There is no rest for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) these days, as they find themselves dealing with scandal after scandal.
The CTA, or the Tibetan leadership, is based in Dharamsala in North India but their interests are represented all over the world in various Tibet Houses by a donjo, the Dalai Lama’s representative. These are prestigious, highly coveted assignments as the donjo is the bridge between the host country and the Tibetan leadership. Hence, as one might imagine, the position of the donjo is also a very lucrative one; the donjo gives recommendations on funding, immigration matters and becomes the host nation’s reference point on all matters Tibetan.
Similarly, the donjo is answerable to Dharamsala, reporting back on a regular basis. Hence a negative report from the donjo to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan leadership can be very damaging to one’s reputation amongst the upper echelons of Tibetan society.
Today, as speculation grew over the reasons for the appointment of a new donjo, the CTA announced that Penpa Tsering had in fact been dismissed from this position. The news came as a shock since Penpa Tsering had grown to be a familiar face to many. This strongman of the Tibetan leadership successfully held seats in the 12th, 13th and 14th Tibetan Parliaments-in-exile. He then moved on to the prominent position of Speaker of Parliament in the 14th and 15th Tibetan Parliaments-in-exile.
In May 2016, Penpa Tsering found himself offered the position of North American donjo, based in Washington, D.C. The appointment came after an unsuccessful bid for Prime Minister (Sikyong), the highest post in the CTA in which he ran against the incumbent Dr Lobsang Sangay. To many, this consolation prize was not a surprise since being the North American donjo carries with it access to many famous, wealthy donors and sponsors scattered throughout the region.
Given the fact that Penpa Tsering is no political lightweight and the importance of his role as the donjo in such a strategic country as North America, his very abrupt dismissal raises more questions than answers. This is especially because it so quickly follows an article by The Guardian, a British newspaper which on 28th October 2017 ran a story on the suspension of Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama’s personal emissary to the USA, over corruption claims.
In a statement given to the Voice of America’s Tibetan service, Penpa Tsering claimed that he was informed of his dismissal at 7:28am on 6th November 2017. Such an unceremonious sacking of a senior government official, so early in the morning at the start of the week, is most often a hasty and pre-emptive move to evade another public relations disaster such as the Tenzin Dhonden scandal.
And Penpa Tsering is no stranger to scandals.
In fact, Penpa Tsering has for years dodged allegations of various illegalities including murder and associations with a visa trafficking ring. His strong position in the CTA and his favor with the 14th Dalai Lama provided him with immunity from impeachment. Questions raised against him in the Tibetan Parliament were soon brushed aside and instead the people asking the questions were sanctioned. To many observers, allegations of corrupt officials running the Tibetan corridors of power is nothing new. As long as one is on the right side of the Dalai Lama, he or she is virtually untouchable and there is simply nothing anyone can do about it.
The hurried and rushed way Penpa Tsering was removed from his position is highly indicative of how the CTA operates, unbeknownst to most people in the world. Someone like Penpa Tsering who has a string of serious accusations against him can rise to power unabated and even hold the position of the Dalai Lama’s Representative in North America. But just as swiftly as one can rise to power under the favor of the Dalai Lama, they can fall from grace just as quickly. It is barely surprising when this is the system that:
The Dalai Lama’s emissary, Tenzin Dhonden, has been suspended after claims of corruption and extorting money from sponsors. In fact there are many such people surrounding the Dalai Lama and this is the very reason that there is division and disharmony within the Tibetan leadership.
No one knows exactly how rich the CTA officials are but for certain countless millions pour in annually and have been doing so for decades. And it is not difficult to see that very little or none of that has trickled down to the Tibetan refugees who continue to languish in the settlements in India and Nepal.
Today, Dr Lobsang Sangay runs a ‘government’ that has mastered the finest art of soliciting money from public and private individuals supposedly for a ‘Tibetan cause” without:
- Having to actually define what the cause is
- Having to work towards said cause(s), whatever it may be
- Having to be audited and held accountable for their progress and the fulfilment of their pledges (or lack thereof)
- Having to perform the most perfunctory of functions that a government must, such as to ensure the civil liberties of the people.
Penpa Tsering has for years dodged allegations of various illegalities including murder and associations with a visa trafficking ring.
Indeed there is no such thing as civil liberties within the community under the governance of the CTA. For example, as Dorje Shugden practitioners have experienced first-hand, there is no religious freedom in the Tibetan community. The Tibetan leadership has ably demonstrated that they will not hesitate to outlaw a religious practice, if loyalty to one’s religion is inconvenient to the absolute reign of the few in power.
Penpa Tsering was one of the most visible supporters of this abuse of power. It was not so long ago when, as Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, he entered a Tibetan school and commanded young students to listen to his speech. Laced with untruths and obscene distortions of another person’s religion, his words had one objective – to incite resentment against practitioners of that religion.
Penpa Tsering thus was no victim of politics but very much an enforcer, as he did not hesitate to discredit and slander one of the most beloved and important lamas of Tibetan Buddhism, the most holy and sacred Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo. It did not matter to Penpa Tsering what the casualties might be, or whose sentiments he irresponsibly hurt in the process of denigrating and destroying a pillar of Tibetan spiritual society. The system demanded the destruction of old loyalties to grand spiritual masters. Penpa Tsering, Tenzin Dhonden and many others are the products of this system, which is now cannibalising itself.
The Tibetan people simply cannot win. If Penpa Tsering’s sudden sacking is to prevent another disaster to the CTA’s reputation which is increasingly being disgraced as one news story after another exposes the skeletons in their closet, then it confirms that the Tibetan leadership reeks of corruption through and through. The likes of Penpa Tsering and Tenzin Dhonden cannot operate in a vacuum. It takes more than two to deceive the entire world for over 50 years, beguiling private patrons and well-meaning governments into thinking that there is such a programme as a true Tibetan cause, into thinking that the average Tibetan benefits from their generosity.
Today, successful Tibetans around the world did not succeed because of the CTA but in spite of the CTA. These are the farsighted ones, who saw long ago that they would fare better on their own outside the clutches of the CTA. The Tibetans in the settlements today are still being told that it is unpatriotic and near-treasonous to seek an Indian citizenship, which is available to many of them. And so they dare not.
On the social media channels like WeChat, talk is rife amongst Tibetans who believe that Penpa Tsering’s dismissal is a strategic move by Lobsang Sangay to remove a political rival. But there is another possible reason, which Tibet Sun exposed on 9th November 2017:
to cover certain money trails. Apparently Penpa Tsering had been asking too many questions that reflected poorly on Lobsang Sangay, namely about the mysterious remittance of some US$1.5 million from the Tibet Fund that had gone towards the “purchase of a new building”. This had been done without the proper accounting procedures being met and without the said loan being registered, and it had taken place at a time when the Office of Tibet in the United States was under the management of a Lobsang Sangay crony.
So Penpa Tsering with his questions, Penpa Tsering who had also challenged Lobsang Sangay during the Sikyong elections, had to go. However, when you piece together the various articles and coverage that has somehow gone under the radar because of the Dalai Lama’s popularity in the past,
stories of misappropriation of funds and financial irregularities seems to be the rule, not the exception, when it comes to CTA politicians. The US Congressman Dana Rohrahbacher apparently knew about such bad practices as early as 2012 when he wrote to Lobsang Sangay saying, “… also aware of serious accusations that US funding meant for Tibetans may have been misspent…”.
If any of the above does prove to be the case, that Penpa Tsering was asking too many questions, or that Lobsang Sangay simply wanted to be rid of a political rival, then it confirms what we already know – that the Tibetan leadership upon whom the refugees rely fully, are more interested in political skulduggery and internal power-grabbing; that they are more interested in Machiavellian power plays than making collective efforts for their people to have some semblance of future as a nation wherein their culture, language, traditions and beliefs may be preserved.
For the CTA, personal profit will always trump championing a true ‘Tibetan cause’ that might see the return of the Tibetans to their homeland. Indeed, 50-over years of history show how sunk the Tibetan political system is, how inept and corrupt the politicians are, and how traitorous the leadership is. Sadly, the suffering of the people has become the CTA’s signature product.
Penpa Tsering will not be the last of the CTA’s notoriety and it is a matter of time before others are uncovered. As the CTA sinks deeper, seeing how geopolitical winds are blowing in favor of its nemesis, China, more cracks will appear and more of the CTA official’s improbity will spill. It’s just a question of time.
Source: http://tibet.net/2017/11/officiating-cta-president-explains-kashags-decision-to-replace-representative-of-north-america/. Click to read the full report.
Source: https://www.tibetsun.com/news/2017/11/07/education-minister-ngodup-tsering-appointed-north-america-representative. Click to read the full report
Click to read the full report
Click to read the full report
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