By Mila Rangzen
My candidate, Lukar Gem, is out of the race after a brave and historic fight.
We are now left with two choices: Penpa Tsering and Lobsang Sangay.
I choose Penpa Tsering. I prioritize qualities, not issues with my choice. This is because the dismissal of Lukar Gem was also the loss of issues important to our struggle. Both Tsering and Sangay are Umaylam followers: I choose the horse from the mule.
Penpa Tsering is a man with two decades of governmental experience. This experience is an asset that has propelled him into becoming a competent leader. On any topic, he speaks there is depth to it. His moderation skill at parliamentary proceedings is well known. He is a man of the people– a leader, not a narcissist like Lobsang Sangay whose results have failed to match his promises.
Lobsang Sangay’s declaration of Lithang pungdrik is a classic case of negative regionalism. It is perhaps for this reason that Lobsang Sangay does not support the reinstatement of a local assembly in Byllakuppe, the biggest settlement in exile where Utsangs form the majority. Obviously, he can’t stand Utsangs running the show democratically.
Every important CTA related post is given by Sangay to people from his province. He appointed Lobsang Nyandak as head of Tibet Fund, Kaydor Aukatsang as Washington Dhonchoe and Chophel as South Zone Chief, India. All the appointees are people from his province. Does this ring a bell? Each of his appointees has a demotion/termination history for unsatisfactory performance. But he reinstated them anyway because they are his phayul chickpa Dhotoe people. There are many more such examples.
The Dalai Lama’s security was breached by a Shugden nun at a hotel in California in February 2014 under Lobsang Sangay’s watch. It does not come as a surprise because it was under his watch Kaydor removed the Dalai Lama’s photo from the Washington Dhonchoe Office and replaced it with Sangay’s picture. This egoistic behavior on his part is highly disrespectful to the Tibetan people and to the Dalai Lama who served Tibetans for well over 60 years of his life.
Also on his house mortgage allegation, to this day he has not come clean. All he needs to do is to show his tax papers which he has not done since Tibet supporter Maura Moynihan charged him 3 years ago. He could not respond to her allegation even once. If you are not guilty, why remain silent? 9 RTYCs broke up from the TYC Centrex under his watch. Think about it. Who could be behind it? Sit there and take it? This is his style of innovation and unity. Seriously, can we afford to let him get away like that?
Lobsang Sangay states that CTA got Rs 1000 million during Samdhong Rinpoche’s tenure and he boasts he got Rs 2008 million during his tenure. This is no big deal; foreign aid is no individual leader’s achievement. The grant is pre-decided largely based on inflation of everyday expenses. It does not depend on how skillful a Sikyong is. All he has to do is ask. And they grant. From 2016 to 2021 the next Sikyong Penpa Tsering shall have got Rs 4016 million but again no big deal.
Besides, begging foreign governments or NGOs for funds is certainly not a good example of the self-reliance mantra that Lobsang Sangay has been reciting for five long years.
He will go down in history as the first Sikyong to make the following staggering statements to international media: –
1. “Tibetans, we never had a country.”
2. “We are not asking the democracy be implemented or be allowed inside Tibet.”
3. “We are not asking for democracy for Tibetans inside Tibet.”
Lobsang Sangay has dashed all our hopes to the ground. Forget genuine autonomy, he did not succeed in securing even a single round of talks with the Chinese counterpart during his entire tenure. He lied to the voters that during his term His Holiness shall return to Tibet. He duped voters into believing he could achieve what His Holiness himself failed to achieve in five decades. On the education of Tibetan children, he failed us. The overall achievement in education during his term is portrayed as being 1000 times better than Samdhong Rinpoche’s term. How does he account for that when the standard of our children’s literary Tibetan has gone from good to worse?
Besides, for 12th class of 2013, 7 schools in science average only 69.5%, 7 schools in commerce averaging only 59.2%, 13 schools in arts averaging just 59.6%. There are no statistics for the 10th class at all. Why? The overall passing percentage for 12th class of 2014, involving 16 schools, is only 62.9% and for 10th class, involving 26 schools, the average is 58.2% only. To gain admission to a well-reputed college in India like Madras Christian College, you need a minimum passing average of 85% in commerce and in science, it’s worse, you need minimum 95%.
On the brochure, the colleges may demand less percentage for eligibility but in actual fact, the competition is that tough. Too many admission seekers and too few seats. Well, where do our students stand educationally? No statistics for 2011, 2012 and 2015 are available on the CTA education website which makes me wonder our schools must have done poorly. What else could be the reason?
He lied to us that he would produce 5000 PhDs or specialists during his term. How many do we have now? 5? Regardless of how successful or unsuccessful Lobsang Sangay has been all these 5 years we the people have given him a chance but not anymore! This time Penpa Tsering, with a clean record of dedication and performance for 20 years of governmental service, deserves a chance.
One Lithangpa by the name of Lobsang Jampel – a sanjor and an ex-monk from Hunsur Gyumey monastery-who lives in New York–went as far as issuing death threats to Largya Dhakpo–a Utsang community leader for criticizing Lobsang Sangay’s poor performance and lack of transparency in the execution of his official duties. A police investigation is underway. Well, his threat illustrates the degree to which regional pride and interest are involved in the Sikyong election. “If you do not vote for Lobsang Sangay and if he loses the election we will not pay the green book contribution,” said Karsang, a Lobsang Sangay supporter, on a chat app. I wish him good luck on this because I can’t care less.
” If Lobsang Sangay loses, provincial frictions and violence will erupt and the Dalai Lama will be disturbed and he will not live long,” said another supporter of Lobsang Sangay. This is a scare tactic. Do not fall into this trap. Give back as hot as you get. Trust me life will go on. The poll I conducted over the phone with 20 friends and acquaintances from each province produced this result. 70% of the Utsangs, 20% of the Amdos and 100% of the Dhotoes voted for Lobsang Sangay. What do you see here? Judge for yourself. And choose your path.
The qualities we voters should be looking for in our Sikyong are initiative, experience, integrity, creativity, and problem-solving skill. Penpa Tsering possesses all of these. He is bold, confident and articulate. We witness this in the parliamentary sessions and in his speeches. If there is one man Lobsang Sangay is afraid of in Gangchen Kyishong, it is Penpa Tsering! Penpa Tsering is honest. Also, he is a tough nut to mess with.
He is shrewd, decisive and resolute. It is for these qualities that chithues like Tenpa Yarphel can’t stand him and hurl baseless murder allegations in the parliament to let doubt settle in the public opinion. It is a hate and vote politics. What the allegation ironically achieved is more sympathy and support toward Penpa Tsering from Utsang public.
Neither Juchen Thupten nor Sonam Topgyal nor Tenpa Yarphel had the guts to report him to police or take him to court. Because they don’t have a case in the first place. Also, Penpa Tsering’s ex-wife acha Pema and her three grown-up children have never ever supported the murder allegation. Realizing that this murder allegation is not holding much water, supporters of Lobsang Sangay have stooped down to attacking his occasional love for whiskey. What’s the big deal if Penpa Tsering drinks? Lobsang Sangay has drinking parties every weekend at his official residence with his chamchas and of course his aunty number one from a southern settlement whom I know personally.
To this day Penpa Tsering has not slacked off once on his official duties. Penpa Tsering deals comfortably with regional and sectarian tensions that come with the job. For example, during 2009 parliamentary commotion fueled by regional politics, and 2015 Jonang demonstration for 2 religious seats he proved his mettle. He didn’t flinch once. Under such circumstances, a male Utsang leader would probably weep like a wimp.
Former CEC Dorjee Damdul wept like a kid in the 90s. But can he admit mistakes and learn from them? Can he be straight and not lie just to get votes? Can he sift through complex ideas? Can he recognize bullshit when it comes from his staff or supporters? Does he know how to hire a good team? Most important of all like the Dalai Lama he is inclusive and non-provincial, non-regional and non-sectarian. Yes, he can! And he’s proved so with 20 years of experience.
Does he know how to deliver a good speech? Unlike Lobsang Sangay whose spoken Tibetan is that of an 8th-grade student from a CST school, Penpa Tsering speaks the best Tibetan! Natural, macho and assertive with the right volume, pace, tone, and timbre at the right occasion. With no shortage of inspiring speeches, he is at the top of the political game. Despite coming from non-English medium school his English is far better than Lobsang Sangay’s Harvard chicken shit scattered all over the wall.
Does he know when to stay quiet? He is emotionally stable and stoic even in the midst of chaos in the parliament. Like a true Amdo warrior, he looks problems squarely in the eye and does not shy away behind the wall of diplomatic neutrality for so-called community harmony which is a typical Utsang disease. Does he know how to read the public opinion? Has this candidate ever faced a true crisis? Does he have the equanimity to handle the erratic and unpredictable pressures of the office? How is he with uncertainty? He is strong like a rock, a calm boulder that weather storms.
Leadership is actually the sum of these attributes. On primary Election Day, 100,000 Utsang voters must take a leap and vote for Penpa Tsering!
Attend every Penpa Tsering talk in thousands. Every time he enters a stage for speech or debate in the coming months; serve him with screams, loud applause and multiple standing ovations.
Slogans can be” The Leader of leaders!”” Samdhong Rinpoche’s son–Our Choice!” ” Penpa Tsering, 2016 Sikyong!”
Will Penpa Tsering Win?
Honestly, at this point, I am not sure he will win. 70% of the voters in exile are people from Utsang province, my province. And my people are sleeping. Not only are they sleeping, but they unashamedly admit their deep love for sleeping. It is as if a sleeping beauty contest is being conducted. They have invested so much in their sleep for so long that they refuse to be awakened. They resist and fight me to ask “Who are you to interfere in my sleep?” Their fallacious reasoning is that as long as a candidate is a good man it doesn’t matter who gets there. That’s as vague as it gets.
Mark Twain said, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled” How should we, supporters of Penpa Tsering, tackle this kind of foolhardy slave mindset? What can we do when confronted with our Utsang people who have a history of being peaceful slaves, that can quite naturally become useful idiots to our oppositional candidate Lobsang Sangay and his die-hard Khampa supporters? Take it easy or take it hard, but we must find an answer before it is too late.
P.S. This post was first published in October 2015