MCLEOD GANJ, India, 26 May 2016
The dust of the 2016 Tibetan election has now settled with the declaration of election results for Sikyong and Tibetan Parliament by the CTA Election Commission on 27 April 2016. I congratulate Dr Sangay for winning the Sikyong election for the second term and wish him all the best for his upcoming five years at the helm of Kashag (known to be Tibetan version of PMO [India Prime Minister’s Office]). It might be the right time as well to write on the next five years’ Sikyong prospects, even though it may seem too early to read about.
Five years from now if the situation remains the same, surely there will be an election for Sikyong and Parliament again in 2021 to move on with the exile administration. I was actually in the near conviction that Dr Sangay would be able to realize the Tibetan dream of enabling His Holiness to return to Tibet, but it didn’t materialize. Instead, we are bound to wait for two or three decades at the least for either China to change politically or Tibet to resolve issues with the invader.
The wait is going to make more elections at five-year intervals in exile, and we must give some thought to it while choosing candidates. I don’t want people to decide who they are going to vote for just a few days ahead of the election. I want them to mind every year at least about who are likely to be booming leaders in the future.
If you are not blind and have seen or read, Gyari Dolma needs no mention. She is perhaps the most popular woman figure in Tibetan exile political circles, and hails from the prestigious Gyari clan. Loaded with profound political experiences since her young years in both TYC and TWA, exile’s two most popular associations, she was later a four-time member of the Tibetan Parliament and the first-ever woman vice speaker. She has a great following both in India and abroad. If we are looking for any first woman Sikyong in CTA, she could possibly be the most deserving leader to take up the post, subject to the people’s vote. Her brother Gyari Lodi Gyaltsen, alias Gyari Rinpoche, once served both as Speaker (the youngest ever at the age of 30) and minister of CTA during his youthful age and later became the special envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in leading talks with Chinese authorities. Her other brother, Gyari Bhutuk is a longtime Tibetan MP. If she wasn’t nominated for Kalon for the second term, mark my word, she is one serious candidate for Sikyong in 2021.
He hailed from a troubled Tibetan refugee family based in Bylakuppe, the foremost Tibetan refugee camp in India. His rise to political leadership had not been easy both on public and personal fronts. He is the only Parliament Speaker who had walked on the most rugged roads to attain the political leadership. His leadership qualities were well known during his school and college years. Educated at one of India’s top ten colleges, he is said to have been mentored by Prof Samdhong Rinpoche. His long experience as MP and later twice as speaker are an advantage. This man hardly has any complaints of failure or inept functioning during his twenty-year stint as MP. His early financial issues served as a stumbling block to his academic career, else he could have been a rising star behind the veil of Prof Samdhong Rinpoche on the lines of Lobsang Nyandak and Thupten Lungrig. His defeat in the 2016 Sikyong election was mainly due to the pro-incumbency factor in exile, where a sitting Sikyong or Katri is unlikely to lose an election for a second term, be it Prof Samdhong Rinpoche or Dr Lobsang Sangay or any other person holding the post. It is due to the electoral or voting behavior or mindset of Tibetan exiles. A very firm and affirmative on political stance following His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s sincere approach, he is bound to be strongest contender for 2021 Sikyong election.
Known to be the most promising and aspiring lady in exile after Gyari Dolma, she has the huge advantage of being the front-runner in the 2021 Sikyong race if Gyari Dolma refuses to contest or fails to win support in the primaries. She worked in TWA and has very good oratorical skills, which is most important for an election race. In 2011 she became the youngest Tibetan MP to have occupied Tibetan Parliament, and in the 2016 election received the highest vote beating many heavyweights from her constituency of U-Tsang. She could have become a wonderful Minister for Information and International Relations in Dr Sangay’s second term if she wasn’t pursuing her Ph.D abroad. Anyhow, given her industriousness and seriousness both in political activities and intellectual pursuits, she is bound to be our own Hillary Clinton of 2021 soon.
Dagpo Sonam Norbu
It would be an exaggeration to add that only political activist is the one engaged in Tibetan freedom activities. The whole CTA officialdom can well be considered a machine in action for freedom of Tibet. There are several individuals in the bureaucratic circle whose sincere and active functioning deserves a certain amount of positions if they are willing, though I don’t know much about the Gangchen Kyisong bureaucrat circles unless he or she is a political head. However, certain interesting and charismatic bureaucrats coupled with their experience and educational qualifications deserve mentioning at least in the eyes of people. Educated at the Kennedy School of Government in the US, this charismatic International Relations Secretary is bound to be a valuable man as candidate for Sikyong in 2021 if he chooses to run. Firm, solid, and oratory too, he served in various capacities in foreign missions during his stint as CTA official. He was also among the members headed by then special envoy Gyari Lodi Gyaltsen and envoy Kalsang Gyaltsen in talks with Beijing in 2002.
He is very charismatic and impressive. My first meeting with him was during a workshop where we eagerly stormed his office for interaction, and he was such a communicative man as finance minister. His capability has been noted by Prof Samdhong Rinpoche and he was nominated as minister. However, he failed to secure the support of Parliament in his second innings. The former Tibetan US representative who is currently heading Tibet Fund will be interested if people support him in the primary.
Tashi Wangdi deserves special mention, though he is unlikely to be in the race for Sikyong in 2021. The only man in exile who had not been accommodated well politically by CTA and the Tibetan people in exile is none other than our own version of India’s Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Tashi Wangdi. Truly honest and selfless in service, this man deserved to be the Prime Minister or Kalon Tripa back in 2011, when he lost to both Dr Sangay and Tethong. If you visit each CTA department and look around, you wouldn’t miss seeing his photo aligned or framed along with other Kalons or Ministers in their respective departments. But he may be too old, and personally may not have any interest in elections. However, he will remain in our exile history as the longest-PM-in-waiting, whose coveted post had never been made to be realized. I would blame it on us than him. But he must have little blame to share for being ambivalent in the 2011 election. His peers include Kasur Tenpa Tsering, Gyari Lodi Gyaltsen, and the Tethongs. I always wished him to be our Katri or Sikyong. His sincerity is unparalleled in both CTA and political circles.
About the author
Doring Tenzin alias Tenzin Phuntsok has an MPhil in Political Science from Madras University. He was a former General Secretary of the National Democratic Party of Tibet. His first book My Name is Tenzin, I am not Chinese -- An Exile Tibetan Boy’s College Life is to be released soon.