TORONTO, Canada, 17 September 2020
Recently as I opened TibetSun.com — an English-medium news website on Tibet issues — I came across an article “Sikyong election 2021 and our collective future” penned by Tsewang Rigzin, a research fellow at the prestigious Columbia University. His opinion incorporates the overall image, positive qualities and personality of Dongchung Ngodup, and provided reasons for why he is endorsing Dongchung Ngodup for Sikyong (political leader) 2021. I hereby can’t agree more with the content of Tsewang’s column, and in fact this following piece is in continuation of his by highlighting a few more additional qualities of Dongchung Ngodup that makes him the most deserving candidate for Sikyong 2020. I, at the same time, equally share the author’s sentiment of high regards for the other Sikyong candidates and in whatsoever, do not undermine their service to Tibetan community, their competency, and their loyalty to the Tibetan people. In the following account, I narrowed down Kasur Dongchung Ngodup’s attributes into a few key points, and will attempt to justify why he is the rightful candidate for that seat.
Preservation of Tibetan language
Regardless of our political stances or goal — Rangzen (Independence) visioneers or Umaylam (Autonomy) aspirants — there is no denying the fact that Tibetan culture, and our language in particular, has been an inalienable part of our struggle. I personally think (hope this view is shared by many) that as long as Tibetan language survives, there is a hope for our future, which is why Tibetan schools were established — set aside from mainstream Indian schools — in the beginning of our exile history, so as to keep the seed of Tibetan language alive. In the histories of the cultural genocides of Canada, US, or Australia, the essence — which is, the culture and language of Indigenous people (native) — were marginalized and eradicated, consequently leaving the natives unable to trace their origin. Similar incidents occur in China-occupied Xinjang, where millions of Uyghurs were undergoing cultural genocide and language persecution, under the pretext of re-education by the Chinese government.
In our context, there is a fear of losing our Tibetan language in Tibet under Chinese government’s Sinicization policy, and gradual unfortunate involuntary disappearance of language amongst exile Tibetans following our culture being diluted in foreign countries. The late 10th Panchen Lama, realizing this vulnerability, emphasized the significance of preservation of Tibetan language, and even demanded it in his 70,000 characters petition to the Chinese government. In his own words, he stated “Tibetan language is the soul of the Tibetan people.” Dongchung Ngodup — having served the Central Tibetan Administration for almost four decades where Tibetan language has been an indispensable medium in administering the organization — is a significant figure who has a thorough, spontaneous, and fluency in the Tibetan language. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say he is an epitome and most viable candidate in this aspect.
Sustenance of unity
Every election is a learning process, and no election process is perfect in any kind of democracy. Our exile Tibetan community is no exception from that. The last Sikyong election phase has created a minor disturbance — otherwise a smooth transition — in our community. I often compare it to a slight turbulence on the surface of the ocean, yet calm underneath. A sense of regionalism or regional chauvinism — whatever you name it — has become evident in our community. Let us stop sweeping it under the rug and instead let’s call a spade a spade. In the service record of Dongchung Ngodup, in his numerous capacities as under-secretary, secretary, and minister (Kalon) of Central Tibetan Administration, there has never been a single incident of someone being treated unfairly based on their region (cholka) or sect (choluk). For instance, under the discretion of the Department of Security — where Dongchung Ngodup served the longest period — several hundred Tibetans (former political prisoners) were shortlisted and eventually emigrated to Australia. The list of beneficiaries involves Tibetans from all regional and sectarian backgrounds, and not a single case of scandal (unfair or unjust selection process) occurred.
In fact, in the past few weeks, we have noticed many Tibetan former political prisoners from all regional affiliation — notably Ngawang Sandrol who spent 23 years of imprisonment — endorsing, and at times a few even pleading, for Dongchung Ngodup to contend for the Sikyong seat. Last year Dongchung Ngodup was honoured with the Third Golden Award in Rikon, Switzerland, in recognition of his selfless contribution to the Tibetan people. In another instance, a gratitude ceremony was observed a few years ago in honour of his forty years of service in the Central Tibetan Administration. These are a few examples among his numerous accolades. His stature was spoken of highly — by not only the staff of the Central Tibetan Administration and by Tibetans in exile, but also by Tibetans living inside Tibet. Former US president Barack Obama was initially a small community organizer in Chicago — who was favoured, respected and liked by community members because of his equal treatment of diverse people in the racially-divided US — before he was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America.
A man of integrity and conscience
In consideration of Dongchung Ngodup’s exuberant characteristics, I recently inquired of someone as to what ways I could contribute to Dongchung Ngodup’s campaign. He promptly responded, “Dongchung Ngodup has two underlying conditions for his supporters. His first condition was: his supporters must not misuse or politicize the name of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Samdhong Rinpoche, in support of him (there is no denying the fact that such unethical act has lately become a trend in our political arena in procurement of vote). Second, his supporters, aside from constructive criticism, must not whatsoever, defame or vilify other Sikyong candidates who are equally capable and honest veterans in service of Tibetan people”.
Later when I discussed these primary conditions with a few friends in our informal political discussions in the context of the upcoming Sikyong election, they were impressed by Dongchung Ngodup’s principle and integrity. I am not attempting to be judgmental or ethnocentric here: Winning by fair means is in our Tibetan culture, but winning at the cost of other candidates is not.
His ethics and morality
In his recent interview with Voice of Tibet, Dongchung Ngodup has said, “As of now, I don’t have any intention to make unrealistic slogans and engage in an unethical and extravagant campaign to procure votes in the upcoming Sikyong election. I leave the choice with each individual to vote after thorough research using their own intelligence.” I think these are noble and exemplary words. Our community has in the last election witnessed and experienced some empty campaign rhetorics partly comparable to the on-going rhetorics in the current US election campaign in which President Trump and Joe Biden were engaged in utterly disgraceful acts of name-calling and backlashing, consequently leaving the US in a polarized state. Some campaign strategies were extravagant and pseudo-Western.
I don’t argue that we should not have slogans, but those slogans have to be pragmatic and need to be examined by studying the past record of the very candidate who makes them. We are in need of someone who not only talks, but also walks the talk. It is time perhaps for us to pause and reflect on our pseudo-Western campaign style, and also not to overlook the relevance of it to our community. Perhaps abstaining from this self-aggrandizing campaign strategy might consequently creates less disturbance than what was done in the last election process.
As a former civil servant in the Central Tibetan Administration, I can’t avoid Dongchung Ngodup’s sincerity, dedication to Tibetan people and Tibet nation in general, with a record of serving the Tibetan people for more than half of human-life-span, and more importantly, his integrity, personality, loyalty, hardworking is something that can’t go unnoticed. The Tibetan struggle is in a very deplorable and precarious state. With the advanced age of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, coupled with the gradual disappearance of our Tibetan language, we need a leader who has a strong moral stand and integrity in this troubled world. We need a leader whose loyalty to the Tibetan nation and Tibetan people is insurmountable and unquestionable. We need a leader whose determination and dedication is firm and consistent.
PS: The author extends sincere wishes to the rest of the other Sikyong candidates, and aspires to see the best contender win.
About the author
Kelsang Tsering is a TCV alumnus. He briefly studied for a Bachelor's in English literature from Delhi University, and thereafter worked as a civil servant in the Department of Health and Cabinet Secretariat in CTA. After finishing his nursing studies, he currently works at a hospital in Toronto.