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Sangay and Tethong on Strengthening the Tibetan Government

posted Dec 21, 2010, 1:08 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Dec 21, 2010, 1:38 PM ]

By the TPR Editorial Board

This piece continues our effort to help voters understand and compare the policy positions of the two major Kalon Tripa candidates.  In this piece, we focus on the candidates’ stated positions on strengthening the Tibetan government-in-exile.  As the chief executive and administrator of the government, the next Kalon Tripa will be in a uniquely important role to further this reform, and voters should therefore pay special attention to evaluating the candidates’ positions.

1. Sangay's Position

Sangay focuses on the problem of limited resources. His solution is for all Tibetans to “shoulder the burden” and to train more professionals, which is certainly needed.  However, Sangay’s stated goal was to address how to “preserve and sustain” the government in exile, which he does not adequately do.  For example, Sangay does not propose more immediate solutions to the challenges the government will face in the next ten years, during a time when His Holiness has indicated an intention to retire to some degree from politics.

2. Tethong's Position

Tethong’s statements are more comprehensive, and appear to reflect his greater understanding of how government works in practice. His position on the civil service is appropriate, since people are at the heart of any government or organization. Tethong shows a respect for the civil servants, and a commitment to treating them as professionals with corresponding compensation and facilities. Similarly, Tethong appropriately recognizes the need to “strengthen the financial resources of the government,” but disappointingly he does not say how to accomplish this critical task.

Tethong also states his commitment to “accountability and transparency.” As part of this, he proposes a novel idea of a “national ‘suggestion box.’”  Presumably, part of this “suggestion box” would be online, which could allow Tibetans anywhere to have their views heard.

Lastly, Tethong proposes a “program” for Tibetans with skills or education in the West to come to Dharamsala to offer their service to the government.  Such an idea for a “Reverse Peace Corps” has been made before in Tibetan society, but just as President John F. Kennedy turned a vague idea into the original Peace Corps, Tibetan society needs an active leader for a "Reverse Peace Corps" to become a reality.  We invite Tethong to provide additional details on how he would implement this program in practice.

As always, readers are welcome to contribute their own reflections or reactions, and the candidates are invited to provide any additional details that they wish.


Lobsang Sangy, writing in Phayul: 

Since the exile government is the center of the movement, it is vital to preserve and sustain it, without which the movement will fizzle away. However, we lack both the kind of natural resources and the kind of large ethnic constituencies around the world which have helped other peoples garner support. It is reported that there are 500 million Buddhists in the world, with 200 million in China, but given China's influence over these Asian countries, it is difficult to gain access and form alliances. Those with religious affinity and ethnic kinships like Bhutanese, Kalymks and Mongolians are small and weak and so couldn't provide much support even if they wanted to. Consequently, the responsibility is squarely on the shoulders of every Tibetan, and it is especially important for the younger generation to step up to share the honor and burden of the future of the Tibetan movement. To strengthen and sustain the exile government, like other constituencies, Tibetans need a thousand millionaires and possibly billionaires who will provide funding, a thousand professionals providing technical support, and know how, a thousand Ph.Ds providing political and strategic expertise on every aspect of Tibet, in the context of China, Asia, Europe, North America and the rest of the world.



[T] this is my favorite -- we should have a thousand lawyers who will advocate, file law suits, fight defamation, and provide leadership to the Tibetan movement. It is not an accident that great leaders of successful movements were lawyers, such as Gandhiji, Nehru, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln, who ended the slavery system in America. Barack Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer made the impossible possible by becoming the first Black President in a country with a white majority. Even in China, Vice-President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Le Keqiang, who are touted as the next top leaders, both have legal diplomas.

It is paramount that Tibetans train themselves as lawyers if they want to lead the Tibetan movement. A degree in law opens the door to a financially stable career with flexibility to switch to government, NGOs, Multinational corporations, international organizations, or private practice. A law degree is a win-win proposition. The days of college-degree leadership will soon be over and we must try to become like the Jewish and successful Asian minorities in America: the most educated, affluent, and now powerful constituencies in the most powerful country in the world. Tibetans mantra should not be simply get a degree and make a living rather get an advanced degree, make good living and serve the cause effectively.

Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, writing in TPR  (Sangay did not respond to invitations to answer the same set of questions):

It is my belief that the Tibetan government in exile may be among the most transparent and publicly accountable governments in the world. However, if there are any good ideas to advance such concerns we should be open to discussing them publicly since there is always room for improvement.


If someone has concerns about accountability or transparency regarding a particular matter it should be brought forth openly and with specificity. This can be done through the Kashag and related offices, the Parliament, through the media, and if no attention is paid one can even file a case in our Justice Commission. We can even consider having some sort of a national “suggestion box” where the public can offer the best of their thoughts on how to constantly improve the functioning of our government.




To improve the standards in the Tibetan civil service may not be as daunting as it appears. The overall sense of loyalty and dedication of the average Tibetan to His Holiness and the cause of Tibet is an invaluable asset on which the service cadre stands.


On a technical level, the selection, training, and possibly the continuous training of staff will need more attention. And on a practical level one cannot expect the new generation of Tibetan exiles to serve as selflessly with little compensation or facilities as those who did in the first few decades of the government in exile. The service cadre can no longer be looked on as a “refugee” service cadre, but should be seen as a group of dedicated professionals who also need to be cared for in a manner befitting their dedication and what is expected of their service.


In recent years many young and older Tibetans who have migrated to the West have returned to voluntarily serve in various Tibetan settlements, government offices, schools, monasteries and social organizations for brief periods of time on their own initiative. There is no reason why we cannot institute a more efficient program to take full advantage of their offer of service and the skills they posses to further benefit the Tibetan people and the work of our institutions.




It is probably fair to say that the next Kalon Tripa will have to begin a thorough discussion concerning the financial base of the Tibetan government, including a full review of recent policies and its impact. There is no doubt considerable attention and effort will have to be made to strengthen the financial resources of the government because we do not have the ability to collect taxes nor manage our finances as independently as we wish.