It has been a turbulent few years for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA; Tibetan leadership), fraught with many exposés about their behavior and lack of concern for their own population. It is a view that is rapidly picking up steam amongst the Tibetan community
These are the facts:
- There are never any new viable candidates in the elections. It is always the same names who sit in the positions of donjo (His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s representative), chithue (parliamentarian), kalon (cabinet minister) or Sikyong (Prime Minister). What is more shocking is that even though they serve the people, their appointment into many of these positions is never put to a vote nor does it ever require the approval of the populace.
- What is more sad is that they rotate amongst themselves. When Penpa Tsering, an alleged murderer, was done being Speaker of the Parliament and lost in the Sikyong campaign to Lobsang Sangay, he was assigned to become the donjo of North America (His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s representative of North America)
Penpa Tsering (left) and Lobsang Sangay (right).Both were forced to apologize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for a ‘decline in morality’ after they engaged in mud-slinging and dirty tactics during the 2016 Sikyong elections. If these are the two only viable candidates for the leader of the Tibetan people, what does it say for the community’s future?
- How come there is such a dearth of leaders within the Tibetan community? Is it because the population is not capable of producing or nurturing more leaders? Or is it because the leadership stifles growth and does not want to allow new people to rise as leaders, because it will hamper the lucrative potential to line their own pockets as a result of holding their positions? In the case of the 2016 Sikyong race, there was a new candidate, the popular Lukar Jam Atsock. He was however, quickly dispatched by a mid-election manipulation of the rules.
- Whatever the real reason, it is sad that even when incumbents run in the competition, they have to mud-sling to win. It got so bad that even the Dalai Lama showed his displeasure by ignoring the candidates at the airport when he arrived back from his travels, and the gods chastized them in public.
- You never see people rushing to work in the CTA. With the exception of perhaps Dhardon Sharling, the Tibetan leadership is populated by the establishment who have been in politics for decades. You never hear kids saying they grow up dreaming to work in their government in the same way American kids say “when I grow up, I want to be President of the United States”
- Is it because the CTA is essentially an old boys’ club with only aristocratic families allowed to join? Kaydor Aukatsang, for example, the former North American representative of the Dalai Lama, comes from a prominent family which has spawned many other politicians in the Tibetan leadership
- Or perhaps it is because no one actually wants to work in the CTA. While you often see young Tibetans rushing to the West or trying to establish some sort of hip hop career for themselves, you will not see people within the Tibetan community saying they want to work for the Tibetan leadership. Again, while you will see young Tibetans joining international NGOs fighting for the so-called Tibetan cause, you will not see young Tibetans flocking to join the CTA itself. But if they were really passionate about the Tibetan community and their people, would it not be logical for them to want to work at the center of it all i.e. at Gangchen Kyishong in Dharamsala where the Parliament and government is based? Why join an outside group to work for Tibet when the CTA should be the one applying sufficient pressure on foreign governments to support them?
- Maybe subconsciously Tibetan youth realize there is not much there in Dharamsala for them so why waste their time?
In which case, if even the youth of Tibet do not clamor to work for the CTA, it does not say much for the future of Tibetan democracy. If no one says they want to be a leader, and the establishment does not encourage leadership qualities, what will happen when the Tibetans no longer have His Holiness the Dalai Lama to rely on? When Lobsang Sangay completes his term, what lies in store for the Tibetan people? Will Lobsang Sangay be the leader in perpetuity, or will a new face be allowed to rise? Or will the Tibetans have Penpa Tsering to fall back on?
The fact choices and options for leaders are so limited within the Tibetan community is the antithesis of what it means to be a democracy. But is it any surprise when everyone knows that the CTA has never really been a democracy? What we now know for sure is that it will never be a democracy and whatever they say about being one is a pipe dream they have and will never come to realize. Scariest still is the uncertain future that lies ahead for the community which at the end of the day, is being left to the whims and fancies of a leadership who never has (and never will) care about them.
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