McLEOD GANJ, India, 23 December 2020
While the larger world is gripped by the pandemic, the small Tibetan community in exile is engrossed with their five-yearly elections. The path to full democracy for Tibetans was achieved in stages, as envisaged by the Dalai Lama, whose lineage ruled Tibet for 360 years. The rule of this government, the Gaden Phodrang, formally came to an end in 2011, when the Dalai Lama relinquished his political powers completely, fulfilling his vision to totally democratise Tibetan society.
Starting from his days in Lhasa before the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the Dalai Lama worked for decades for transformation, for Tibetans to one day embrace democracy. It was democracy coming from top down, rather than from the bottom up, without Tibetans having to ask for it — unlike other cases where bloodshed is common when overthrowing an old system to establish democracy.
With education and exposure to various democracies, particularly the Indian system, Tibetans adopted a Charter in 1991. In 2001, the very first election of their political leader (now known as Sikyong) was held. The Dalai Lama, who had been both spiritual and political leader, assumed a semi-retired position, totally giving up his political powers in 2011.
In 2020, heated campaigning has been going on to elect a new Sikyong and the 45 members of the Tibetan Parliament, who are the lawmakers. The first round of voting, in which candidates will be nominated, is scheduled for 3 January 2021. Sixty years into exile, the stakes are high for the Tibetan cause, as the Dalai Lama, the father figure of the six million Tibetans, is catching up on his age, China’s influence is becoming ever stronger, and divisions among the small Tibetan community in exile are becoming ever bigger.
I have been asked who I am endorsing for the next Sikyong, like I did in 2011 when I helped bring Lobsang Sangay into the public eye. He won the elections by an overwhelming majority. Before I name the person I endorse now, we need to look back on recent events in the exile Tibetan community to get an idea of what was happening, and why the person I endorse will be imperative for Tibet and the Tibetan people.
After the 2016 elections, the rifts in the community deepened. Our politics took a tribal turn, as if Tibetans had turned their backs on reasoning. The two Sikyong candidates Lobsang Sangay and Penpa Tsering hurled insults at one another and the campaigns were full of malicious attacks. At the swearing-in ceremony of the winner Sangay, an obviously pained Dalai Lama intervened to reconcile the two opposing parties, and the dust subsided at his behest. But before too long, the division between the two sides widened after Sangay dismissed Penpa Tsering from his position as the Representative of the Dalai Lama to North America in Washington DC.
Soon after, the mess really hit the fan. Supporters of Penpa Tsering created a rowdy scene during the handover to the new Representative Ngodup Tsering in Washington DC. Penpa Tsering failed to calm his supporters, but rather said that they were not protesting against him personally, and hence he wouldn’t stop them.
Months later, Sangay unexpectedly brought up the issue, and said Penpa Tsering should go to court if he was not satisfied. Tsering responded by filing a case, which came to be known as “Case no 20”. Not that Tsering wanted to go to court, but he had no choice, because if he didn’t he would be regarded as guilty. The case lingered on for more than a year, and in the end Sangay lost the case. The exile Tibetan community saw the worst social divide since the development of this unfortunate event, and it is still dragging on to this day.
A shift in mood, and a desire for change and to move on, is palpable in the current campaigns. Barring a few rowdy comments, and some defacing or tearing down of posters, the campaigns have largely been conducted with some sense of decorum. The aspirants speak of their plans, and refrain from any negative comments about the other contenders. Ditto the supporters, who help present and promote their candidates for the election, using social media as well as the usual means of pasting posters and distributing pamphlets.
It’s new and nascent, but a thriving democracy is visible through the hectic campaigning and the large number of people standing in the Sikyong and Parliamentary elections. Many among the contenders in the Parliamentary elections are from the younger generation, a good sign of owning their responsibility to fight for a Free Tibet. However, tribal politics is still rife and the card is still being played to influence the voters. Though many are seen taking the bait, many others are pushing for choices based on eligibility for the important Sikyong post.
Whomever one chooses is of course a personal decision. But in the spirit of choosing the most eligible person, as opposed to a choice based on tribal affiliations, I have decided to choose my Sikyong based on their qualifications rather than anything else. And that is how I have come to choose Penpa Tsering as my choice for Sikyong. He’s from Amdo, I from Kham, no question of tribal politics here. I didn’t support Tsering in the 2011 elections, but did in 2016, after I changed my mind based on facts, reasons, and common sense. The biggest factor being that my expectation from the incumbent Sangay was something better, but instead found him seizing every opportunity for self-aggrandisement.
Penpa Tsering is someone who has had a typical refugee upbringing in a Tibetan settlement, enduring the bare minimum of facilities and opportunities. Like everybody else in that situation, it made him strong, creative, and resilient, nurturing him as he grew older to take up responsibilities and face challenges. In education he’s what Tibetans would say dab shok nyi dhen (well trained in both modern and traditional education). He has over 20 years of service and experience in the Tibetan community, holding top posts such as Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile and Representative in DC. He has even been called the “Prince of Umey-lam” (the Middle-Way) — the policy aimed at resolving the Tibetan issue with China through dialogue — because of his firm belief in and commitment to that policy, first propounded by the Dalai Lama.
Campaigning with an impressive manifesto that has solid vision and planning, with the slogan “Equitable, Co-Effort, Moving Forward”, Tsering is assuring no false promises such as “I will bring the Dalai Lama back to Tibet in five years.” The Middle-Way Approach will be the heart of his focus, while efforts towards course-correcting the dissension within society; improving the welfare of people in the settlements; better education and health facilities; and programmes to make the scattered Tibetan clusters around the world inclusive and cohesive will be on the top of his list.
His personal qualities of hard work, dedication, humility, and commitment are expected to be translated into votes for him. The ousting of Penpa Tsering from DC had the appearance of character assassination, as it feels like there was a larger conspiracy behind it — to banish him from exile Tibetan politics. If that’s what Sangay planned, he failed. The charges against Penpa Tsering turned out to be bogus, and he came out clean and strong. Seeing injustice meted out to Penpa Tsering, many of those who disapproved earlier of Tsering’s behaviour at the DC handover episode, are now are going to support Penpa Tsering, as an act of reposing faith in truth and justice.
Without any doubt, his background and qualities make Penpa Tsering the most eligible and deserving of all to become the next Sikyong. Under his leadership, we will have a mature, progressive, and calibrated new administration. CTA will be seen once again as having self-respect and self-esteem. New Delhi will repose its confidence back in CTA, and more importantly there will be no babbling. If nothing else, the idea that Penpa Tsering will not brag about himself — that alone will be gratifying.
Giving Penpa Tsering the charge will be a victory for Tibet. And it will be truly acting on the mantra of unity, if those clinging to the tribal fabric find the courage and wisdom to shun those useless affiliations, and seek the opportunity to leave behind the bickering from 2016 and move forward to focus on our freedom struggle. That will heal and overcome past dissensions, and move toward a future full of hope.
About the author
Lobsang Wangyal lives in McLeod Ganj, India, and edits the Tibet Sun website.
Wonderful article, Lobsang Wangyal la.
Ku-ngo Dongchung must confirm with the Election Commission if he should resign before election.
Tibetan Election Rule 63(10) on Sikyong eligibility says a candidate must “not be a CTA Employee”.
According to this rule: As long as Dongchung does not resign from his current CTA position, he remains a CTA-employee. As long as he remains a CTA employee, he might not be eligible as candidate in both preliminary and final elections according to Article 63(10).
Election Commission announcing a CTA-employee a winner in any round is like announcing a convicted criminal as a winner, because both are same under the provision of candidacy ineligibility. The results could automatically be nullified.
I am not surprised that people like Kunga Tashi and Tanam are pushing Donchung. Every CTA employee know them as intellectually challenged who thrive on opportunism. I am also not amazed with the Utsang hardcore regionalists or the publicity craving Utsangs, including the never-heard-before CTA employees and US university students.
But it is Dongchung’s credibility that is at stake. He will be accountable to his supporters and to the court of law if litigation pile up. It is possible that EC might nullify his precious votes on the legal ground of ineligibility.
If, Election Commission does not do that, then Justice Commission would. In such circumstances, opportunists like Kunga Tashi and Tanam are no Thinley Kelsang. They will vanish and sell themselves to next gullible candidate. PT, DG, LN, and KA know these opportunists inside out!
So Donghung must confirm the election rules privately with EC soon without involving the opportunists or the Utsang regionalists.
In such list of opportunists comes Dhardon Sharling whose family members are supporting different candidates in the hope that whoever gets elected will land her her a plump job offer.
If I were to describe her in two words, that would be “Takpo” and “a shameless opportunist.” She is so takpo in her behavior and speech that I always squirm in my seat to even listen to her. It is unfortunate to see people praising her as next sikyong or something. What has become of us as a community? Sad sad sad…
Who did Dhardon Sharling support for Kalon Tripa and Sikyong before?
2011 Kalon Tripa candidates – LS and Tethong (Dhardon supported TN Tethong openly)
2016 Sikyong candidates – LS and PT (Dhardon supported PT and criticized LS openly)
Who she ended up working for eventually and singing praises later? – LS
2021 sikyong – 7 candidates (Dhardon supports GD)
Now, where Dhardon will end up working eventually? Hmmmm
A low politician, chakdong and “an opportunist” as someone above said.
“If nothing else, the idea that Penpa Tsering will not brag about himself — that alone will be gratifying.”
Just in one sentence, LW summed up the 10 years of Agu Tenpa, the uncle trickster’s Humpty Dumpty administration and; the change and the liberation people will feel of some mature administration that will not become a butt of jokes. That one basis is good enough for me.
LS’s Agu Tenpa tricks have crossed all the limits and it is clearly showing among our real masses in their expression of support for PT.
Bragging and stealing credits from others right, left and center are the two major weaknesses of Sikyong LS.
Kunga Tashi is another diluted version of LS. He said in a Dongchung video that DN should be credited for any sort of peace in the current election campaign and that his type of campaign could become a model for future election campaign. I was laughing out loud! Here, our democracy is being made a mockery and there they are claiming credits where there is none.
Wasn’t he the one who created controversy in the first place by attacking LS while endorsing DN? Isn’t he a DN supporter?
Another joker is that Kaydor supporter from Swiss Tamstse Tsering who claims he is the one who will decide the outcome of Sikyong election. Who is he? A king?
Just because people watch your nonsense videos does not mean they support you and will vote for your candidate. Tibetans love controversies and entertainment particularly during lockdown and that’s how your video is watched and nothing more.
Let Kaydor have good time campaigning for now. He will never win for sure.
It is not endorsement but support. Endorsement means support by a prominent person. You are not a prominent person. Kasur Ngodup la will win the race for Sikyong 2021 because he is the only candidate having most endorsements.
@ Ugyen Tsering la, endorsement you are talking about has a catch. A price and a cost. Pound of flesh to pay for the blood suckers (to understand the meaning read Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice). Meaning, for example, if Dongchung Ngodup becomes Sikyong, he becomes INDEBTED to his ENDORSERS. Your type of endorsers is called King makers.
I will tell you, how it works.
Once a puppet is installed as a King, the king makers will be at his kitchen cabinet, calling the shots. King makers are almost always people of vested interest. They won’t let the king FORGET how much they work hard to get him enthroned, and then draw their knives to demand their share of pound of flesh. The weak king who in the first place, DO NOT want to become king will now have to relent to their corruption. Even if he is not corrupt, he becomes one.
Look who are front and center promoting DN. Most of them are morally bankrupt, to say the least. Corrupt operators don’t look like mafia boss. They have a mastery in sweet talks.
Now LW’s endorsement or support is selfless and pure. LW is from Kham and a writer. So, LW is not playing regionalism. And as a writer, by extension he is a thinker. Lately, I see a maturity and confidence in him of not being afraid of writing on sensitive issues.
Read his recent writings criticizing Government of India (GOI) on Karmapa issue; drawing GOI’s attention for need to securing and cleaning the mess around His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence. He is molding himself into a serious THOUGHT LEADER for our community. He lives and breathes not only the fresh air of Dhauladar hills of Dharamshala but also the politics of CTA. Therefore, I will value and take LW’s endorsement or support anytime over DN’s vested interest backers.
Rinchen Tsering La, First you get my name correct. If you reply with anger, small errors will crop up. Look up in dictionary meaning of endorsement.
Ugen la, if a typo in your name hurts your feelings, my apology.
No anger involved, just trying to put my thoughts out. So, we all can make a right choice for Tibet. You are writing here thinking what is best for Tibet and I am doing the same. We have one common factor here that is our love for same motherland. Be safe. Vote for Tibet.
This kind of elitist attitude is what turns many people off about DN supporters. Lobsang Wangyal’s support is only a support because he is an ordinary person and DN’s supporter’s support is endorsement because they are somebody “prominent”. Really??? Get off your high horse!
There is no way DN will garner enough votes to win. So, relax and don’t go after every Sikyong candidates in a sneaky way all the time.
Sikyong candidate Gyari Dolma holds an Indian passport for many years now, Aukatsang holds American passport so is Lobsang Nyendak. Penpa Tsering’s family is permanently settled in Canada, naturally he would join them later. They all have pledged their loyalty to their respective adopted countries and not to Tibet and Tibetans. Donchung Ngodup, Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok and Tashi Topgyal holds RC and they have never given up their loyalty and allegiance to Tibet. So you be the judge, whom to vote in the up coming elections.
Another thing, Gyari Dolma and Aukatsang Kaldor doing physical election campaigns in the Tibetan settlements in India right now and they are not quarantined while every other single visitors to the settlements are. Why the Tibetan settlement officers are not imposing strict quarantine rules to these two Sikyong candidates? Where is Tibetan Election Commission? Where is the justice? Can the Tibetan public have trust and confidence in CTA?. Who knows in the coming days these two Sikyong candidates would turn out to be COVID-19 Super spreaders? God forbid, if number of people die in the coming days, would they take responsibility?
All these questions must be answered immediately by CTA to the electorate or else lose its credibility further.
I second your views on the physical election being conducted by GD and KA. They must take responsibility for any public health crises arising out of their gathering.
As for candidates having different passports, I don’t find this a major issue. Almost half of our exile population are outside of India and Nepal and that does not mean these Tibetans are any less responsible or less patriotic towards Tibet. Also does not mean those staying back in India with RC are more patriotic.
@ Khampa Warrior: By your logic, your candidate Dongchung Ngodup is also headed west, where his daughter is. What do you say to this? This doesn’t mean they are less patriotic.
You have a way of making sneak attack. Your target is Penpa Tsering and has been, since Pema Chhonjor promoted Dongchung Ngodup entered the race. Penpa Tsering has redeveloped his settlement home more in line with Samdhong Lama’s ashram style, because he wants to live there. Of course, like many others, he wants to either reside in Lhasa or Amdo Chentsa.
I bet you, your candidate will not cut the ice. Regarding the super-spreader issue, I share your sentiments. BTW, my candidate is Tashi Wangdu and since, he dropped out, I am open to vote for anyone that respects the true democratic process and not the one who is playing Ying-Yang promoted by master manipulator in the guise of expert analysts and former officials. We will make sure to rid our community of any banal influence from these parasitic creatures. Change your perception. In few days, it is going to be Year 2021. Don’t live with 1990’s mindset. World has changed and is changing right in front of our eyes.
Holding passports of different countries does not diminish the level of patriotism and dedication of a Sikyong candidate.
Though Ngodup Dongchung himself might hold RC right now, what do you say about all his daughters who are settled in the US. He too can later permanently move from India to US at a convenient time.
So, now that leaves us once again to vote for the “most patriotic and dedicated” RC holder Sikyong candidates Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok and Ku-ngo Tashi Topgyal. I like both actually!
kalon tripa candidates from 2011 TN Tethong and Kasur Tashi Wangdu were both American citizens. Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar is also Indian passport holder and chithu before. So, what is the big deal of a foreign passport? I don’t understand.
Damn, I thought it’s, “Who does Lobsang Sangay endorse for“. Only after reading the article, I came to know its, “Who does Lobsang Wangyal endorses for”!
O man, I too felt the same. For a second, looking at the title, I thought he was asking who endorses Lobsang Wangyal for Sikyong 2021. Only after gulping the entire article did I realize. Hopefully he runs for the post a few years down the line, just like Trump did in his final stage of life, if he considers himself a Tibetan Trump.
In previous election, both Lobsang Wangyal and Kasur Pema Chonjjor backed LS for Sikyong. LS has purity of heart for Tibet and Kasur Pema Chhonjor living incarnation and throne holder of Juchen Thupten. His agenda is to get a Khampa on the Sikyong throne, preferably Kaydor.
He claims to his credit of having gotten LS elected by engineering troubles for rival candidate(s). The god father of dirty politics is said to be the real faceless man behind getting Dongchung Ngodup to run for Sikyong by appealing for need for ‘unity’ Sikyong. Dongchung Ngodup is reported to be paralyzed by his and his proxies’ charm campaign of him being described as some sort of magic pill or like the charm hidden by Guru Rinpoche in the long lost magic box candidate.
Pema Chhonjor’s aim is to checkmate Penpa Tsering with Dongchung Ngodup and open several different pathways for any Khampa candidates to win.
Question for doubters: Do you really think if the choice is between any Khampa candidate and Dongchung Ngodup, many of the people trying to put Dongchung Ngodup front and Center will vote for him? They will not. I say this because I know Pema Chhonjor like the back of my hand. Not in hundred years. Kudos to LS.
you are right about the dirty games!
Sorry. I meant LW (Lobsang Wangyal) not LS (uncle trickster) when I wrote are one who has purity of heart for Tibet above in the second stanza.
I always enjoyed reading Lobsang la’s article, as it speaks volumes of his knowledge of our situation and of the person who is responsible for the present factionalism and internecine differences. I like the way Lobsang clearly pinpoints the weakness of Dr Sangay and his vindictive style of politics, which is unacceptable.
I am disappointed by Sangay’s endless controversies during his tenure and wasting our scarce resources for reasons which Sikyong can best explain to the general public. His removal of PT from the post of North America representative was the last thing that we strongly disapproved of, and which hurt the sentiments of people. The voters wanted Sikyong to fully devote his knowledge, intelligence, and experience for the cause of Tibet, not for outwitting his own people.
I may add one more candidate to Lobsang la’s list and would appeal to voters to consider Ngodup Donchung as an option for the next Sikyong. Give one more chance to Ngodup Dongchung, I think he can perform and deliver better than the Harvard alumnus.
I wholeheartedly agree with Lobsang Wangyal la on his endorsing the candidate for Sikyong 2021, and a pat on his back for this well-written, well-researched article. But to say Lobsang Sangay got overwhelming majority votes and won the election in 2011 because LW endorsed it, is I think, a little too much. Lobsang Sangay on numerous occasions said he ran the election on his own, no backing of any individual, organization, or association, with a grand exit strategy in the event if the result proved otherwise. Many have said his Harvard credentials that gave him the edge. Not to mention his many years of experience at Harvard as a Senior Fellow where he brought the Chinese scholars face to face with His Holiness, his personality of Himalayan proportion, his oratory skills, and most important, Tibetan exiles’ desire to see a new face, are I think what catapulted Lobsang Sangay to the Tibetan exile polity’s top post.
“Strike the iron when it is hot” that’s what LW wrote! Penpa Tsering For The Sikyong 21!
Well written Lobsang Wangyal la. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is catching up on His age, Tibetan voting for next Sikyong should vote for someone who will keep unity amongst the Tibetans.
Kaydor and Gyari Dolma are campaigning in the Tibetan settlements in South India. Whereas Tibetan settlers visiting or returning to settlements are asked to stay for quarantine for a week or so, these two candidates didn’t stay for quarantine after RAT test or RT PCR test. Ironically, their RT-PCR test result under DTR hospital came out in a day, whereas general public RT PCR test takes more than a week in some cases.
Thank you for endorsing Penpa Tsering for Sikyong, next ten years is crucial and this can mirror us where we will be streaming.
Lobsang Wangyal la is entitled to his opinion and who he wants to vote for, but his so-called endorsement will not have a dent on the trajectory of the election. As of now, Kaydor Auktsang, Dhongchung Ngodup la, and Gyari Dolma la are the clear frontrunners. And Penpa Tsering la’s chance to win is very slim, and therefore he is a underdog. By logic and the number speaks for themselves that Penpa Tsering’s supporters have dwindled for this cycle of election comparing to his 2016 run. Most of his supporters have become disillusioned with him because of a number of reasons. It is apparent when you see facebook postings and speeches, his supporters have defected to Dongchug Ngodup, particularly noticeable supporters like Chung Tsering, Kunga Tashi and the like. Majority of the Tibetan electorates know that HH the Dalai Lama has not granted an audience with Penpa Tsering, and he has done more things to tarnish and harm the reputation of the Dalai Lama through his impromptu speech and responses to the media. Penpa Tsering can go very low, to the point of saying that HHDL sometimes had to lie when necessary to back up his claim. Therefore sensible Tibetans in exile can not bring themselves to support Penpa Tsering. History tells in all elections around the world, that once you are beaten, then its rarely hard, and almost impossible that you can come back to win. While Penpa Tsering even making to the final round as one of the candidates is very remote, even if he ever pulls through miraculously, then it will be a disaster for exile politics. The bad blood of Lobsang Sangay supporters and Penpa Tsering supporters will sow more discord and division in the small exile communities if PT ever elected. Therefore the Tibetan voters will be intelligent to vote a new face.
Even with the regionalist defectors, PT is still the leading candidate right now. Many of these defectors are utsang regionalist or rather anti-LS groups. Except for one khampa leytong ex-chithu Tashi Namgyal and few Dhomey leytongs like sharkhuk, Thupten Lungrik and Lhamo kyab, Dongchung supporters are all utsang which in itself speaks of the regionalist basis of their support. Kunga Tashi was one of the 10 reasons for PT’s dismissal charges. Ex Rtyc NYNJ Ngawang Palden was the one who received deceased Thinlay Kelsang at New York airport upon their return from protest against kashag in dhasa. Many more such stories behind the defectors… These defections reflects less on their belief in the capability of PT and more on their regionalist tendencies. Therefore, even if I respect DN as a good official, I will never vote for somebody who is being pushed on regional agenda. Same is the case with any other candidates with strong regional bias.
It is too early to say who else are front runners. Politics is a dirty game which can change any moment. Except for PT who has a strong and consistent base from 2016, other candidates being front runners are not reliable and fluctuate from day to day.
This is a very important piece, thank you Lobsang for spelling out what is at stake during the current Sikyong election.
Let us be completely honest about the current situation among the Sikyong candidates. Kaydor runs for Sikyong to save Lobsang Sangay and himself. They know there is a strong chance if Penpa Tsering wins Kaydor is finished, and will most likely vanish from Tibetan scene. Their treatment of Penpa Tsering is criminal and vindictive. Lobsang Sangay and Kaydor tried to destroy Penpa Tsering to create a subservient CTA.
Kaydor is a person without any morals and ethics. Even though he was infected with Covid-19, he still travels and holding public meeting. If the man had any ethics and sense of care for our community, he would stop travelling, like Penpa Tsering. While in power Kaydor took his female assistant as his travelling companion. In Gangkyi we were all wondering, why? Kaydor lacks the morals and ethics to be Sikyong. His sole purpose is to stop Penpa Tsering from winning the election.
You said right about Kaydor. There is no chance he will win.
Tashi Delek Lobsang La, your article is well written, and full of truth about what happened in the past ten years. I wish many people who still do not see these failures would open their eyes and ears for the truth. We sincerely vote for Penpa Tsering la and bring happiness in our society. My prayers are for him and thank you for the article which explains the hidden facts. Tashi Delek.
Hats off Lobsang Wangyal la. That’s very true.
I second every word you wrote.
Thank you for your endorsement. Well said.
WOW Lobsang Wangyal La, as always, I have only admiration and respect for you, being FAIR and a BONAFIDE JOURNALIST that every Tibetan look up for and wait for your words. You came up with a solid news article with substantial reasons. Thank you ??