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September 2, 2015
Sikyong Lobsang Sangay
Central Tibetan Administration
Dear Sikyong Sangayla:
I write on behalf of the Tibetan National Congress (TNC), a democratic, non- sectarian, non-regional, pan-Tibetan political party formed in March 2012 with members in India, Europe, and North America. Since its founding, TNC has contributed to the Tibetan cause, for example taking the lead in the campaign to move the Nobel Summit from Cape Town to Rome so His Holiness the Dalai Lama could attend. At the direction of the Tibetan Election Commission (EC), we respectfully request that the Kashag include TNC in the list of officially-recognized Tibetan organizations.
As you are aware, the new rules issued by the EC provide that Tibetan organizations now have different speech rights depending on whether or not they are officially "recognized." Only officially-recognized organizations now have an unrestricted right to free speech and free spending in Tibetan elections. TNC currently lacks this recognition. The EC has informed us that the Kashag is the body with the power to recognize organizations.
In your statement today on Tibetan Democracy Day, you declared, "Our resolve for democracy should be a clear message of our democratic spirit of free will to [the] international community and China. Our brethren in Tibet will doubtlessly derive strength from the robust participation and decisive outcome." We heartily agree. In this spirit, we are confident that you and your Kashag will have no reservations with granting prompt recognition to TNC.
TNC looks forward to receiving its full rights to participate in the Tibetan democracy, and to joining the ranks of recognized organizations, such as NDPT, for example, a group which has the honor of supporting you as one of its Sikyong candidates. If you would like any additional information about our organization, please do not hesitate to contact us.
However, if for some reason your Kashag decides not to recognize TNC, we request: (i) the specific reasons and criteria used to make this decision, and (ii) details on how the variety of currently-recognized organizations were approved (ranging from regional tsokpas, NGOs, and the aforementioned NDPT).
Given the fast-approaching election dates, we respectfully ask that you please inform us of your decision within two weeks. Thank you in advance for your assistance, and please accept our Tashi Delek greetings on this auspicious Tibetan Democracy Day.
By Tibet.net (the official website of the CTA)
Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Sonam Choephel Shosur (centre) with Additional Election Commissioners Ven. Geshe Tenpa Tashi (left) and Mr. Tenzin Choephel.
DHARAMSHALA: The Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Sonam Choephel Shosur accompanied by the two additional election commissioners today explained the rules and regulations announced earlier by the election commission to ensure uniformity in campaign for the upcoming elections for Sikyong and Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
The Chief Election Commissioner specifically clarified nine points regarding article 24 of the electoral rules and regulations issued by the election commission. He said the clarification is being made to ensure uniformity in understanding the code of conduct to be followed by the candidates for campaigning.
The clarifications include the steps to be taken by the election commission in cases of unwarranted strategies used by the candidates during campaign.
The steps include:
1: If an individual resorts to physical intimidation or verbal coercion to vote in favour of a certain candidate, the democratic rights of voting of the individual will be withdrawn for 10 years.
2: If a candidate or supporters of a candidate resorts to character assassination or defamation of another candidate with intention to sow seeds of discord on the basis of religion, region, community, etc, (if proven) the votes accrued on that particular candidate’s name will be nullified. Moreover, the individual who resorted to such tactics will be denied their democratic rights of voting for the next 10 years.
3: If a candidate or his/her supporters resort to circulation of false propaganda materials during campaign, he or she will be denied their democratic rights of voting for the next 10 years.
4: Once the election commission announces the electoral rules, an incumbent Sikyong, Kalon or Member of Parliament cannot use his/her good offices and the staff of Central Tibetan Administration or official visits, for personal electoral benefits or to influence voters in their favour. He/she is also prohibited from participating, in an official capacity, in debates and discussions organised by non-governmental organisations. If a Sikyong, Kalon or Member of Parliament breaches this rule, the votes accrued on their name from that particular place/region will be nullified.
5: Other than NGOs officially recognised by the Central Tibetan Administration, no other individual or organisation can endorse or spend money for campaign without the written approval of the candidate. If an individual is found guilty, he or she will be denied his rights of voting for any democratic organization.
The non-governmental organistaions officially recognized by the CTA are Utsang Cholka, Dotoe Association, Domey Association, Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association, National Democratic Party of Tibet, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement, Ngari Tibetan Association, Association of Former Tibetan political prisoners, Pokhra Lodrik Welfare Association, and Tibetan Chikdril Tsogpa.
6: Total campaign expenses of a candidate should be submitted to the office of the local election commission before the results of the final election is declared. If the candidate fails to submit the expense details on time, 10% of the votes accrued on the candidate’s name will be nullified.
7: Campaign posters and pamphlets for the election of Sikyong and Tibetan parliament should specify the names of the individuals who printed and circulated the material. If the individual fails to do so, five years of voting rights will be denied.
8: Candidates are prohibited from using His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s images, the official emblems or logos of the CTA, or flags/ maps of Tibet for election symbols. If a candidate is found violating this regulation, 5% of the votes accrued on the candidate’s name will be nullified.
9: Candidates should conduct their campaign abiding by the laws of the host country. Posters of candidates and pamphlets should not be used in politically sensitive regions. If this regulation is violated, the candidate is barred from standing for elections for the next five years. The individual who pasted the poster would be denied voting rights for the next five years.
Originally published at http://tibet.net/2015/09/election-commission-explains-penalties-for-violation-of-electoral-regulations/
[Editors' note: the EC's August 26 reply is below, in Tibetan]
1 September 2015
Dear Mr. Chief Election Commissioner Sonam Choephel Shosur la:
Thank you for your August 26 reply to the Tibetan National Congress’s (TNC) letter to the Election Commission (EC) dated August 21. Although we sincerely appreciate your reply, unfortunately your letter did not fully respond to our inquiry.
In our letter, we requested official recognition for TNC, a new Tibetan political party. We noted that under the EC’s new rule, only officially-recognized organizations now have an unrestricted right to free speech in Tibetan elections. The rule conditions the right to free speech on official recognition, and sets up a two-tier system that treats organizations differently.
In your reply, you stated that the EC has no jurisdiction over recognition. You suggested that, per the Tibetan Charter, we should write to the Kashag for recognition.
Our original letter asked: “If the power to recognize an organization rests with a different CTA body entirely, please advise on the steps the EC will take to ensure that the effects of this this new rule are fair, impartial, and depoliticized.” We respectfully await your response to this vital question.
While the Kashag apparently has the power to recognize groups, it is the EC that has issued the rule that treats organizations differently depending on whether they have this recognition by a political body. The EC’s rule has effectively given the Kashag the power to grant (or withhold) free speech rights to Tibetan organizations. Until now, the Kashag did not have this power over Tibetan civil society. This could be viewed as problematic for the EC’s mandate as a non-politicized protector of Tibetan democracy. This is merely to recognize that it is unfair to burden any political body with a decision that should be nonpolitical.
The unintended effects of the EC’s rule also risks harming the image of Tibetan democracy, considering that at least two of the “recognized” groups are actively supporting the Sikyong candidacies of the current Sikyong and Speaker. These two groups are free to speak and spend without restriction, which benefits the campaigns of these incumbents. Will the world see it as fair that those two groups have preferential treatment, while other groups like TNC are constrained? <1>
We are asking the Kashag for recognition. However, in case there are undue delays, we ask the EC for a temporary exemption from your recognition rule. We ask this for several reasons:
Therefore, we respectfully suggest that for the sake of the legitimacy and fairness of Tibetan democracy, the EC has a responsibility to ensure that the effects of its rule are fair and non-politicized. We ask for a temporary exemption to the EC’s rule on official recognition until such time as (i) the Kashag grants us recognition, or (ii) if the Kashag refuses us recognition, the Supreme Justice Commission rules on our appeal of such decision.
Again, given the fast-approaching election dates, we respectfully ask that you please inform us of your decision within two weeks.
Thank you for your assistance and your continued guardianship of the Tibetan democratic process.
President, Tibetan National Congress
Footnote 1: This unequal treatment, and any unreasonable violation of the right to free speech, might not be consistent with the Tibetan Charter. As you know, the Charter states that all regulations, etc. of the CTA shall conform to the generally accepted principles of international law, which includes the internationally-recognized rights to free speech and free association.
By the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
In the run-up to the 2016 elections among the Tibetan community in exile, the Election Commission (EC) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has issued a code of conduct that must be observed during the elections to the post of Sikyong (Tibetan political leader) and the Tibetan Parliament in-exile (TPiE).
The 2016 elections assume enormous significance for the current Kashag (Tibetan cabinet) headed by Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, considered the first political leader of the Tibetan people after the Dalai Lama devolved his political power to an elected leader or Sikyong during the 2011 elections.
The EC is the autonomous apex body of the CTA with a permanent office headed by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) along with regular staff members in Dharamsala, India. The appointment of a CEC is approved by the TPiE. The code of conduct issued by the EC on 15 July 2015 expands on and supplements provisions of an already existing Rules and Regulations of the EC. The Code mostly concerns any cases of the violation of the provisions under article 24 of the Rules and the penalty imposed under article 25.
At a press conference on 15 July 2015 in Dharamsala, the CEC Sonam Chophel Shosur said: Under article 25 of the Rules and Regulations of the Election Commission, which is in reference to the punishment that shall be given to any people who put obstacles to the [successful carrying out of the Tibetan elections], any candidates, any person, any officials of the Election Commission, political parties, organizations, any one who violates any provision in article 24 of the Rules and Regulations of the EC, should be thoroughly
investigated by the CEC and punished accordingly.”
The provisions in Article 25 of the EC Rules and Regulations include:
1. Any candidate, opposing candidate, or any person who attempts to give or take bribe such as real cash and other material benefits or by agreeing to take or give such bribes [an through such bribes if they]:
1(a) Make attempts to pressurize some one to stand as a candidate, not to stand as a candidate or forces him/her to withdraw his or her candidacy, or not to withdraw his or her candidacy
2. Any one who attempts to forcefully threaten a candidate or a voter, threatens to withdraw his or her candidacy, or intervenes in or obstructs a voter’s right to and right not to vote; if such violations are found, the person who commits such violations shall be stripped off the right to vote for ten years.
3. Any candidate or an opposing candidate or any person—prompted by the intention that [the opposing candidate] does not win the elections—indulges in ad hominem attacks, makes baseless allegations, criticism or subject [him or her] to humiliation, indulges in provincialism, sectarianism, creates conditions that would lead to conflicts within the society through sowing dissension, such violations [of the code of conduct] shall be considered serious cases; and as such, all the votes of the candidate [responsible for such violations] shall be declared null and void, and the opposing candidate, and any person [committing such violations?] shall be stripped off their right to vote in any official elections.
4. Any candidate, an opposing candidate, or any person who appeals for support [needed] to benefit or harm the activities/campaigns of the elections; to such a seeker of support [in benefit of such person?] if any government official in general, and particularly if any official of the election commission uses their position/power, if such violations are found, the punishment shall be: for the moment the official shall be recommended to transfer [to another place] and dismissed from election responsibilities.
5. If any candidate, by assembling huge public for the purpose of election activities [campaigns] and spreading wrong information or campaign literatures, if such violations are found all the votes received by [the offending] candidate shall be declared null and void.
6. All the staffs of central Election Commission, and the local election commissions, if any secrets regarding elections are required to be kept, they must keep it by not revealing them to the public; they must show ways to keep the secrets, rather than revealing them to their relatives, friends or fellow Tibetans from the same province or religious sects; they must ensure that no information/literatures should be exposed outside; if such things occur, he or she shall be dismissed from his or her official positions.
7. However, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Election Commission—that is without contradicting them—at the public gatherings if the candidate takes a particular political ideology, if any announcement made to the public with regard to accepting responsibilities, distributing literatures, the candidates’ province, religious sects, organization, any declaration of support by individual or organization; if any person is declared, through suggestions made both verbally and in writing, worthy of being elected as an MP, all issues that are related to these aforementioned points shall not be considered as violation of the laws and regulations. However, within two days before the day of the election until the end of elections, all declarations of support must cease. If such violations are found, the punishment shall be that all the votes that a candidate received from that particular area shall be declared null and void; the particular head of the organization or the particular individual shall be stripped off his or her right to vote for five years in any official elections.
8. From the day of the announcement of the elections, any candidate desiring to fight the elections for the post of Sikyong, Kalon or MP, if they participate in election debates organized by the CTA or other NGOs, they must do so in their own personal capacities rather than as representing the CTA; moreover, they can’t seek services of any CTA officials nor can they use the finance and other materials of the CTA; even while they are on official visits, they are not allowed to make any campaigning speeches; if any candidate is found doing such a thing in any place, the punishment shall be that votes received for the candidate in that place shall all be declared null and void.
9. Rules on Expenditure and Nature of Election Campaign of Sikyong and MP candidates of 2016 Election: The Central Election Commission has outlined eight punishments to Sikyong and parliamentarian candidates who violate the eight guidelines on expenditure and nature of campaign. The eight guidelines and punishments are:
a) Regarding campaign expenses of Sikyong and MPs, all the candidates should abide by the rules of the Election Commission. The maximum expenditure allowance for each Sikyong candidate is eight lakh Indian rupees (Rs. 800,000) whereas the maximum expenditure allowance for each MP candidate is three lakhs Indian rupees (300,000). All the funds incurred on any campaign should be legal. The campaigns include publishing one’s opinions in the new papers in exile, making different posters, distribution of pamphlets and CDs, addressing one’s opinions on public gatherings, announcements and advertisements in websites and social networks. If there is any evidence of spending beyond the expenditure limit set by the Central Election Commission, 25 votes for each 10,000 rupees extra spent used shall be declared null and void. If there is any proof that the fund spent is illegal, all votes secured by the respective candidates shall be declared null and void.
a (1) Excluding organizations and institutions recognized by CTA, no independent organization or individual is allowed to carry out any announcement or spent on campaign activities. The expenses incurred in any permitted campaign should be included in the account statement of the concerned candidate. If there is any evidence that any individual violates this guideline, he/ she shall not be allowed to vote for any of the CTA elections for a term of five years. However, any campaign without any expenditure shall not be included here.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) will launch a series of awareness-raising advocacy campaigns aimed at increasing actual voter turnouts particularly among the Tibetan youth during 2016 elections, and to give due prominence to the unique practice of the stateless and borderless democracy created and practiced by Tibetans in exile. A multi-media presentation on 2016 elections featuring roundtable discussions and spot-on interviews with Tibetan university students; a 30-minute documentary film on Tibetan democracy; and organizing visits by international observers to at least three constituencies in and around Dharamsala.
DISCLAIMER: Translation of provisions of the Rules and Regulations of the EC included in this briefing has not been approved of by the EC. If any discrepancies are found, consider the Tibetan version as authoritative and final.
Originally published at https://m.facebook.com/tchrd/posts/10153459017401678:0
Translated by Tashi Norbu Tsewang
Original Tibetan link: http://www.khabdha.org/?p=74718#more-74718
A few days back, Penpa Tsering gave a speech at Sera Monastery. There weren't many new faces in the audience. He said something that would frighten you even just to hear it. While the monks were staring at his face with doubts and were not sure whether they should trust their ears or not, he stressed again that "I will never sit and debate with the Sikyong candidate who is critical of His Holiness. It is very upstanding that Gyuto monastery prohibited any Sikyong candidates who criticize His Holiness. Recently, a Tibetan media invited me to debate with someone that I mentioned above, but I refused because I will never sit and debate with those people."
In general, Tibetans consider Speaker Penpa Tsering as someone who is an experienced and eloquent speaker. Plus, he is someone who holds a high position in the Tibetan government to serve Tibetan people. He is also someone who would beg Red China to resume the Sino-Tibet relations, but I could barely eat and sleep when I saw that Speaker Penpa Tsering is someone who doesn't has the courage and willingness to debate other Sikyong candidates with different perspectives about the Tibetan issue in our community.
Speaker Penpa Tsering was talking indirectly about Sikyong candidate Lukar Jam. Why is it that he can dialogue and debate with our enemy China but not Lukar Jam? Is Lukar Jam worse than Red China? Is Lukar Jam more substandard than Red China? When I saw that Speaker Penpa Tsering is lacking sincerity and the open heart to debate Tibetan issue with Sikyong candidate Lukar Jam, who has endured years of suffering and torture under Red China, I couldn't keep silence. I knew that Speaker Penpa Tsering pledged that he wouldn't give a hand to those Dorjee Shugden followers. Are all Tibetan Rangzen activists also included in his pledge? Or just Lukar Jam alone? It seems that Speaker Penpa Tsering won't be satisfied even if he kills Lukar Jam. Where did he get all this hatred and anger? If what Speaker Penpa Tsering thinks about Lukar Jam is what he said, then this is really scary.
We can have different perspectives on Tibetan issue. You can say you don't seek Rangzen. You can support Middle Way Approach and follow His Holiness, but you should also have an open mind where you have a little space for Rangzen activists rather than trying to expel them from your community. How could it possible that you are willing to stay with Red China, but not engage with Sikyong candidate Lukar Jam? For me, this is quite odd that Speaker Penpa Tsering is open minded towards Red China, but not with Sikyong candidate Lukar Jam.
These days, many Tibetans are spreading words that Speaker Penpa Tsering destroyed the unity of Tibetan Youth Congress, but I personally considered these as rumors. However, this time when I heard Speaker Penpa Tsering's speech and saw his narrow mind, I understood that Tibetan Rangzen activists are just like a thorn in his eyes. I also think that those rumors might be true as well.
Maybe he was trying to show that he is a sincere and true follower of His Holiness. He also thought that he might get more support from Sera monks, but in reality, monks at Sera are not narrow-minded people who don't have any space in their hearts for Lukar Jam when it comes to Tibetan issue. We don't consider Rangzen activists to be our enemy like Red China. I think Speaker Penpa Tsering didn't understand our mind and the open hearts that we have. I think that this time Speaker Penpa Tsering did the wrong maths, the wrong divination. What a mistake.
By Pasang Tsering
Earlier this summer, I was in Washington, DC, attending a weeklong Tibetan Youth Leadership Program organized by International Campaign for Tibet. One of the important political institutions we visited was the United States Department of State. In a closed-door meeting, we sat down with one of the top-most United States diplomats. Toward the end of the meeting, a fellow student expressed her concern about the plight of Tibetans in the absence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. To my great surprise, the high-ranking diplomat effused, “What is Lobsang Sangay? What about other elected Tibetan leaders? Don’t they represent the Tibetan people?”
This story above is a testimony of how significant the upcoming elections are for Tibet and Tibetan people. We are electing our leaders not only to run Dharamsala, but also to represent us and shoulder the solemn duty of realizing the aspirations of six million Tibetans. They are the standard bearers of our Tibetan freedom movement. Now if they were to be recognized as our representatives, it first begins with our votes. Every Tibetan in exile must exercise our voting right and thereby delegate our power to our leaders.
Nonetheless, the fundamental flaw of our democracy is votes are counted, but not weighed. Our leaders are chosen based on number of votes they earned, but not quality of leadership they bring to the table. The only way we can bring competent leaders at the top is by thoroughly examining each and every candidate and supporting only those with demonstrated track record of outstanding accomplishments, well thought-out present and future plans, and their ability to deliver what they promise. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand all the candidates who are running for the Sikyong (prime minister) and Chitue (parliamentarians) elections.
When it comes to the Sikyong election, we have five candidates, namely Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, Speaker Penpa Tsering, Tashi Wangdu, head of the Federation of Tibetan Cooperatives, Lukar Jam, a researcher and ex vice president of GuChuSum former political prisoners' movement, and Tashi Topgyal, a former member of Special Frontier Force. Among all the present candidates, Sikyong Lobsang is arguably the strongest candidate.
Why Dr. Lobsang Sangay Again?
Being an incumbent is a double-edged sword. The past record could either be in favor or against the incumbent. However, public is at the advantage because we could evaluate the overall performance of the incumbent on the job. In 2011, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay defeated veteran politicians Tenzin Tethong and Tashi Wangdi by winning 55% of the votes and rose to the highest office of the Tibetan diaspora. His signature election campaign slogan was ‘Unity, Innovation and Self-reliance’ and that was the mandate of the general public. So, nothing could better address the aforementioned question than by examining whether he has produced any concrete deliverables as mandated.
Democratic leaders earn public support by serving their constituents and thereby bring unity between the government and citizens. As such, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has placed tremendous significance on stabilizing Tibetan settlements in India, home to over 80,000 Tibetans in exile. Besides, he has also made unprecedented efforts to integrate newly arrived Tibetans from Tibet into the exile community. Compared to the past, the newly arrived young adult Tibetans are receiving better educational facility and political prisoners are provided with the best possible amenities. Moreover, he has made an earnest attempt to connect everywhere from the East to the West through Tibet Corps and Sister Shichak.
Ever since Sikyong Lobsang Sangay assumed the political leadership, there has been a series of positive changes in the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and its functionality in style and substance. Among many, one that a lot of us have not taken heed is a new reach of the Tibetan diplomacy round the globe. For India to the United States, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has established our presence in the eyes of both the leaders and people of those countries. He has won friends, influenced people, and accomplished our collective goals.
Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has made a remarkable effort in bringing socio-economic growth and development in our exile community. The CTA’s budget has doubled under his administration compared to the previous administration and so is its investment in education, public health, small businesses and many other community development programs. Hence, the fiscal health of our exile government has gained a new momentum and many of his new policies and programs are taking shape in building a strong, stable and sustainable exile community.
Sino-Tibet Dialogue: An Achilles Heel of All
Among all the issues, the peaceful resolution of Tibet is the top most priority because this is the core reason for the very existence of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Ending the sufferings of our Tibetan brothers and sisters in Tibet is our ultimate cause.
When Sikyong Lobsang Sangay came to office, the Tibetan public placed their hopes in him. He came as a Harvard-trained legal expert with a demonstrated track record of leading dialogues between Chinese and Tibetan scholars on Tibet-China issue. However, odds were and still are stacked against him and there is little to no room for him to move in or move out at the moment.
If Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has one Achilles heel, it is undoubtedly the stalemate of Sino-Tibet dialogue. This is where a lot of constituents are unsatisfied, if not unhappy, including many of his staunch supporters. While his administration has formed a new task force team and met multiple times within their bubble, there has not been even a single meeting between his representatives and their Chinese counterparts till date.
Sikyong Lobsang Sangay alternatively used both tough rhetoric and conciliatory tones presumably in an attempt to bring China to a dialogue table, but we have not seen any tangible progress, except for garnering international sympathy and support and some Chinese friendship. Materializing Sino-Tibet dialogue in the resolving the Tibetan issue will be a challenge for all the candidates and we need their solid answer.
Return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet
Born and raised in a modest family in the far-flung hill station of Darjeeling, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has come a long way. He is a believer and he is an achiever.
When Sikyong Lobsang Sangay said we would escort His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama back to a free Tibet, he meant it. As a leader, he raised hope in the hearts and minds of every Tibetan. His aspiration is our aspiration. It is an aspiration of all our Tibetan brothers and sisters in Tibet. Even His Holiness firmly believes the day of His return to Tibet will come soon within His lifetime. So, we shall continue to strive for our collective dream of a free Tibet and return of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama to Potala Palace.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is and always will be our supreme leader. His Holiness is the symbol of our Tibet and Tibetan people and His Holiness is our guiding force. However, when it comes to leading the Tibetan freedom movement, His Holiness has completely transferred over 400 years old political authority to our democratically elected prime minister or Sikyong and it is therefore critical that we elect the strongest possible leader to lead our Tibetan freedom movement.
To that end, all the four other candidates pale in comparison to what Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has accomplished and will accomplish as our leader. It is for this reason, we must re-elect Sikyong Lobsang Sangay. Let us give him five more years to finish all the unfinished works and bolster the Tibetan freedom movement. We have come a long way together and let us now continue our journey towards unity, innovation and self-reliance.
Yes, let us vote for Dr. Lobsang Sangay again!
The author is a Juris Doctor candidate at CUNY School of Law, New York. He completed his Bachelor’s in Law from M.S. Ramaiah College of Law, India, and Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York.
[Editors' Note: all candidates for Sikyong and Chitue are invited to send their campaign literature to TPR for publication.]
by Lukar Jam
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The glorious history of Tibetan empire had sustained and nurtured the Tibetan people. During the height of its power, the Tibetan empire extended nearly the half of Asia – from the then Chinese capital city of Chang’an in the east to the Gangetic plains of India in the South, and to the Oxus River in the west. The hoofs of cavalry from the high plateau have left an indelible imprint over these territories. Tibet even controlled the Silk Route, emerging as a bridge between the Eastern and Western worlds and a major hub of trade and civilization.
Tibetan people possess the spirit of rebellion. During the imperial time, when the masses suffered atrocities due to unjust rule and heavy taxation, they, in alliance with the military, revolted against Tibetan kings. They even ransacked the royal tombs at Chongye, distributing the treasures buried therein among themselves.
Tibetan people have the willpower to revive the glory of Tibetan civilization. After the political disintegration of Tibet, the fire of Tibetan Buddhism kept burning in eastern Tibet. The learned Panditas and Lotsawas travelled to India, China and other countries to bring in their cultures, thus reviving the Tibetan civilization. These efforts enabled great advances in Tibet’s political, economic and cultural fields.
The Tibetan people have the ability to seize opportunity for political changes. The one who can seize such an opportunity in accordance with changing times is a true leader. In the recent history of Tibet, there were several proud events such as the expulsion of Chinese invaders from Tibet. His Holiness the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama, taking advantage of the downfall of Manchu dynasty in China, not only expelled all the Chinese from Central Tibet but also reiterated the independence of Tibet in 1913, thereby rendering unimaginable service to the Tibetan people.
Tibetans are the first to revolt against Mao’s China. In the 1950s, Tibetans from Dotoe, Domey and Utsang launched both peaceful and armed struggle against the invading PLA forces. Although the Chinese eliminated leaders of the Tibetan government, including those that attempted to cooperate with them, Tibetans continued to revolt, culminating in the Tibetan National Uprising on 10 March 1959.
Tibetans have never surrendered to the occupying Chinese. In early 1980s, a new generation of Tibetans rose up against the Chinese colonizers in Tibet’s capital Lhasa. In 2008, a new chapter was opened in the Tibetan freedom movement as Tibetans from across the entire Tibetan Plateau rose up against the Chinese. Nearly 150 Tibetans who have self-immolated so far are at the forefront of this new movement.
Tibetans are fiercely independent in nature and self-sufficient. Tibetans in exile are doing quite well because of the hard work of the older generations. Refugee settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan are functioning well and young Tibetans, who are decently educated, are able to face the challenges of the modern world and walk shoulder to shoulder with other people.
Lack of long-term vision has obstructed political reforms. We need to change the political status quo and to wake up from this inferior attitude of having lost our nation and having to face existential uncertainty in exile. I don’t believe that change will emerge out of the coffers of a rich merchant. I don’t believe that change will come from the prayer of a hermit meditating in a cave. I don’t believe that change will be ushered-in by anyone just because he or she has a degree from a western university.
Political reform can only be achieved when we imbibe the wisdom and fortitude of our forefathers and the spirit of the Great Emperors of Tibet. However, if we forfeit our collective wisdom and espouse the knowledge of others while aping the western culture in all our works, we will never be able to rise up for freedom. Even if we do manage to rise up, we will not be able to build a Tibet that is the true spirit of Tibet or one that is truly suitable for Tibetans.
As human beings, exile Tibetans have had instances of disagreements between various groups. Ideally, CTA should have been able to maintain a fair and balanced stand on minor issues and conflicts within our community. However, occasionally we have made mountains out of molehills. Cases in point are the dissension between the old and the new Chushi Gangdruk, the issue regarding propitiation of Dolgyal and the recent fiasco in New York where a few so-called supporters of the Middle Way Approach warned other Tibetans chanting pro-independent slogans that they would be handed over to the police. In such instances the exile administration should have shown visionary and non-partisan leadership.
We must eliminate our servitude mindset. Chinese propaganda alleges that the barbaric and backward Tibetans will never make progress without the leadership of the Chinese Communists. In exile some of us, as if to augment this Chinese narrative, preach that Rangzen is unrealistic and that Tibet will profit if we remain under China. This is tantamount to reinforcing our servitude mindset.
The other form of servitude mindset prevalent in exile is the failure to identify those people who talk about honesty and integrity yet engage in corrupt acts. Although we know those unscrupulous people yet we look the other way. If we fail to overcome these forms of servitude mindset, we will never be able to rise up.
The perversion of faith has sown seeds of discord in our exile society. With the progress of civilization, we hoped that the discords between different religious traditions would subside. However, as elsewhere around the world, tensions within our exile society seems to have risen. There have been cases of murder due to contention in propitiation of deities or demons. In the past few years, many of those who practice Dolgyal and those who allegedly oppose them have unabashedly washed their dirty linens in the public, creating a sad spectacle. The harmful repercussions of such actions have gradually emerged in Tibet as well. As of now, it is not the exile administration’s role to interfere in the dispute between deities or demons. Instead it must take steady and careful steps in restricting the perversion of faith, which is destroying the foundations of peace and unity within our society.
In the history of Tibetan democracy, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s decision to devolve his political responsibilities was historic. However, those who inherited the precious gifts of democracy from His Holiness, seem to have forgotten their responsibility to restore Tibet’s freedom as soon as they entered the gates of Gangchen Kyishong. They forget that Gangchen Kyishong is not Lhasa. Due to their ignorance about ground-shifting changes taking place in Tibet, the exile leaders fail to respond actively when protests take place inside Tibet.
I am standing for the Sikyong elections not because it is about winning or losing. Rather it is about its significance. I have to enter this election. This is not just an act of protest but because we need concrete reforms and a new vision.
Long Live Tibetan Independence! Long Live Tibetan courage! Long Live Tibet!
Sikyong Candidate 2016
3 August 2015
Vision for Political and Cultural Renaissance
Vision for Non-partisan Governance
Resist the Servitude Mindset
Resist the Abuse of Faith
By Sonam Paljor
Dulwich Hill, Sydney, Australia
We Can Shape our Tibetan Election Debate #TibetanElection2016
Tired of seeing the Dalai Lama’s name used as a crutch during these Chithue (Members of Parliament) and Sikyong (Prime Minister) elections? Tired of hearing the same old "doktsa-chigdril" slogans without any tangible plans to show how it may be achieved? Then, asking the right questions will encourage our candidates to take stands on the really important issues and help shape our discussion.
#TibetanElection2016 should be about informed discussion, not continuing with the same old thread based on narrow personal considerations.
About the Dalai Lama
The institution of the Dalai Lama has great historical legitimacy. Because of his tireless work for Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama is today universally synonymous with Tibet. However the issue of Tibet is also the issue of 6 million Tibetans and many more. How will you progress the issue of Tibet independent of the Dalai Lama? What structures and systems will you put in to progress this reality at the state, national and international level?
About U-may lam or Rangzen
There are two main views on how we might advocate for our cause: The official U-may lam (Middle Way) of the past several decades and the other “minority” Rangzen (Complete independence). Considering U-may lam has been our government policy for many decades, do you think it needs to be reviewed like any other policy? Do you view Rangzen people as “against the Dalai Lama”? Which policy do you support? How would you propose that you will work with people you don’t agree with and unite this diversity into a coherent voice at the state, national and international level?
About religious harmony and unity
Minority religious groups such as Shugden propitiator have been in the news for various reasons. How has it affected our cause and what secular democratic structures and systems will you propose or put in to include such minority groups and work with them?
About Non-Government bodies
Do you see a role for non-government Tibetan or non-Tibetan organisations in furthering our cause? E.g. Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association, Students for Free Tibet, Tibet Support groups, etc. If so, what’s your plan to work with them at the state, national and international level?
About increasing representation of Tibetan voices from inside Tibet
There appears to be no letup in Chinese control over our people in Tibet. How do you propose we find ways to increase representation of Tibetan voices from inside Tibet in forging a common future path with our exile set up?
About equal gender representation
This election appears to follow previous election trends and seem to offer little or no representation from women and other genders. How will you create space to increase gender diversity in leadership roles in our community?
If you are a candidate, please do share your responses here. And if you are not, then, please help forward these questions to our candidates so we know where they stand.
I want to declare that this is a personal initiative with no organisation or business involved behind it.
[TPR editors' note: any Sikyong or Chitue candidates are invited to send responses to TPR for publication]
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