By Ganzey Tshering, Boston
[Response to article published in TPR on March 6, 2011]
Since March 20 is just around the corner and we’re on the verge of choosing our 3rd Kalon Tripa and the 15th Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies or the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. I really don’t think that our parents would have even dreamt in their wildest dreams, we’d still be in exile as refugees after 52 longs years and not in a free Tibet. We’ll be saying goodbye to our honorable Katri Samdhong Rinpoche, who has managed to keep the Central Tibetan Administration in one piece and intact. Despite hardships, challenges, set-backs, formulation and execution of policies, some of which might have not been popular or produced any positive results, he should be congratulated nevertheless and we wish him well, Thuk je che.
I was a little skeptical when LS first started to make rounds announcing his candidacy for the post of the Katri, and I was further baffled when he won the prelims. (Though I must admit that I did send him my congratulatory note and he acknowledged it). Throughout his campaign, we’ve seen a person who is definitely energetic, vocal, charismatic, charming, sometimes even acting a little arrogant, going to the extent whereby our humble Tibetan standards and up-bringing would seem to be out of place and context. This was clearly evident during the first debate held in NY where he blatantly said in his closing remarks that it was now time for the older generation (referring to the other two gentlemen on the podium) to step aside, and hand over the post over to the younger generation. As many of you may have seen the video clip, which is available on YouTube, it drew a lot of boos and jeers, and it was certainly not taken lightly.
As a Tibetan-Bostonian, I’m even peeved that LS did not start his campaign from his home base, Boston. Tradition or at least some courtesy or should I say political-miscalculation on his part would dictate he would have called on his staunch supporters (of whom there are a few) to help him out with his first political event/fundraiser right from his base. A good friend of mine sent me a message on facebook that LS had stated in DC after the VOA debate, that he would be holding a gathering on the 18th of March, in Boston but it sure doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Secondly, with the win in the prelims, he must be under the false impression that he has Boston under his wraps. But, with the ever-changing weather patterns here in New England, LS might have forgotten how fast things change here. Thirdly, with the successful visits by both of his adversaries here in Bean town, he must have sensed that the winds of change might have certainly shifted. It will certainly be a winter of discontent for someone who might have a tad underestimated and misjudged the will of the people. I certainly have felt this way and have no qualms in pronouncing my judgment and certainly know where my vote is going.
Now, coming back to the issue at hand, a certain Tashi Phuntsok from Toronto, has come out with an article entitled ‘Man and the Moment’ on the popular site ‘The Tibetan Political Review’, dated March 6. He clearly states that his article is not intended to be a political endorsement, nor about the man (LS) himself, but a personal observation (socio-political) on democracy in exile, significance of the Katri elections and LS’ likely place in what he calls a ‘historic period of our democratic renaissance’.
I agree with Tashi Phuntsok that our very nascent, young and so-called democracy (a topic which could itself generate another round of debate/s) is certainly in a historic renaissance mode. I’m also aware that some folks will completely disagree that this so called democratic renaissance is misleading and with it own pitfalls will falter and breakdown, once the Dalai Lama passes away. Whatever may come, no one can tell, but when we have a chance to participate and at least take some control of our future, we should all join in as one, and vote for the right candidate. I further agree to some point that whoever takes the mantle of the Katri will have to be mindful of the advancing age of HH the Dalai Lama, his recent 10th March statement, where he clearly stated, “During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be make to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.” Finally, the resolution of the issue of Tibet and the commencement of talks with the Chinese government should and will take center stage and thus will be the bane of our future.
But, herein lies the caveat where I totally disagree with Tashi Phuntsok’ assessment of LS, The Man and the Moment, whereby he notes three so called momentous factors that could be his trump card.
Yes, any Tibetan will tell that the policy of the Middle Way has proved to be ineffective and not brought any substantial political result, and yes, many folks may want to strive for a new change, direction or action, as you attribute it “freshness to a new face”. Mind you, I think you fail to recognize that the last big gatherings of Tibetans from all over the diaspora in Dharamsala and Bylakuppe effectively put their trust in the Middle Way and fully confided in the trust of His Holiness. Furthermore, you also must be cognizant that whoever becomes our next Katri will have to toe the line of such a mandate. He will not have the leisure to do or propose anything rash or stupid, as the Legislative body, the Chitue will keep him in check. So, your understanding of our political set-up from this point of view certainly seems to be out of place, and definitely being a so-called ‘outsider’ will not give your candidate an upper hand, but vice versa.
The 2008 Tibetan uprising did build an upsurge of patriotism and nationalism amongst our youngsters in Tibet and in exile. It did play an important part in re-invigorating and re-igniting the flame of rangzen, but I fail to understand how LS as you put it ‘had been a role model for many younger generations much before he became the candidate’. Yes, he is a passionate speaker and is able to rouse up the minds of the youth and alike, but sometimes, his lack of experience, tact, use of words, mixing up things, and brashness leads him to second-guess and this is what one cannot afford in our next Katri.
Finally, you raise an issue and state categorically that ‘politics and governance are matters primarily a prerogative of the elite class’, which to me is a non-issue in this day and age, whereby 99.9% of our government employees are from common and humble background like your candidate who grew up in a small and barely mentioned settlement in Lama Hatta Camp, 9th mile, on the way to Darjeeling from Kalimpong. So, for your kind information, your Aam aadmi’ are in charge of the Ganden Phodrang in exile, starting right from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the peon.
Yes, I do have a lot of respect and give your man credit in various matters and concerns, which have been mentioned, written and debated for the umpteenth time, and I don’t want to bore you again. But, your so-called wind of change has been blowing in exile for the past five decades, it may not have been a strong one but nonetheless, it has been blowing quietly and effectively. Believe me, no one is ready for a tsunami of a change, for the Middle Way is the true path and do not want a catalyst in LS who could blow our winds of change in a totally different direction if elected. So, I beg all my Tibetan brothers and sisters to think twice and hard before you cast your vote on 20th March 2011. Bhod Gyalo.