"The Tibetan Political Review: Rear View" by Sonam Nyatsatsang

posted Aug 11, 2010, 5:27 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Aug 12, 2010, 4:38 AM ]

Dear Editors:

I had great hopes when I first heard about The Tibetan Political Review (TPR). The editorial board is comprised of some very promising youths and it appeared to be an excellent initiative. It's sad that I am having second thoughts on how they will do in the coming weeks to months. I was reading their commentary on the Zurich debate between Tethong and Sangay at the First European Tibetan Youth Parliament in April, 2010. I had to go back to watch the full debate again to convince myself that the commentary is really on that debate.
For disclosure and transparency, I nominated Sangay to the Kalon Tripa website <www.kalontripa.org>

TPRFour key differences between the two gentlemen are: 

    (1) Attitude toward political power

    (2) Experience

    (3) Analytical style, and 

    (4) Their view of the main criteria for choosing the next Kalon Tripa

To lay the ground work, the moderator starts by asking each a different question and then goes through (9 of 10) prepared questions (90 seconds to answer) and then opens it to the floor. They had five (5) questions from the floor. I had listed below in the order of questions posed during the debate if anyone is interested in watching the video and drawing their own conclusions.

2) Experience: is related to the opening question from the moderator
The debate starts with the moderator asking Tethong to speak on some of his achievements while he served as kalon tripa. He then asks Sangay; Before Obama became president, some have suggested he is young and inexperienced, What do you think about it? Sangay seeks clarification: Are you asking if you do need or do not need expericence to be Kalon Tripa. Moderator: No, no, before Obama became president, some have suggested he is young and inexperienced, What do you think about it?
Sangay answers as stated by TPR.
TPR critique: Additionally, a casual listener might believe Sangay was, in fact, comparing himself with Songtsen Gampo and Alexander the Great.  It is probably a sign of his political inexperience that he made such a twistable statement. If this were American politics, there would be a serious price to pay for making such a bold comparison.  Likely, Sangay would be accused of arrogance and even of having delusions of grandeur.  While this may not be fair, it is how politics is played in the “big leagues.”  We believe running for Kalon Tripa demands one to be ready for the “big leagues” and Sangay might be more careful before making such statements in the future. The larger point is, Sangay avoided the question about his experience to serve as the highest elected Tibetan leader.  We call on him to answer this directly.

My take: TPR probably forgot or choose to neglect the fact that the question was on Sangay's views about Obama's lack of experience rather than a question about his experience.

Public Question# 5 is specifically related to experience in the exile government but only Tethong gets to answer before the debate was ended.

1) Attitude toward political power: is related to the third (3rd) question from the floor

Question: We feel the two of you are promising candidates and that's why we have invited you. Will you declare your candidacy and start campaigning actively?

TPR critique: The candidates’ attitude toward political power revealed their most stark difference.  While Tenzin Namgyal-la’s standpoint seemed rooted in Tibetan cultural norms of leadership as a humbling responsibility, Lobsang Sangay-la took a more Western-oriented idea that political power should be openly sought. His (Sangay) statements throughout the debate presented himself as a candidate, without caveat or disclaimer.  In fact, he joked or possibly made fun that Tethong is saying: “I’m not running but I’m not refusing to run either.” 

My take: I heard Sangay say that he is planning on visiting the Tibetan settlements in India to assess current economic situation, livelihood, their hopes and aspirations to assess if he will be capable of making a difference. "At present I am still thinking." TPR did not understand the "popular" joke that Sangay told the audience, " I am not running but I will not refuse if elected."

3) Analytical Style: is related to the first (1st) prepared question of the debate

Question: What is Democracy?

TPR critique: The debate showed that the two candidates take a rather different approach to problem-solving.   While Tethong takes a broad and philosophical approach, Sangay takes a specific and examples-driven one.  

My take: For the question that TPR based their critique on, I agree with their assessment. I expected them to give a broader overview of the debate when I read Analytical Style as one of the key differences.

4) Their view of the main criteria for choosing the next Kalon Tripa: is related to the fourth (4th) question from the floor

Question: If you win this election, what is your top agenda, do you have anything specific for the youth?

TPR critiqueSangay seems clear that his sole criterion for the next Kalon Tripa is “knowledge, knowledge, knowledge” (“shenyun, shenyun, shenyun”). 

My take: I never heard a question addressing the sole criterion for the next Kalon Tripa but based on the critique it appears TPR has not listened to the question that was posed, or is this some misrepresentation or gross negligence. 

For me the debate was interesting with a few revelations

1) Tethong did not list his achievements while he served as Chief Kalon in the past (opening question from moderator)

2) Potential policy differences with Samdhong Rinpoche: Tethong touched on SR's belief of Gandhian philosophy and undertakings by Paljor office for revenue generation (Q4 and public Q1), Sangay touched on giving more autonomy to the dept. secretaries (Q4, he was not asked public Q1)

3) Sangay's embrace of the idea of "Ma Dhey Tulku"- recognizing a successor to His Holiness before his demise (Q7)

4) Tethong and Sangay both believes that they should only function in agreement with HH wishes

For the sake of transparency, it will help if TPR will inform the public how their editorial is written. Does it get edited by all four on the board or do they write turn by turn or does a core group of 1 or 2 write it up and the others make suggestions but does not have the power to edit etc.?

I sincerely hope TPR will do a much better job next time rather than distort questions and offer a more balanced critique. As of now I need to be convinced that TPR "does not support or oppose any candidate." I am at present of the belief that TPR opposes Sangay. (In addition to Tenzin Nyinjey (NY)who wrote to TPR on this same subject).




Editors' Response:
We welcome comments and criticism but the allegations of bias are unfounded and based only on speculation.  We have critiqued several potential candidates, including Phurbu Dorjee, Dolma Gyari, and T.N. Tethong, and plan to critique more of them.  For more on this allegation of bias, please see "A Question of 'Bias'".
We invite readers to review our website in full and decide for themselves, just as we encourage each Tibetan voter to decide for themselves whom they will support in the upcoming elections.
Additionally, Sonam-la, if you would like to see another perspective better represented in The Tibetan Political Review, you are invited to submit an article for publication pursuant to TPR's guidelines.  The journal is an open forum.
Lastly, Sonam-la, from your letter it is apparent that you are very proficient in both English and Tibetan.  There are many articles published in Tibetan that have not yet been translated into English, and vice versa.  The editors of TPR are volunteers working in their spare time, and we would love to have talented bilingual writers such as yourself help translate articles and opinions.  For example, translating from the Tibetan media to English might be a constructive way to participate in expanding the contents of TPR.  Please respond if we can count on your help.  Your participation would be a valuable contribution to TPR's mission to provide comprehensive coverage of the Tibetan political landscape.
The editors