know, one particular reference (read, age “113”) that a section of the members of the public disapproved of. There was clearly a general consensus that Lukar Jam was within his constitutional rights to express his opinions on a public forum, and it is safe to aver that, notwithstanding the petition by a group condemning Mr Jam, the silent majority appears to agree that he has the right to say what he wants to say.
Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of democracy. What is the value of free speech if the exile government condemn expressions by the public? What is the point of free speech if we draw a line in the sand and say, “Well, you have free speech. But you don’t have free speech if you say things we don’t like to hear.”?
By and large, what is an ongoing affair of Mr Jam is not an isolated incident, but is symptomatic of a larger, more pervasive trend in the exile diaspora. We want to educate children, we fight against lack of free speech in Tibet, we say we are a great democracy. But the record shows that the Tibetan community continues to have a very poor record in defending the free speech of our intellectuals and thinkers. We have in the past 60 years managed to produce only a handful of intellectuals, but weird as it may sound, the Tibetan government in exile seem to have no respect for any of them. Remember Dawa Norbu. Remember Jamayang Norbu. Remember Lukar Jam. In the western democracies, the governments routinely protect outspoken individuals whose views are at odds with the larger public, and it is deemed the positive obligation of the state to give protection.
But who is going to protect Mr Jam if physical attacks happen against him? Judging by the hue and cry surrounding his controversial Facebook post, a real risk to his life can not be ruled out.
I am writing, your honour, to ask if you could guarantee that Mr Jam’s constitutional freedoms will protected at any cost, and that he be provided personal security against vigilante attacks. In the event that protection is refused, then a group of activists will approach the Indian government for his security.
I look forward to your reply.
16 March 2017
"Lukar Jam’s poem in tribute to Elliot Sperling", in original Tibetan and in English translation, is published here on Tibet Sun on 14 March 2017.
"Tibetans condemn Lukar Jam for attacking the Dalai Lama" is here on Tibet Sun, 11 March 2017.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily that of Tibet Sun