By Kunsang Tanzin, Toronto
As a Tibetan, who has always had faith in the brotherhood of all Tibetans, I am deeply distressed to see a very sad posting on Facebook by a young Khampa boy from India who wrote, “……they talked about my family in this group..but i never tried to know about their identities..they even said..he is a chushi ghandrug member..dats why he is supporting ??.my dad was asked to become president of old chushi ghandrug..but he declined by saying..old ..new..i don't know..there is only one chushi ghandrug...yes...my grand dad fought with the chinese...no...we dont hate ustang ppl..dat has been put in ur head by ur elders dat every chushi ghangdrug member r nothing more than a trouble...i feel sad...i try and hide my sadness behind my sense of humor..yes...……….”
Unlike the first two direct elections of Kalon Tripa of Tibetan government in exile, the 2011 election has generated unprecedented campaign propaganda. The use of term “split of U-tsang vote” is one such unofficial yet systematic and effective campaign propaganda has given rise to the impression that we U-Tsangs are up to a mischievous act of defeating a candidate merely on the ground of Cholka(regional) consideration. This style of campaign has surely succeeded in disheartening many people, such as the young man mentioned above, of their faith in our sense of common belonging and unity. As a result of which, this election has raised the risk of alienating a disheartened section of society from our future united endeavors. To win back their heart and to heal the wound may take decades. That is not worth the price to pay to elect or defeat a candidate for a term of merely five years. As a corrective measure from a responsible member of U-tsang cholka, I would like to reassure our brothers and sisters from other Cholkas that the greatest majority of U-stang has complete faith in our unity and brotherhood. We will not and cannot afford to allow ourselves to be swayed by any negative influences that may jeopardize our unity.
I supported and campaigned for Kungo Lobsang Jinpa during the preliminary stage because I had faith in his sense of patriotism and in his belief in our common cause. Presently my entire family is supporting Kungo Tashi Namgyal as one of the NA Chithue candidate because we believe and trust him. Like my family, I am confident that the majority of U-tsang people will not vote on the basis of Cholka but solely on the basis of merits of each candidate.
In 2011 Kalon Tripa election I have decided not to vote for Dr. Lobsang Sangay not because of his Cholka but because of his inexperience and his lack of courage. As a voter I do not want to be responsible for handing over our future to a person who lacks necessary experience and the aptitude to handle and manage an exiled government apparatus, which is deeply complex and dynamic in nature. I am also worried by the lack of courage on his part to accept mistakes and to take corrective measures. To err is human, but to accept mistakes and to take corrective measures thereafter needs courage. Courage is a necessary component of leadership quality, which is found lacking in Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
I am also not voting for Kungo Tenzin Namgyal Tethong. Kungo Tethong was one of the member sof the historic Kashag in 1990. It was historic because His Holiness through a special order inspired us to have the Kashag elected by the people for the first time with the sole purpose of giving reality to his vision of structuring a sound democratic social and political system. In 1995 Kungo Tethong la let us down by refusing to carry on this historic responsibility further. During his tenure as Kalon for Paljor and Home affairs, the respective departments under his supervision caused one of the biggest budget deficits and caused immense financial loss to the poor Tibetans in Ladakh region. Budget deficit and losses from ill-conceived business venture is not uncommon. In refusing to staying put in Dharamsala and trying to balance the huge deficit as well as to recover the losses in some way Kungo Tethong displayed total lack of responsibility and commitment to his own vision and ideals. Presently Kungo Tethong’s close association with the Dalai lama Foundation and Stanford University job may not come under the purview of electoral code of “office of profit”. Nevertheless, because of the close association of the purpose and activities of these organizations with principles and activities of HH the Dalai Lama, it would have been more appropriate on Kungo Tethong’s part to disassociate himself with these organizations when he decided to be a candidate. Doing so would avoid speculations on conflict of interests if Kungo Tethong is elected as Kalon Tripa. For not having done in 1995 what was expected from a dedicated and committed leader and not for having disassociated himself with organizations whose interests might come in conflict with responsibilities of a Kalon Tripa, I have serious doubts in Kungo Tethong’s capacity to lead us.
Kungo Tashi Wangdi is the underdog candidate in this election. Although not completely free from any weakness, I feel safe to vote for him. Apart from his 40 years of varied experience, simplicity and honesty, I have observed in recent times two important qualities in Kungo Tashi Wangdi that are seemingly missing on the part of his opponents.
Firstly, because of his continued consensus approach during his long career, I see in him the only candidate who is capable of generating a harmonious goodwill among various branches of government in Dharamsala and thereby carry-on the affairs of the Tibetan government in exile smoothly without many hindrances. Prof. S. Rinpoche, inspite of his exceptional qualities and skills, faced many difficult periods of acrimonious environment in running the Dharamsala government in exile.
Secondly, Kungo Tashi Wangdi is the only candidate who has immense capacity to exhibit highest level of sensitivity and responsibility to any unforeseen situation. To explain this quality of his, let me briefly narrate a situation during the recent Katri debate in Toronto. There was a question regarding the difficulties of Tibetan election in Nepal and the questioner wanted to know if any of the candidates was planning a campaign trip to Nepal. Kungo Tashi Wangdi was first to answer and he replied, “ I have no plans”. Where as the other two candidates decided to stretch their answers to explain the difficulties faced in Nepal and their inability to go there. The bottom line of all the three answers, long or short, was that none of them were visiting Nepal. But the audience was unhappy and dissatisfied with such an unexpected short answer from my candidate. Soon after, concerned by the negative reaction by the audience, I raised the issue with Kungo Tashi Wangdi in front of several people. Kungo explained to us that, in his mind, to offer an exhaustive answer would be tantamount to disheartening the Tibetans in Tibet by letting them know through a live web cast that a prospective Kalon Tripa with IC is not even permitted to enter Nepal. Later on, on our way to a dinner, Kungo Tashi Wangdi further told me that he understood the sensitive nature of the situation in Nepal and, as a first speaker on this question he did not want to be responsible for initiating a deliberation of this sensitive and controversial issue that might unnecessarily provoke the authorities in Nepal for more stringent measures against the Tibetans in Nepal. From this episode it was clear to me that this frail looking but strong willed man will defend the larger interest of our cause even if it meant personal setbacks for him. To help maintain the spirits of Tibetans in Tibet high and to help avoid any unwanted difficulties for Tibetans in Nepal are more important for Kungo Tashi Wangdi than to win applause and votes of few hundred electorates. Only a man with such high level of sensitivity and responsibility of his thoughts and actions can be entrusted with job of running the Tibetan Government in exile and that job deserves to go only to Kungo Tashi Wangdi.
I have enumerated above dangers of this election. I have also mentioned above my logical and rational justifications to vote for and against the Kalon Tripa candidates. I made these decisions independently and I urge all my brothers and sisters to cast their precious vote on 20 March 2011 without fear and interference. If we all focus only on the merits of each candidate, we will succeed in electing the most suitable person as our next Kalon Tripa.
--Editors' Reminder: Publication of any article does not imply endorsement of its views by the Editors.