1. What will be your guiding principles as the next Kalon Tripa and leader of the Kashag?
If given the privilege and honor to serve His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, I will be guided by the three principles of unity, innovation, and self-reliance. Unity as the foundation, innovation as the process, and self-reliance to sustain the movement and to guide us in restoring freedom in Tibet.
UNITY: I envision a Tibetan society that is free of regionalism, sectarianism, and gender inequality. In a non-violent movement like ours, unity is paramount. Our movement will not succeed if we are not united. While we can all take pride in our diverse backgrounds, we should no longer allow parochial regionalism and sectarianism to divide us. Women represent more than half of our society and we must develop their potential and galvanize their innate leadership qualities. My Kashag will embody this principle in terms of both policies & practices. Every Tibetans - in Tibet, shichaks and around the world - must strengthen our unity by ending differences and discriminations of any kind. United, we can successfully challenge the oppression and injustice of the People's Republic of China.
We must move forward and take inspiration from recent examples around the world like the white majority America electing an African American Barack Obama as the President, a Hindu dominant India electing a Sikh Prime Minister in Manmohan Singh and the Germans electing Angela Merkel, and Australians electing Julia Gillard, both women, as heads of their respective governments.
INNOVATION: Successful non-violent movements need innovations to adapt to ever changing environments and to strengthen and sustain the movement. Through innovation we can make the Tibetan government and movement more efficient and effective. We have to tap into the resources both within the community and outside for innovations and use innovation and entrepreneurship to strengthen ourselves as an organization, improve communications, shape better educational and development policies, and enhance the overall infrastructure of our movement.
SELF-RELIANCE: Gandhi promoted self-reliance as a core principle of the Indian freedom movement because if a movement is unable to stand on its own feet then it will simply wither away when external support ends. Our parents and grandparents were forced to be dependent on others (mainly India) when they came into exile. After fifty years in exile, we now have no excuse but to move away from a dependency mindset and become more self-reliant to sustain our movement and become successful in achieving our goals.
As a leader, I will champion the unity of our people and create enabling conditions for innovations that can make our both public organizations and the community more self-reliant to restore freedom in Tibet.
2. What will be one of the first actions of your Kashag on the issue of Tibet and China?
One of the first actions of the new Kashag on Tibet issue vis-*-vis China will be to call on allied meetings focusing on the Tibetan Uprising in 2008 and its aftermath in the light of ongoing policies and processes. In 2008 we witnessed the largest protests in Tibet since 1959. The uprising spread all across Tibet and lasted several months. I feel it is incumbent upon the Kalon Tripa and Kashag to closely analyze the historic protests and their aftermath thoroughly to better enable CTA, related Tibetan organizations, and support groups around the world to come up with action plans. It is important to understand about political prisoners, their conditions and how best to get them released. The results of the meetings could provide the most needed insights into how we can respond, coordinate and communicate more effectively when another such uprising takes place in Tibet. The sacrifices made by Tibetans ought to be treated as sacred and their sufferings heard loud and advocated around the world. The Chinese government may have already formed a review committee and done their investigations to prevent and crush such uprisings in future. We must be vigilant and better prepared to support our brave compatriots inside Tibet in every possible way.
3. What will be your policy on the issue of Tibet and China including the current status of the Sino-Tibetan Dialogue?
Let me reiterate the same narrative I've been saying long before I decided to run for the Kalon Tripa's position and also known as Eight Ms to those who have attended my talks. I have always argued that Tibet was an independent nation illegally occupied by the People's Republic of China and is entitled to the right of self-determination under international law, but that this is not feasible at present due to the political reality of China being a member of the UN Security Council. However, we will have to confront all the injustices, political repression, economic marginalization and cultural assimilation resulting from the occupation. The ongoing dialogue with the PRC and the Chinese people is to make them understand the current tragic reality in Tibet and at the same time let them realize the nature of the indomitable Tibetan spirit. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, who all vigorously confronted governmental policies yet continued their conversations with the people, adopted this type of approach.
A Middle Way Approach is mandatory, as per Chapter IV and V of the Exile Charter, for any Kalon Tripa and Kashag. I shall remain committed to it as per the resolutions passed by the Tibetan Parliament and be guided by the principles espoused by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In recent times, His Holiness has stated that he is losing hope with the Chinese government but remains hopeful with the Chinese people. As it stands today, dialogue is in a stalemate. I acknowledge Chinese scholar Wang Lixiong's point of view that one of the outcomes of the dialogue process is that the blame for the impasse lies with the Chinese government and its hardline policies on Tibet. Now the world has reached the same conclusion and appears to concur with what we have been saying for a long time, namely, that the Chinese government must demonstrate more sincerity in addressing the Tibet issue.
As said earlier, the Middle Way approach, as enunciated by His Holiness, is the current policy of the CTA, and the new Kashag will adhere to this policy. But I duly recognize that there is diversity of views on our dealings with China. I believe my background of having served as an executive of an organization like the Tibetan Youth Congress, studied international law and self-determination and facilitated dialogue with Chinese scholars for the last fifteen years will serve me well. It will enable me to appreciate the pluralism and allow for healthy and respectful debate without letting our movement be held hostage to the extreme voices of any one group or point of view.
Another major foreign policy agenda of the new Kashag and one with strong bearing on the issue of Tibet is our special ties with the government and people of India. I view this as one of our most important bilateral relationships and will do my best to have an impact in India's Tibet policy. Both India and China are the next two global superpowers and their relationship is going to be an increasingly complex one where the Tibet issue will figure prominently. We will continue to maintain our ties to India and people of India and keep reinforcing the fact that it is in India's interest to help resolve the Tibet issue. I remain eternally grateful to India for receiving His Holiness and giving us refuge. The Kashag will explore ways to further strengthen our ties to the Indian government and people at all levels.
The new Kashag will also keep a close eye on China's policy with regards to Tibet's ecosystem and restoration and protection of Tibet's pristine natural environment. We will make it clear to Beijing that our people must be fully involved in the management of Tibet's ecosystem and natural resources. Now that the Tibetan plateau is recognized as The Third pole, the region must be protected at all costs. It is my deep belief that the eventual stewardship of the Tibetan ecosystem should be given to Tibetans and their age-old sacred relationship to the environment restored.
It is important to recognize that the success of the exile Tibetan movement depends largely on the changing global realpolitik. We must be able to take advantage of any situational changes in geopolitics be it regional or global. When significant changes occur internationally or in China then the Tibetan Parliament and the Kalon Tripa and Kashag ought to take appropriate actions. I would therefore like to closely monitor the developments - internationally and in China - while sustaining our special relationship with India. We must do everything possible to keep the hopes and aspirations to restore free Tibet alive.
Last but not least, I want to acknowledge and support the revival of Tibetan identity and culture as exemplified by the brave, grassroots Lhakar movement in Tibet. Furthermore, in remembrance of all Tibetan patriots who sacrificed their lives in Tibet since the beginning of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, I will encourage all government offices to gather for short prayer sessions every week to mark the occasion. I also appeal to Tibetans around the world to support the Lhakar movement.
4. What kind of Kashag will you form and how will you remain connected with the people?
As part of my commitment to the principle of unity, I hope to appoint three senior Kalons from our elders and four younger Kalons from the new generation. The core requirements for serving in the Kashag will be competence and a high degree of Lhaksam for our cause. To maintain continuity, reappointment from the present Kashag will be considered in the new Kashag as well so that lessons of the present Kashag can be passed on to the new cabinet. While reviewing all policies to introduce innovations and fresh strategies, Katri Samdhong Rinpoche's counsel will be sought whenever appropriate`in order to ensure a smooth transition to the new administration and avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. The new Kashag will be a blend of the traditional and the modern, rooted in both our spiritual foundation and contemporary know-how thereby upholding the principles of unity, innovativeness in approach, and committment to moving towards a path of progressive self reliance.
It will be the people first Kashag. The matters dear to the people will be heard and well attended. Every Kalon, including myself, shall allot time to visit all shichaks by the end of second year in office to ascertain local problems and matters. We will make collective efforts to bring national and local issues close to our daily lives and show solidarity between the Kashag and the people. Having traveled to more shichaks and met more Tibetans around the world than the other Kalon Tripa candidates, I promise to continue the practice of reaching out to the people and will strive to become an active and accessible leader. If issues are not resolved locally then people, either individually or as a group will be able to reach out to Kashag directly to have their grievances addressed.
5. What will be your education policy?
Having studied in Bhoeshung Lobdra, I can proudly say that education and scholarship provided by the Tibetan government helped me become the professional that I am now. Education will be one of my key priorities. I will make maximum efforts to ensure that our students receive high quality education that will enable them to compete with the best in the world.
My commitment to our students and their education predates my running for the Kalon Tripa's office. I started the Tibetan Nutrition Project more than a decade ago and it has to date provided around $500,000 (Rs. 2 crores) to help pay for nutrition for over 2000 students annually in a dozen schools in India including Model School, Institute of Higher Studies in Varanasi, and several Department of Education schools in various settlements.
We must recognize that education is essentially a collective responsibility of various stakeholders. The five key players are: The Indian and Tibetan governments, school administrators, teachers, students, and parents. It will require active participation and efforts of all five to make our education system a success. Providing good teachers and upgrading school facilities are the keys to improving our school education. Parents have a vital role to play and must be closely involved in the education of their children.
As a matter of principle, I would like to see the New Basic Educational Policy being implemented at various schools with Tibetan as a medium of instruction. However, I am also aware of the ongoing debates on our new education policy, which has generated quite a bit of unease within our community as many parents and children appear confused. The lapses in implementing mechanisms must be overcome by involving all stakeholders. I intend to review and closely monitor implementation of the new education policy, and take additional steps needed to make the policy more effective. I believe it is very important that younger Tibetans grow up rooted in our language and culture. We must build an educational system that integrates Tibetan values and culture into the curriculum.
The exile government has succeeded in increasing the literacy rate to over 84%, which is almost double the rate in occupied Tibet. However, the system falls short when it comes to producing students with advanced degrees in a range of subjects including science, math, medicine, law, business, etc. Of the 1200-1500 annual high school graduates, only around 300 students (20-30%) major in Science and Commerce fields and around 30% pursue nursing courses. There is a special need to prioritize the teaching and learning of science and mathematics starting at the elementary school level, so that we have more high school students majoring in these subjects and pursuing paths leading to advanced degrees in the field of science, medicine and other important disciplines where we have a real deficit of Tibetan professionals. English and Tibetan language standards also need to be improved. I will also make efforts to increase both merit and need-based scholarships.
The long-term goal of the Tibetan government in exile should be to have a pool of around 10,000 professionals in a wide range of fields. These professionals will provide both financial support as well as know-how to help sustain the Tibetan movement. There are currently around 30,000 Tibetans residing in Europe and North America. If those who can afford could sponsor a child in India and another in Tibet from basic education all the way to professional degrees, we could then reach the target of 10,000 Tibetan professionals in the next twenty years. If the 10,000 professionals in turn could each annually contribute $1,000 towards the exiled government's budget then the $10 million raised annually would comfortably cover the present administrative budget of the Tibetan government which is around $8 million a year. In such a scenario, we would become self-reliant.
6. What will be your economic policy?
I have lived through the experience of a Shichak life with humble upbringing by fetching wood from the forests, helping my father in a sweater business and engaging in small merchandising between Kathmandu and Delhi to pay for my first year college admission fees. Recently I traveled to more than two dozen shichaks and met with sweater sellers, businessmen, recent arrivals, taxi drivers, cooperative societies' members and their workshops, carpet weavers, dairy farmers and looked into maize fields, organic farming practices and especially talked with unemployed youths. My field contacts and experiences have given me a good deal of insight into the prevailing conditions and importance of economic development and of creating employment opportunities to sustain Shichaks as self-reliant communities. I will do my utmost to improve the economic conditions of our people and the shichaks. I will make special efforts to successfully integrate recent arrivals from Tibet.
To sustain a Shichak, one must first try retaining as much of the income generated from businesses, employment and remittance (funds sent by relatives from abroad) as possible within the Shichak. The annual income of shichaks ranges from fifty Lakhs to several hundreds crores in larger Shichaks like Bylakuppe. However, due to poor production capabilities, most of the incomes generated leave the Shichaks in the form of goods and services purchased creating negative resource inflow-outflow balances. So, the first thing Shichaks need to do is create small-scale production units to collect and retain people's disposable incomes. Secondly, we must undertake research and development to develop enterprises that can increase the revenues and purchasing power of the people. This idea is based on the same advocacy we make for Tibetans in Tibet to buy in Tibetan shops, eat in Tibetan restaurants and spend ones resources in Tibetan businesses so that the Tibetan economy could be generated and strengthened along with and in competition with the Chinese economy. If even half of a settlement's annual income of ten crores is spent and invested locally then that settlement's economic condition will begin improving significantly. As more funds get cycled internally it then creates a virtuous cycle where support for local business will enable community members to open up larger businesses and soon some of them will acquire sufficient scale and efficiencies to expand the market to beyond the settlement and generate even more income for the community.
Remittances do play a significant role in the economies of many countries. Tibetans are obviously living as guests in India and therefore we can't really develop and implement an independent financial policy to maximize settlement, movement and eventually nation building when we go back to our homeland. However, I do see for the need for strong financial intermediaries like our own banks so that funds from people who have extra money can be channeled to those who do have adequate funds to carry out a desired activity. I'm committed to seeking the help of bright minds both within our community and external experts and seeing what steps we can take to maximize remittance as source of funding for our community and incentives we can offer. Here, Tibetans living abroad have a vital role to play. Many Tibetans support their family members in India. I would encourage people to do even more and consider investing in small-scale businesses and projects in settlements thereby generating income, employment and contributing to the economic well being of the settlements.
It is clear that Tibetans cannot rely on agrarian production as their primary source of income. Many families, not to mention recent arrivals in Shichaks, don't have land. Furthermore, agriculture is becoming increasingly costly with time consuming manual labor and with limited returns particularly in areas where output is dependent on abundant and timely rainfall. One innovative practice could be to replace annual crops with fruit tree plantations. Fruit trees require 3-5 years of care and after that will bear fruit and steady income. There are mango tree plantations in Mundgod and bananas in Tezu and Miao. Some Shichaks like Byllakupe and Kollegal also plant cash yielding trees which take about anywhere from 12-20 years to grow. These and many more options could be explored as sustainable income and source of livelihood for unemployed youth, the elderly without family support, those without land, and recent arrivals from Tibet.
With limited agrarian income, there is an urgent need to explore feasible options towards sustainable economy and employment. Options could include soft-loans and insurance for a sweater business, long term road side shop permits/tenancy, municipal tax/fees leniency and transportation permits for sweater sellers as well as small businesses, soft-loans for taxi drivers, vocational training for unemployed youth, traditional arts and crafts training workshops for youth, and small scale entrepreneurship for school drop-outs. We should also explore the establishment of call centers in shichaks, expand Tibetan cooperative banking, shops and small-scale businesses in partnership with Cooperative societies, and expanding Tibetan businesses internationally through export and import and in partnership with the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce.
Tibetans are very entrepreneurial and there are a wide range of goods and services produced by the Tibetan community. The problem in my view is the lack of an efficient and low-cost channel to market these goods and services to potential buyers and consumers. I would like to seek the help of appropriate experts in building a virtual Penjor Lekhung where Tibetan businesses can be promoted and connected directly with potential buyers.
One innovative way to create bonds and solidarity between Tibetan immigrants in developed countries and those residing in Shichaks is through establishing sister shichak relationships akin to the practice of sister cities. The Tibetan Association in Paris could adopt Dharamsala as a sister shichak just as Paris has a sister relationship with Beijing. Such relationships affirm an affinity with the people in the shichak. It says that that we are one and part of the same family. The sister-shichak relationship will generate goodwill and strengthen unity. Small gestures like an annual fund raising event for the sister shichak, scholarships for needy children, prizes on annual sports/debate day, sponsorship of shichak's celebration of Losar and observance of Buddhist auspicious days, visits and volunteering programs, etc. will go a long way in maintaining the sense of solidarity amongst Tibetans. Eventually we could have a network of sister city relationships between various cities and towns in the west, shichaks in India, Nepal and Bhutan, and cities in Tibet. New York forms a sister relationship with a shichak in Ladakh, Toronto with Mungod, Minnesota with Mainpat, Boston with Bandra, Sydney and Bylakuppe, Chicago with Dikiling, Zurich and Hunsur, Antwerp with Orissa, Madison with Tenzingang, San Francisco with Kollegal, Tezu with Spain and Miao with Belgium.
7. What steps will you take to make administration efficient and particularly retain staff members?
Let me first acknowledge the hard work and dedication of current and past staff members and officials of the Tibetan government. Their contribution over the last fifty years is a major factor in Tibetans being able to establish and operate one of the most effective exile government and administration. I can attest to this major accomplishment by our community because two of my uncles served more than twenty years in the Tibetan government, and I have many friends and family members in the current administration as well.
We should form a review committee made up of senior government officials and others to discuss and introduce necessary and innovative reforms that improve administrative mechanisms including delegation of authority and greater professionalization of staff.
The staff attrition rate of late has been high with many leaving after a brief spell of service. One must explore several venues to inspire staff and reduce the attrition rate. Salaries and other benefits including health and housing need to be provided adequately, but the government's limited resources prevent us from compensating staff at levels received by public and civil service officials in other governments. I sincerely believe that there is no dearth of energy, commitment and shemshug among the younger generation, and that the right kind of policies and working environment will not only encourage staff to stay, but also attract others in the community to serve.
There is an urgent need for a reorganization of our civil service. When filling staff vacancies, there should be a better match between the requirements of the position and the background and expertise of the staff. A person with a degree in education should be assigned to the Department of Education rather than say finance. Similarly, someone with a degree in international diplomacy should be placed in the Department of Information and International Relations. Selection, appointment and promotion of staff members from junior to higher levels ought to be transparent, fair and based on merits, with timely acknowledgement and awards for outstanding performances. Devolution of power is also necessary so that staff members feel adequately empowered to make necessary decisions that impact their ability to produce timely and high quality work and service.
While discussing about administration, let me raise two other important departments, website, and their challenges.
TIBET.NET: The Tibetan government in exile's website Tibet.net could be more vibrant and useful, by making it more interactive, user friendly, better designed, with forms and pages that would help people communicate more directly with CTA staff. The website could be more of a vital center to connect the now world-wide Tibetan diaspora and those interested on Tibet from around the world.
HEALTH: The current Tibetan public health care system administered by CTA has achieved some major accomplishments. Thanks to the dedication of our health department staff and the generous support of various foreign agencies, we have a relatively well-developed network of traditional clinics, hospitals and public health clinics in various settlements. However, our system doesn't give adequate attention to prevention. There is a lack of secondary and tertiary health care coverage. Many Tibetans are getting into long-term debt to pay for healthcare expenses as private out of pocket health care spending accounts for an extremely high 88% of all health expenditures. Lastly, there is too much dependence on foreign aid. We need to develop a comprehensive health care system that elevates the importance of traditional Tibetan medicine and treatment methods, and shifts from the current short-term curative approach to one that is more holistic and prevention based, and is less reliant on foreign funding.
CULTURE: There was a time in Tibet's history when its cultural footprint covered a large swath of Asia. Students from far and wide came to study at the great monasteries and centers of learning in Tibet. The Tibetan government in exile under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been able to preserve and replicate many of our great cultural institutions in exile particularly in India. My Kashag will continue to encourage the Department of Religion and Culture and other cultural entities to strengthen ties with governments and institutions across the globe with the goal of preserving and promoting Tibetâ€™s unique cultural heritage and traditions. My support for integrating Tibetan culture and language into our educational system and the nascent Lhakar movement also should demonstrate how seriously I take the safeguarding and promotion of our culture.
8. What are the three biggest issues facing the Tibetan people? What can be done about them?
The three biggest issues facing Tibetans today are: Sustaining the Tibetan freedom movement in Tibet and internationally, revitalization of the CTA, and continuation of the institution of the Dalai Lama.
We may want to study the Jewish experience as we attempt to sustain the Tibetan freedom movement at the global level. The Tibetan diaspora community now extends to thirty countries. We must all explore ways to represent our community to respective governments around the world. However the representation must be strategic and must involve targeting government programs and departments most relevant to Tibet and China. In the case of the US, it would be the White House, the State Department, the Foreign Relations Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives and sub-committees on East and South Asia. The international development arm of foreign governments like USAID, which oversees and channels most of the foreign aid, is also important. In addition, Tibetans should make concerted efforts to work at major international NGOs, think tanks and multilateral institutions like the World Bank, etc. The desired goal would be to have a critical mass of well-placed Tibetans holding various positions, and these professionals could provide the needed political, financial and intellectual know-how to sustain the freedom movement.
Sustaining the Tibetan government in exile is partly a legal matter for which one needs to explore the Indian legal system and the constitutional, legislative and administrative mechanisms through which many of our exile administrative agencies could be formally legalized. Politically, the Tibetan government must strengthen its relationship with all the Indian political parties, the bureaucrats, intellectuals, media, and most importantly the people of India. I believe my study of Indian laws, constitution, administrative and legislative matters, and network of former classmates now serving in the Indian judiciary and politics will be helpful in this regard. Lastly, it is important that we explore ways to have the Tibetan government in exile be formally recognized. In certain geo-political scenarios, there could be a conducive environment for steps towards more formal recognition of the Tibetan government in exile.
As for the institution of the Dalai Lama, I fervently believe it must continue and we must do everything possible to sustain it as the bedrock of our Tibetan movement. Thanks to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there is wide support around the world. I do believe His Holiness will live very long and we will witness the day that the Dalai Lama will return to his rightful place in Potala Palace. However we must be watchful of the designs by the Chinese government. We must do everything possible to ensure that the 15th Dalai Lama does not fall in the hands of the Chinese government. The Panchen Lama is already in their hands. So we must heed His Holiness's consistent advice to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. His Holiness has also been mentioning the possibility of a Madey Tulku for more than a decade now. While any discussion relating to His Holiness' mortality is a difficult one for Tibetans, I do believe it is important for all of us to give the idea of a Madey Tulku some thought in the context of both safeguarding the institution of the Dalai Lama and preempting a likely Chinese government effort to interfere. Ultimately, it will be His Holiness, however, who will decide whether to have a Madey Tulku or other possibilities.
9. Some say, you lack experience in administration and might not be an effective Kalon Tripa. How would you respond to such concerns?
The Tibetan election rule says that the Kalon Tripa be 35 years old and above and does not mention experience as a requirement. Other democratic countries including the US, England, India, Australia, and South Africa do not require experience as a factor to become the head of the government. Also youth is not a factor, with Barack Obama in the US, David Cameron of England, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Julia Gillard of Australia, all in their 40s when elected.
Let me reiterate that the Kalon Tripa has five major responsibilities:
1) understand and demonstrate support for Tibetans inside occupied Tibet,
2) seek the support of the international community,
3) confront the Chinese government's policies on Tibet and engage with Chinese people,
4) maintain good relations with the Indian government and its people and
5) lead the exile community and our government in exile. I have exposure and experience in the first four responsibilities. I have no doubt that I will be able to successfully carry out the core responsibilities of the next Kalon Tripa.
As for the fifth specifically about administration, I acknowledge not having worked in Gangchen Kyishong from 9-5. However I do have adequate understanding of the system because I wrote my Doctorate dissertation on history of Tibetan government in exile and democracy from 1959-2004. Moreover administration is about law and having studied the field for the last fifteen years, I should do fine.
Administration is also about formulation and implementation of policies for the welfare of the people mostly in Shichaks. On this too, I could claim some exposure as it is clear that the ideas and plans I have shared with you came about as a result of interaction with thousands of Tibetans elders, youth and Tibetans particularly in Shichaks. I believe I have more than adequately responded to the experience question in all my meetings with community members and in earlier campaign-related documents. I have reassured Tibetans that my governance approach will include building a strong and experienced Kashag and will take into account the ideas and concerns that people have shared with me. The fact that people voted for me in overwhelmingly large numbers during the primary elections indicates to me that my message is resonating with the electorate and that I have their confidence.
I think it is extremely important for our leaders to be familiar with the conditions in which our people live and hear their concerns and issues. With that in mind, I started traveling and meeting people in January 2010 beginning in Dorjeden, Orissa, Chennai, Bangalore (January 2010) and Dharamsala, Hunsur, Kollegal, Bylakuppe and Mundgod (May/June). I was in Bylakuppe, Dharamsala and Delhi for debates of Kalon Tripa candidates organized by NDPT, I gave talks at Dekeyling, Poanta, Puruwalla (just visited), Clement Town and Ladakh (Aug./Sept). I went to oversee Tibetan Nutrition projects in schools but also met with people of Kurseong, Sonada, Darjeeling, Pokhrabung, Ravangla, Gangtok, Kalimpong, Tezu and Miao (Dec. 2010).In January 2010, I covered Jaipur Tibetan Sweater Sellers Association, Orissa, Mainpat and Bandra Shichaks, of which two were organized by Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. In April 2009, I was in Nepal for three days and visited Boudha, Jawakhel, Thamel, Soyambu, and a few shichaks in the Pokhra area. I have also met with Tibetans in different capacities in France, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Italy, Taiwan, Australia, Japan, and all major cities in the US and Canada. Now I have also covered shichaks in the central zone of Mainpat, Orrissa and Bandara and will begin a second round of major Shichaks. That should convince skeptics that I have an adequate understanding of actual conditions of Tibetans in the West and especially in Shichaks.
I have met and interacted with thousands of people from all walks of life, some through debates but mostly in individual and group meetings with elders, businessmen, students, monks, nuns and lay people. I have interacted with Tibetans in Shichaks, maize fields, old homes, schools, clinics, cooperative societies, sweater and other roadside businesses, and monasteries. I have visited many living rooms of families in Europe and North America. I, not only enjoyed the interaction, but also got a close up view of their condition and learned important lessons, which will help me as a leader.
The Kalon Tripa's job in essence is about sound mind and judgment. The position needs leadership capacity, intellectual rigor and insight and exposure to international, regional issues and in our case issues about China and India. If prior service in the government were a pre-requisite then our Charter would have made experience a requirement. The fact that our constitution does not require experience to run for the post of Kalon Tripa clearly confirms that administrative experience is not a mandatory requirement.
10. Why should people vote for you and what kind of message will your election as the Kalon Tripa send to Tibet, China and the world?
If I have the privilege of becoming Kalon Tripa, no doubt I will bring the same level of passion, energy, and enthusiasm in the new Kashag as I have demonstrated during the election, the same level of sensitivity, and positivity, I showed with the people, and most importantly new ideas, and new focus to our movement. I promise to be a very active and pro-active Kalon Tripa.
If Tibetans in exile were to elect me as the next Kalon Tripa, then my election will send a clear message to Tibetans inside Tibet that the Chinese government's claim that the exile government is engaged in an effort to revive the old system is simply propaganda. Instead, our people will see that the exile Tibetan government is marching towards democracy and is a better alternative than the present colonial system in Tibet. As a Tibetan saying goes, if a mother's son has education then the Ganden Tripa has no owner. The fact that a person of my humble background could become a candidate and be elected to the post of Kalon Tripa is a testament to that old adage.
By supporting me, voters will also be sending a clear message to the Chinese government and its leaders including Hu Jintao that with the passing away of the older generation, the exile government and the Tibetan movement will not fade away. Indeed the younger generations of Tibet will carry forward the hard work of the elder generation and bear the torch of the freedom struggle. My election will mean that a new generation of Tibetan leaders will lead the freedom movement and that we will fight till the end.
The choice for the upcoming Kalon Tripa election is clear. Voters need to choose between the status quo and supporting change. Voters in March have a real opportunity to bring about a much-needed change in leadership and make history. After fifty years in exile, it is time for us to transition to other half of the century with new energy, new ideas, new vigor and together lets make Tibet a beautiful and successful story of the 21st century. I honestly believe it will happen. Please join me in this forward-looking movement and help make history.