BANGALORE, India, 17 October 2020
This upcoming Tibetan election is crucial for deciding the future of Tibet. In the global context, the majority of the developed countries are now challenging the influence of China. The Uyghur, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolia, Taiwan, and those who are suffering under the oppression of Chinese Communist Party are getting significant attention from the international community. The situation in Tibet is getting worse. At the same time, there is a huge demographic shift in our exiled community. It is now no longer confined within South Asia. About half of the exiled Tibetan population have migrated from India to over 20 countries.
Rather than focusing on unmeasurable criteria like level of one’s faith and assumptions, we should choose our Sikyong based on who can practically handle those challenges and take full advantages from the present international politics. I believe we should choose Mr Kelsang Dorjee (Kaydor) Aukatsang.
Main criteria for the post of Sikyong
Since the Tibetan election campaigns kicked off on 5th August 2020, we have so far eight Sikyong candidates. A few have impressive work experience and achievements. Hence merely past experience will not qualify them to become a great Sikyong. Here I’m not suggesting that past experiences and achievements are not important. But more than that we should focus on their vision and plan for the future. Our Sikyong has to work in a very tough environment. He or she must be fully prepared. Looking at our present situation, a candidate running for Sikyong without a proper vision and plan is very much like an empty-handed soldier jumping into the battlefield.
Our new Sikyong steadfastly will serve and shoulder huge responsibility for the next five years. The voters have the right to know how our new Sikyong is going to lead us. It’s the duty of the candidate to let the voters be fully aware of their future. Now is the time to question what degree of democracy we are actually enjoying if we try to choose our future leader without knowing their manifestos.
The great vision
Fortunately we have one promising candidate who has come up with a timely vision. He is Mr Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, former Representative of His Holiness the Great 14th the Dalai Lama for North America and former Director of Social and Resource Development (SARD). Unlike most of the other candidates, Mr Aukatsang’s reason for running for Sikyong was not driven by others’ opinions. His profound knowledge of the responsibilities of the role of Sikyong and the needs of the Tibetan community have made him take this important decision. In a very decent and professional way, Mr Aukatsang has his campaign moving forward very actively. Despite having lots of obstacles in this global pandemic era, Mr Aukatsang has started fulfilling the basic duty of a great candidate by educating the public about his vision for the future Tibet.
Mr Aukatsang’s plans can be read and heard in detail from his campaign website and public talks. He has prioritized five major issues. The first is about elevating the Tibetan freedom struggle. Under his leadership, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) will have more activism and less administration. He has a plan to launch various campaigns about our history as an independent nation, which will help to strengthen and highlight the practical aspect of the Middle-Way approach.
Secondly, he plans to modernise CTA through digital transformation or digital governance, for which he has gained valuable experience from his previous role as the Director of SARD. This plan will not only ensure more efficiency in administration, but also help CTA to become a transnational where the major programs will reach to all the Tibetans living in the three big communities (Tibet, South Asia, and Diaspora.)
Thirdly, Mr Aukatsang plans to ensure qualitative modern education with a unique Tibetan environment. Under his leadership, Tibetan schools will be consolidated into 15 to 20 schools. Currently we have 64-plus schools for only 15 thousand students. On average there is a school for every 200 students, which results in scattering of facilities and human resources. Most of the schools are now facing challenges in getting qualified teachers, especially for Tibetan and science subjects. The admission of Tibetan students has drastically declined due to the stoppage of newcomers from Tibet and demographic changes of exiled Tibetan communities. Therefore consolidation of Tibetan schools is again a timely measure in order to provide quality-based education to the seeds of our future.
Preservation of language and culture is a core concern of our freedom struggle. In his fourth issue, Mr Aukatsang focuses on preservation and promotion of language and culture. There will be a timely revamp of the Department of Religion and Culture. He wants to increase funds on arts, language, and cultural-oriented programs.
In his fifth issue, Mr Aukatsang talks about resilience of our community’s economic and development activities. From his role as the Director of SARD, we have witnessed his unmatchable capability for enhancing development activities within South Asia. His plans on resilient economics include strengthening relationships with the major donors. CTA will enter into public-private partnerships to promote development and economic self-reliance. Apart from providing financial aid to the economically needy Tibetans, CTA will move into investment and income-generation ventures which need to be more attempted, for example to expand the functions of Gang Jong Development Finance by gradually turning it into a Small Finance Bank.
Past experience and achievements
From his 23 years of service in the Tibetan freedom struggle and our communities, Mr Aukatsang has gained utmost understanding of the needs and opportunities of Tibetans in both South Asia and the West, which will surely help him in fulfilling his dream of transforming CTA into a transnational administration. His role as the special advisor to the current Sikyong has given him hands-on experience and knowledge about Sikyong’s responsibilities on a daily basis. From his role as the Representative of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama in North America, he succeeded in shifting Tibet Office from New York to Washington DC, where he served as a bridge between the US government and CTA. He successfully organised seven visits of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama to North America, which led to two historic meetings between His Holiness and President Obama.
At SARD, he took a primary role in formulating and organising various successful projects such as Five-Fifty Vision, Tibet Corps, and Gang Jong Development Finance. He was the key relationship manager with all of the large government funders for CTA. He has contributed a lot in increasing the US government’s annual funding awarded to Tibetan projects, from USD 2.9 million in 2016 to USD 12.5 million in 2020. SARD’s reserve fund increased from INR 1.27 crores (USD 170,169) to INR 37 crores (USD 4.95 million).
Apart from remarkable past achievements and future plans, there are many other reasons why we should vote for Mr Aukatsang. Let me write a few of them in brief.
Continuity of current important CTA projects
The biggest disadvantage of democracy is lack of continuation of development projects due to changes in leadership and policies. Luckily we have a great opportunity this time to avoid such disasters. Since Mr Aukatsang has taken a very significant role in the present Kashag’s administration, his winning will surely not cause any unnecessary disruptions for ongoing CTA projects. Major development principles and policies of the current Kashag are included in its Five-Fifty Vision, and he is the number one person when it comes to implementing it. We can find a lot of elements from his five major campaign slogans which are in tandem with current Kashag’s agendas and implementations.
Bringing Tibetans together with common focus
Because of his late father’s influence, his work experiences, educational background, and his personality, Mr Aukatsang has the leadership quality to lead Tibetans from all age groups and political interests under one umbrella. He has a dream to reawaken the spirit and dedication of the older generation, likewise to empower the youth by ensuring more involvement in CTA and our freedom struggle. From his campaign slogan with the five key issues, one can clearly see the importance he has given to the unity of Tibetans. He will harness the collective energy of all Tibetans by reminding us that we are One Nation, One People, and One Struggle. His administration will provide a friendly and liberal impetus to all political interests.
China policy and international relations
Mr Aukatsang has practical experience in working with various international agencies, ranging from government relations, diplomacy, philanthropic advising, community development works, and policy planning, with emphasis on strategic planning, operations, program design, research and analysis, writing, and project management. He has done his Master’s Degree in International Trade Relationships and Chinese Foreign Policy. Every aspect of the world nowadays is shaped and influenced by international trade relationships between major power holders. Hence his past work experience and knowledge of international and Chinese policies will further make him a perfect choice for our next Sikyong at this critical juncture.
There is no time for regionalism and power struggles. Our future is a mixture of risks and opportunities. We need someone at the helm who could build coalitions and secure international support through international advocacy and mobilization of resources. This is a role towards which Mr Aukatsang has already been working for many years. He has the disposition, with a track record of excellence. Hence I urge my fellow Tibetan brothers and sisters to choose the best candidate for you, for me, and for all of us. Bod Gyal-lo!
About the author
Nyiwoe is a final year BA LLB student at REVA University, Bangalore.