By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 1 November 2020
Social media influencer Mila Rangzen from Jersey City, New Jersey, US, has lost his rights to vote or stand in elections as the Tibetan Election Commission (EC) penalised him for a comment against a member of the Tibetan exile Parliament who is running for re-election.
The verdict issued by the Tibetan Election Commission in Dharamshala on Friday found Rangzen guilty of vilifying Member of Parliament (MP) Tenzin Jamyang for voting for a non-U-Tsang candidate as Speaker of the Parliament in 2016.
Rangzen, who runs the Tibet Star YouTube channel, accused Tenzin Jamyang of voting for someone from other than his own province, U-Tsang, for the post of Speaker. He posted the video on his channel on 8 September.
Khenpo Sonam Tenphel from Kham province was Speaker for half of the five-year term after the 2016 elections. The other half of the five-year term is being served by current Speaker Pema Jungney, as there was a tie in the number of votes for Speaker.
Jamyang became MP after Dhardon Sharling’s seat became vacant following Lobsang Sangay, President of Central Tibetan Administration, offered to make her a minister. When Jamyang became a member the Speaker’s post had already been decided.
The Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile is chosen by the 45 elected members of the Parliament. A member can vote for any MP from any province for the Speaker’s post.
Rangzen, an U-Tsang supremacist, apart from accusing Jamyang of voting for a non-U-Tsang member as speaker, asked all the voters from U-Tsang in India and Nepal not to vote for Jamyang.
Stating Rangzen’s charge as baseless, Jamyang complained to EC that Rangzen was hurting his reputation and causing a conspiracy against him to stop getting votes for him. Jamyang’s complaint was lodged a day after Rangzen’s post on YouTube on 8 September.
The EC found Rangzen to be in violation of Article 24 (3) of the election rules, and asked Rangzen to take down the video, which he refused to do. The EC then issued the verdict stripping him of the rights to vote or stand for election, till October 2028, for willfully vilifying Tenzin Jamyang to stop him from election victory, and engaging in divisive behaviour.
Answering queries from Tibet Sun, Rangzen said, “I stand by the allegation that I hurled at MP Tenzin Jamyang for voting Khenpo Tenphel as the Speaker of the current parliament. This is not a lie or a loose talk as he claims… To shoot him straight, I refuse to withdraw/delete the video until the election is over.”
He added, “I despise U-Tsangs who possess neither provincial pride nor courage, and without these two qualities, no U-Tsang can claim love and care for his province.”
Further accusing Jamyang, Rangzen asked, “Did he walk out of the Parliament when MP Tenpa Yarphel insulted His Holiness and Nechung Dralha Chenmo in 2018? No. Did he condemn Tulku Urgyen Topgyal when he called His Holiness a demon and a destroyer of Buddhism? No.”
Saying that it is the people’s responsibility to closely and critically monitor the candidates standing in the elections, he said, “It is my right and freedom of speech to tell voters whom to vote for or not. Election rules might be necessary, but they should make sense. You can’t take away my voting rights on such flimsy ground.”
Tibetans around the world will go to the polls on 3 January for the first round of voting to nominate the candidates. The final round of voting will be held on 11 April.