by Ngawang Choechen
The Tibetan community in exile is honored that we have many highly respected persons possessing varied experience and willing to serve as the next Sikyong. But it makes us difficult to choose one from the promising candidates. Many people tend to choose one based on the attractive manifesto and fancy campaign events of the candidate. Are those supporters doing enough research about the candidate’s background such as personality, education, experience, trustworthiness etc?
I have done a pretty thorough background research about all the candidates and also their supporters. I tried to understand the opinions of other people and analyze them. Also I discussed my opinions with others who I knew and those who were associated in various fields in the Tibetan community services.
In fact, I have known most of the honorable Sikyong candidates except one while they were serving the Tibetan government in various capacities in India as well as here in the United States. I spent years in Dharamsala serving the Tibetan community in different times with various capacities. Thus I had the opportunity to observe the personality & performances of most of the honorable candidates.
In addition, I read the manifestos or policy declarations of all of them, watched their campaign events and interviews in various places. After knowing and doing my pretty thorough research, I have decided to vote for Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la for this time. I have nothing against any candidate rather than my humble gratitude for their willingness to serve our cause. In fact I feel that some of them deserve Kalon positions or future Sikyong positions. My decision to support a candidate is entirely based on merit with the sole aim of reuniting us all and not on petty reasons such as regionalism or factionalism.
Do I know the candidate and how long
I know Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la as early as 1971 when he was a student in Central School for Tibetans in Dalhousie. During those years, I was serving in SFF and wanting to pursue my further studies as a private candidate. With the help of a friend in the school, I got permission to study in the school for a couple of months. During my stay, I observed that Ngodup la was a very hardworking and humble student. At such a young age, he was already helping other students as much as he could. As Professor Samdong Rinpoche has once mentioned that the students were calling him “Ama Ngodup” in the school. His leadership experience began at such a young age.
The next occasion I saw Ngodup la was when he was a college student in one of the reputed colleges under the Delhi University. I had some friends in the college and they were mentioning about his positive personalities further more.
A deeper association with Ngodup la was in 1979 in Dharamsala when he was already serving in the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala. After completing my Bachelor of Education, I went to Dharamsala and while I was looking for a teaching career, I was offered a staff position in the Office of Central Executive Committee of Tibetan Youth Congress by Kungo Losang Jinpa la, the then President of Tibetan Youth Congress. During that time in 1979 I had the opportunity to learn and observe the well managed proceedings of the Working Committee Meeting of TYC. Ngodup la was one of the two chosen meeting secretaries drafting all the meeting resolutions in Tibetan language. I saw his proficiency in the Tibetan language and detail oriented performance for several days. Our group photograph is still circulating in social media.
Later I gathered more positive information about his personality and exemplary performance while I was in TIPA for a short training in 1985 and also later as a teacher in TCV Senior school, Dharamsala in 1988. My next visit to Dharamsala was in 2009, Dharamsala when I went to try to admit my son in TCV school during which the same positive talk about his performance is heard. Lastly I met him in 2015 in Dharamsala during which time Ngodup la was Kalon for the Security Department. We had a brief pleasant talk that time and he was as simple as when I met him many years ago as a high school student in Dalhousie.
I am narrating all these meetings to show that I have deeper knowledge about the candidate that I am supporting. As I said many people support a candidate based on the recorded experiences, policy declaration or campaign events. Some even admit that they do not know the candidate. I think knowing the candidate is very important for a person to support.
What are the personal traits or character of the candidate
Based on my above knowledge and also listening to numerous panel discussions and testimony by responsible supporters, I gathered the following information about him. Kasur Ngodup la was born in Independent Tibet like myself, walked crossing over the Himalayan mountain passes at his childhood along with his parents while fleeing Tibet due to Chinese invasion. He was brought up and educated in exile in India as a Tibetan refugee all along and began to serve the Tibetan government in exile. Many of us chose to migrate to western world whereas Kasur Ngodup la chose to remain in India serving the Tibetan community for 43 years.
All the people who worked with Ngodup la praise his exemplary character, humbleness, simplicity, honesty and kind heartedness which are essential requirements for a Tibetan leadership quality. He does not have unwanted habits such as drinking, smoking, emotional imbalance and other unpleasant human habits. He can smoothly go along with all walks of people-old or young, educated or uneducated, men or women. Anyone associated with him says Kasur Ngodup la is a fine man. There is no issue of corruption and mismanagement or negligence of duty against him. He has the ability to patiently listen to any person before giving his response. At the same time he is a tough and determined person who can face an unscrupulous person not fulfilling his or her duty.
Who are the supporters of my candidate
Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la is not standing as a candidate for Sikyong and exhibiting his vote catching manifestos but was approached by numerous responsible Tibetans ranging from all walks of life from all over the world where the Tibetans are scattered. His gallery of supporters include senior former members of the three pillars of the Central Tibetan Administration including former Kalons, Justices Commissioners, Parliament members , Cabinet Secretary, General Secretaries, Representatives of HH the Dalai Lama, etc. Some highly respected Khenpos, Gesheys, renowned monks and nuns from small as well as large monasteries also support Kasur Ngodup la. His supporters also include former Dapons, Senior Officers, other leaders and members of Special Frontier Force, Settlement heads, Presidents of Tibetan Youth Congress and other NGOs.
Tibetans who worked for the government of India including retired high Indian intelligence dignitaries close to the current Indian government leaders support Kasur Ngodup la. Many educators including, school Directors, Principals, Headmasters and teachers of Tibetan schools and university professors and college teachers in India and abroad also support Kasur Ngodup la.
Many successful business persons and medical doctors also support him. His supporters also include scholars and intellectuals including historians and Ph.D candidates, media persons, noted artistes and college students pursuing higher studies in various universities. He is regarded as a symbol of unity and liked by all these responsible persons.
Why do the Tibetans inside and outside Tibet support him
Majority of the Tibetans are in Tibet and their voice is crucial for us. It is difficult to understand their wishes. But to know the wishes of the Tibetans inside Tibet, almost all the internationally renowned former political prisoners who spent many years in prison under the Chinese rule openly supports Kasur Ngodup la risking their neutrality prestige. They included former political prisoners who escaped decades ago as well as those who recently came into exile. I worked for Voice of Tibet in late 1990s in Kathmandu, Nepal and availed plenty of opportunities to interview with the new arrivals from Tibet. Some of them have important confidential messages from freedom fighters inside Tibet. They wanted to deliver the message directly to HH the Dalai Lama or Prof Samdhon Ripoche, if not only to Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la. Such is the level of trust the Tibetans inside Tibet have.
In view of such strong support and earnest appeals from the above mentioned responsible persons inside and outside Tibet, Kasur Ngodup la has decided and declared that he will not withdraw his candidature if he is shortlisted after the preliminary election on January 3, 2021.
The reasons why do these responsible Tibetans from all the three provinces inside and outside of Tibet and from all walks of life-old and young; men and women, educated and uneducated support him, is mainly the trust they have in Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la. They firmly believe that he will never do anything against the wishes of HH the Dalai Lama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the symbol of our unity and our unanimous support for His Holiness is utmost important for achieving our common goal. The Chinese authorities are so much worried about HH the Dalai Lama as they do not even want to talk to the Tibetans administration.
Kasur Ngodup la has not a single instance that made others who worked with him unhappy. He is the right person to bring tangible unity of all the Tibetans. His long service record shows that he is always impartial. He has an open mind for the Tibetan following Middle Way Approach as well as those who follow Rangzen approach. He has made this stand clear during his recent interviews as well as the talk program in New Years a few years ago. He has emphatically urged all his supporters not to criticize any other candidates.
Relevant experience and level of traditional and modern education
Kasur Ngodup la is the only Sikyong candidate who has served the Tibetan Administration starting from the lower clerical responsibilities to the high post of Kalon rising gradually from bottom to the top with the required experiences. Thus he knows the system of the Tibetan Administration thoroughly. His long experiences also include the position of the important position of Representative of HH the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, India. His long successful experience is relevant for the Tibetans and he is reputed following all the rules of CTA sincerely. He has the experience of serving as a Kalon under the most respectable leader and scholar in the Tibetan tradition professor Samdhong Rinpoche and also modern Harvard Educated Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay la. Sikyong Lobsang Sangay la in fact revealed his choice of Ngodup la as one of his Kalons prior to his election. Therefore, Kasur Ngodup la is ready to serve as Sikyong from the day one and does not need to learn or familiarize the system of the Tibetan administration.
Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la has studied in a reputed residential Tibetan school India and his skill in the Tibetan language is excellent. I want to point out that most of the official transactions in CTA are done in Tibetan and a Sikyong should be well versed in the Tibetan language. His way of speaking Tibetan is also dignified and not mixing any foreign words while speaking with the Tibetans.
Regarding modern education, Ngodup la attended and graduated from one of the reputed universities in Delhi specializing in Political Science. Political Science is an important subject for a modern political leader as most of the political leaders in the west had political science as an important subject in their academic field.
What about his Manifesto
Ngodup la has not yet disclosed a written Manifesto except through recent interviews by Voice of Tibet and others. Some people question about this matter. We vividly remember that during the Kalon Tripa election, neither Kalon Trisur Prof Samdhong Rinpoche nor Kalon Trisur Juchen Thupten la, had an election campaign or written manifesto. It went very smoothly. Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la also wants to follow in their footsteps. He does not want to publicize his future plans as done in India or western countries because he has not volunteered by himself to stand for election. On many occasions, some candidates prepare an elaborate and attractive Manifesto and others have great oratory skills during the election campaign to convince the electors. Unfortunately many candidates do not achieve the result as promised during the election.
Also it is not a requirement to declare a Manifesto or hold campaign events before the Preliminary voting under the Tibetan election rules. Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la does not want to promise something which he is not sure he can accomplish. Moreover he is currently holding the position of Representative of HH Dalai Lama in Delhi and cannot engage in campaign activities. If he is one of the two finalists, I am sure Kasur Ngodup la will bring out a written Manifesto. Anyway, I am confident that Kasur Ngodup la will certainly produce us better performances and achieve better results than he has promised if elected. He is a man of morality and responsibility.
The Chinese government is trying their best to disunite the exile Tibetan community. Many of us do not realize this fact. Having worked in the Department of Security for a long time and also meeting Tibetan secret freedom fighters inside Tibet, he has the knowledge how the Chinese government creates disunity among us thereby he has practical solutions for our genuine unity. He says so long as all the Tibetans sincerely follow HH the Dalai Lama and have full allegiance to the Tibetan Administration, there is no major unity problem.
Even concerning Dholgyal issue which also tried to create disunity among us through the Chinese involvement, Kasur Ngodup la gave a detailed information to the Tibetan parliament. It shows that he does a great deal of research in dealing with any problems and brave while facing challenges.
When he realized that there was an unfortunate situation prevailing in the exile government which created some dissent with the Tibetan protective deities as well as HH the Dalai Lama, he humbly took the share of responsibility and submitted his resignation. This is a very important example of a responsible leader and should not be taken otherwise.
Accelerating the dialogue with the Chinese government
I believe the most important task of a Sikyong is to work for the early resolution of the Tibetan issue. The current policy of the Tibetan Administration is Umay Lam or Middle Way Approach. Kasur Ngodup la has deeper knowledge and experience as he was a member of the dialogue committee and involved in the negotiations with Chinese government by the Tibetan administration under Prof S. Rinpoche. during their numerous interactions with the Chinese authorities. Moreover, Ngodup la personally went to Tibet risking his personal life and held interaction with some prominent clandestine freedom fighting organizations in Tibet such as Tak Truk Shonu. This organization was very popular when I was working at TYC Office in Dharamsala in 1979/80.
During that time, Kasur Ngodup la had the opportunity to explain about the Tibetan administration in exile and also was able to obtain information about clandestine freedom movements in all the regions of Tibet. This is revealed by a prominent former political prisoner during an interview with Voice of America. Another prominent former political prisoner said that the Chinese authorities asked him if he has any connection with Ngodup la when he was in prison.
As revealed during his interview with Voice of America, Ngodup la explained that his policy is to initiate to knock on the doors of the Chinese authorities and engage with them without waiting for a response from them. He does not expect pressures from the foreign powers would bring a desired result as self interest is the most important for a country in extending any support. He said whether happily or reluctantly, we have to engage in dialogues with the Chinese government to reach a resolution using the Middle way approach or Rangzen approach. That does not mean he will neglect seeking support from the international communities. He will certainly continue seeking support from the international community.
Having served under Kalon Tripa and Sikyong Lobsang Sangay la, Kasur Ngodup la has gained tremendous experience of sharing diplomatic experience with numerous countries. More importantly, being the current Representative of HH the Dalai Lama in the Indian capital New Delhi, he has tremendous experience dealing with all the embassies of the world. Gaining support from the most important country India, he has cordial relationship with numerous Indian dignitaries. Having served in the department of security at Dharamsala, he has excellent relation with the Indian security authorities. Support from India is crucial for achieving a sustainable result for the Tibetan issue.
The bottom line is that all the supporters of a Sikyong candidate need a deeper understanding of the candidate. I don’t know how many have done or are doing a thorough research about the candidates they are supporting. After doing my research, I have decided to support Kasur Dongchung Ngodup la for the next Sikyong. As I said earlier that I have not based my decision on petty regionalism consideration. My main basis were on the candidate’s humility to HH the Dalai Lama, trust from the Tibetans inside Tibet and outside, his patriotism finding an early solution to the Tibetan issues, his long experience serving the Tibetan Administration in exile and his capability to reunite all the Tibetans. I want to commit that eventually I will wholeheartedly respect and follow whoever becomes the next Sikyong elected by the majority of the Tibetans in exile. That is my firm commitment.
* Ngawang Choechen holds an M.A B.Ed. and Diploma in Tibetan Language from Punjab University, Chandigarh. He has served in the Special Frontier Force; as an English Teacher in schools in India including TCV Senior School, Dharamsala; as a Tibetan language teacher in Moravian Mission School, Leh; as headmaster and Principal of Tibetan High schools in Nepal; in the Office of Central Executive Committee of TYC, Dharamsala; as President of Regional TYC, Kathmandu as well as New York & New Jersey; and as a Radio journalist for Voice of Tibet, Norway while in Nepal. After immigration to the United States, he served as an Executive Director of New York Tibetan Alliance in New York and also Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, Minnesota. Currently he is a Realtor and owns a Tibetan gift shop in North Carolina. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org