By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 6 December 2017
Penpa Tsering responded Tuesday to the Cabinet’s charges against him regarding his termination from the post of Representative of the Dalai Lama in North America. He presented a 97-page document which contained arguments refuting each point, and claimed that the charges were intended to blacken his reputation.
He challenged the Cabinet to prove their allegations with documentation, and said that failing to respond, he will take further action.
“I am a human being. I have family and friends. Even they will be dragged down because of the charges against me. I will not let this issue go scot-free,” Penpa Tsering said during a press conference that took more than three hours.
He said that he didn’t start the fire, and that the current commotion in the Tibetan community was a result of the actions of the Cabinet of the Central Tibetan Administration led by its President Lobsang Sangay.
He repeated his previous statements that although he did not accept the Cabinet’s accusations, he did accept the termination order, as it was the Cabinet’s prerogative to terminate the services of the Representatives.
Penpa Tsering said that Sangay initially approached him for an appointment as the Representative in Belgium, a post the liaises with the European Union. But later, he was told that he has been appointed the North American Representative based in Washington DC.
He felt there was a fissure even before going to DC to take over the position. He said that he met with Sangay in Delhi to seek his guidance, particularly to follow up on any CTA funding intiatives. Previous Representatives had the responsibility to manage the US government funds provided through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). He felt that Sangay disconnected him from these responsibilities, signalling a lack of trust right from the beginning.
The 10 points and rebuttals
The Cabinet issued a 10-point clarification on 18 November of the reasons for Penpa Tsering’s termination on 7 November. Penpa Tsering said that the ten points were forced to create some reasons for his dismissal.
The first point was an introduction stating that there was a growing trust deficit, under-performance, and insubordination. A few days before issuing the 10-point document, the Kashag said that three warnings were served, but Penpa said that he received only one.
With regard to point two, which accused him of not submitting any formal reports, he said an order had been issued by the Department of Information and International Relations of the CTA to submit reports only on 20 April 2017. He showed documentation proof to that. He further said that the accusation that no reports were sent during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US was in early April, prior to the DIIR’s letter.
Point three cited as a case of insubordination, his announcement of Kunga Tashi as Chinese Liaison Officer in New York, and he said this lacked any truth. “I didn’t announce him as an appointee. I told the people of New York that approval has been sought from the Cabinet, once approved he will be appointed.”
“I have made this clear through the DIIR, and when they got the picture clear, I never got any further inquiries about that.”
Point four concerned “not following DIIR’s mandatory standing order” and not reporting “Dholgyal-related activities.” He said that the welcome rally by some Dholgyal followers to Xi Jinping had been reported to the Secretary of the Department of Security of the CTA, and further, that the accusation of not following DIIR’s order to send reports was after the event, as Xi was in the US in early April, and DIIR sent the order to all the Representatives on 20 April.
The juxtaposition of the Dholgyal’s welcome to Xi in April and the Dalai Lama’s visit to the US in June are precarious, and raises the question of the coorelation of the two events. “It feels like a design to look for faults in order to terminate me had already been happening.”
The fifth point accused Penpa Tsering of being “unable to schedule any such meetings for Sikyong” with Speaker of the House, or the Majority Leader of the Senate, or even with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
To this, Penpa Tsering stated that the documents would speak for themselves. He showed several documents to prove that he contacted and tried to schedule meetings, but because of scheduling conflicts of the US leaders, no meetings materialised. “We had short notice of Sikyong’s visit, and we were unable to resolve schedule conflicts. Would it be right to blame me for these things which are out of my control.”
He questioned how many of his predecessors from 2011 had scheduled meetings of Sangay with US leaders. “Have they been warned about not arranging meetings?”
Challenging the accusation of “negligence raising funds” in point six of the Cabinet’s reason, Penpa Tsering said that there was a new Donald Trump administration, and many new contacts to be made. But despite that, his requests to State and Foreign Operations ranking members helped to get continued funding assistance for Tibetans from the US government.
To point seven, the “closure of five bank accounts” of the Office of Tibet in Washington, Penpa Tsering said that due to political reasons, CitiBank announced the closure of the five accounts. “There wasn’t anything we could do about the closure.”
“We informed the DIIR Secretary, and acted promptly as per Sikyong’s order to disperse funds to other Offices of Tibet. Sikyong’s claim that a huge loss in tax had occurred was a lie, as there wasn’t any loss in tax. The closure was not due to my negligence. The closure notice came all of a sudden for political reasons.”
He further added that Sikyong was misinforming the public, and providing incomplete information and twisting the facts.
Regarding the 1.5-million-dollar issue raised in point eight, which stated “the amount was not a loan”, but an amount that Tibet Fund had contributed and did not expect to be paid back, Penpa Tsering said that the accounting of Tibet Fund shows the amount as a loan every year.
The Office of Tibet building was purchased for 2.6 million dollars in August 2014, with a contribution of 1.3 million dollars from Ganden Phodrang and a 1.5-million-dollar loan from Tibet Fund.
Penpa Tsering said that Tibet Fund continued to show 1.5 million as a loan, but there wasn’t any documentation showing that the Office of Tibet is liable for repayment of the loan.
During the audit of the accounts of the Office of Tibet, Penpa Tsering asked the auditor how best to solve this issue so that there would not be a problem in the future. The auditor told him that he would ask his senior in Dharamshala about finding a solution.
However, the matter appeared in the audit report. Sikyong then summoned the Auditor General twice for showing the issue in the audit report. Penpa Tsering was charged by Sikyong for instigating the auditor to mention the loan issue in the audit report, failing which he would not sign the report. “I never thought it would become an issue. I was only trying to find a solution. The charge that I will not sign the audit report if the issue was not mentioned was a lie. The auditor could be asked, and what I said to the auditor could be asked to all the staff members of the Office of Tibet.”
“If raising such an issue was seen as insubordination, then why should there be meetings? If we are not able to raise issues and are to just follow orders, wouldn’t that be an autocracy, not a democracy?”
Concerning point nine, Penpa Tsering accepted that he had a long chat one evening with Dhardon Sharling, the DIIR Secretary, but denied the Cabinet’s charge that “he tried hard to convince a female Kalon nominee against working with Sikyong.”
He said, “all those present should be asked about what he had said during the gathering.”
The tenth point was a summary of the firing of Penpa Tsering and of providing for his replacement.