By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 21 August 2019
The highest-profile court case in exile Tibetan history had its final hearing today, with both plaintiff and defendant mounting attack and counterattack to make their points, in the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission in Dharamshala.
Known as Case no 20, a defamation lawsuit was filed by Penpa Tsering, former Representative of the Dalai Lama in Washington DC, against the exile Tibetan Cabinet led by Lobsang Sangay of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), in May 2018.
Complainant Penpa Tsering alleged that the 10 reasons announced by the Cabinet for ousting him from the DC post in November 2017 were baseless and intended to tarnish his image.
Defendant lawyer Lobsang Dakpa claimed that the Cabinet did have merit in their reasons, saying that they found a growing trust deficit, under-performance, and insubordination on the part of the plaintiff.
Today’s hearing addressed the last point in the charges of the Cabinet, with the defendant saying that no one incident triggered their decision, but multiple lapses and an erosion of trust and confidence.
The issue as to whether or not the US$1.5-million received by CTA from Tibet Fund was a loan dominated the proceedings. Penpa Tsering claimed that the $1.5 million that CTA acquired from Tibet Fund to purchase a new Office of Tibet building in Washington DC was recorded by Tibet Fund as a loan, and that CTA should have a document saying the same. Otherwise there could be a problem if auditors in the US come to know about the discrepancy.
Rejecting the idea that the amount was a loan, defending lawyer Lobsang Dakpa said that $1.5 million is what the Tibet Fund owes CTA. He said that Tibet Fund records are now showing that $700,000 has been written off, and that the remaining will be written off in January 2021.
Penpa Tsering had raised the issue of the $1.5-million loan to CTA President Lobsang Sangay on several occasions, and never got a satisfying reply. He contends that this loan issue is the root cause of the allegations against him.
In a previous hearing on this case, witnesses from both sides had been examined. Chief among them was Sharling Dhardon, who was brought by the Cabinet as evidence in the point that Penpa Tsering was not trustworthy. Dhardon claimed that Penpa Tsering had told her not to accept the post of Minister that Lobsang Sangay was offering.
Penpa Tsering brought Jigme Tsultrim, a senior staff member of CTA, to counter Dhardon’s allegation.
A man came from New York City to stand witness for the Cabinet. He alleged that Penpa Tsering showed insubordination by saying, “I do not want to go with a man who only speaks about self,” while travelling with him in his car.
The lengthy proceedings came to a close with both sides making their final statements and requests to the court.
Plaintiff Penpa Tsering’s lawyer Namgyal Tsekey requested the court that if the judgment is in their favour, that the court ask the Cabinet to publicly announce the judgment, to publish it on all their media outlets in both Tibetan and English, to circulate it to all the settlement officers for announcement to the public, and to pay the lawyer’s fees.
Lobsang Dakpa said that the Cabinet had no demands, but would request Tibetans to maintain stability and unity after the verdict.
Concluding the day’s business, chief justice Kargyu Dhondup said that the verdict would be announced later.