Sunday, April 26, 2015

Failures of Tibetan Leadership at all Levels: Post March 10 Event in New York

As I mentioned in one of my earlier post, what happened in New York on the March 10 will be regarded as a black day in the history of Tibetan American.  Nevertheless, after the event, people still had a good hope - believing that it was just one black day which will fade away into the darkness soon.  However, after more than a month, the damage inflicted by this unfortunate event seems to exacerbate with each passing day.

Now, there is a bitterness in the environment in which Tibetans in New York breathe.  There is a growing discomfort to publicly share your views and opinions.  The topic of politics has become a taboo.  Everyone wants to be a part of politics but no one wants to touch it.  Politics is considered dirty and dangerous.  Tibetans hesitate in shaking hand with another fellow Tibetan.  Tibetans have  started to boycott businesses that doesn't align with their political ideology.

Everything seems to be falling apart.  The leaders or activists keep blaming the general masses for the growing cracks in the unity of Tibetan people.  However, according to me, Tibetan leaderships - ranging from tiny organization to Central Tibetan Administration -  have failed in bringing the necessary resolution to the March 10 incident and in providing right direction for the stability of Tibetan community in New York and New Jersey.  Based on what happened after the March 10 event, here is my brief analysis of organizational leaders who have failed in bringing peace, calm and unity in the heart of Tibetan people in New York and New Jersey. 

United States Tibet Committee (USTC)
It seems that the need and significance of this organization is irrelevant in its present form.  For the public interest, this organization should be dissolved by its current leader.

Regional Tibetan Women Association (RTWA), Dokham Chushi Gangdruk and Tibetan Community of New York New Jersey (TCNYNJ)
Elected leaders from these organizations have failed to accommodate the feelings and sentiments of people supporting Students for Free Tibet.  If these leaders acted in the interest of maintaining calm and unity among Tibetan people, the March 10 incident would have been avoided. Moreover, there were serious misunderstandings among the March 10 Organizing Committee.  Vagueness in the meeting minutes has sparked the problem which resulted as a fire on the streets of New York on March 10.  After the March 10 incident, these leaders used public spaces to prove their point right.  This act disrupted the feelings of general public resulting in many baseless accusations and blame-game on the social media networks. 

Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (RTYC NYNJ)
In addition to earlier para on the Match 10 event, RTYC NYNJ leaders have failed to sort out their internal differences with the Centrex (Tibetan Youth Congress based in Dharamsala, India) which resulted in the suspension of its president.  Moreover, the widening cracks within RTYC NYNJ executive members was evident at the recently concluded election where two lists of nomination were shared to influence the general public.  If you have followed the social media, you are the living witness of these differences which erupted out of anger, fear and frustration. 

Students for Free Tibet (SFT)
It seems SFT has moved from its status of "Tibet Support Group" to "Tibetan political organization".  Recently, they were heavily involved in the internal politics of Tibetan freedom movement.  Unlike previous RTYC NYNJ election, many SFT supporters came to vote this time to make sure the candidates supporting independence get their vote counts.  However, the disturbing part is when they left in a group - representing SFT - after the first election results without caring for the next election round of president, vice president and general secretary.  This walk out was done in front of the general public; and many would count this act as a disrespectful gesture from SFT as an organization.  SFT, an organization of educated members, should have respected the results of this democratic process by staying till the end of election.

Moreover, their leaders did not learn on the importance of seeking clarity whenever there is an inter-organizational meeting.  They have issued two rebuttal statements: one for the March 10 organizing committee and another for the Office of Tibet, Washington DC.  One mistake is understandable but twice within two months shows a lack of leadership abilities. 

If SFT starts to involve too much in the internal politics of Tibetan freedom movement, it will not be far to see a growing crack within its chapters.  What happened to Tibetan Youth Congress is a good lesson to learn.

Office of Tibet, Washington DC (OOT)
If the outcome of the April 4th meeting has to come out as a statement signed only by the representative of OOT, they should not have organized this meeting in the first place.  The representative and two elected members of parliament should have taken this meeting at its highest importance to ensure no further disruption of public sentiments.  They are looked up by Tibetan people as problem solvers and ultimate care takers.  

They should have conducted this meeting in the most professional manner by having agendas and resolutions.  Also, the meeting minutes should have been signed by all concerned parties.  This would have definitely negated the chances of rebuttal letter from SFT and USTC.  Now, the problem of March 10 remains unsolved.  Rather, the problem has got bigger and heavier with this failed meeting.

Tibetan Youth Congress (Centrex)
It is clear that the centrex difference of expectations with RTYC NYNJ executive members were going on for more than a year.  Then, the question is - why did the centrex suspended RTYC NYNJ president when the election is just round the corner i.e., within two weeks?  This decision was a blunder which led to more division among the general public - one group of individuals and several North American RTYC chapters started to support the decision while another group started to vent their anger against this badly timed decision.  This decision also back fired if you look at the results of recently concluded RTYC NYNJ election.  The general public of New York New Jersey has slapped the centrex in a manner that is hard and loud.

Most importantly, the leadership at centrex needs to work on realigning its four aims and objectives.  I wrote about this four years ago. Here is link to read the piece.

Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)
The current administration led by Sikyong Lobsang Sangay won the general election on the ground of three guiding principles - one was for Unity.  However, as far as I know, since the March 10 event in New York there was not even a "single word" coming from CTA that intends to pass on the important message of staying united despite having ideological differences among Tibetan population in New York and New Jersey.

The CTA leadership has failed to act on time to qualm the growing disunity of its people in New York and New Jersey.  People are looking up at CTA to find the meaning of unity while CTA is busy in addressing China on its White Paper.  Without unity, there will be no China for Tibetan people in diaspora.  They will just be busy in slinging mud on each other faces. 

Though its been more than a month since the March 10 event in New York, many Tibetans still believe in the importance of staying united in both good and difficult times.  However, with no visionary leadership at its forefront, it seems everyone is just hanging on to the hope factor.  It is still not late for these leaders to act in unison by keeping aside their personal agendas, egos, feelings and emotions.  Its the time that Tibetan organizations work for the Tibetan people and not for its leaders.

Bhoe Gyalo!

Note: If interested in reading documents that were cited in this piece, please scroll down to read each of them.



April 4th Statement from the Office of Tibet, Washing DC in Tibetan and English language

Students for Free Tibet and U.S. Tibet Committee Rebuttal Statement to the above OoT statement

March 10 Organizing Committee Meeting minutes where all 6 Organizing Committee members agreed and signed

 Students for Free Tibet and U.S. Tibet Committee Rebuttal e-mail to the above meeting minutes. Both were publicly shared on Facebook

Tibetan Youth Congress suspension letter of RTYC NYNJ President

North America Regional Tibetan Youth Congress letter to the Centrex supporting its decision of RTYC NYNJ's president suspension

Support for Centrex's decison from select group of former RTYC NYNJ executive members

Sunday, April 19, 2015

You Alone Can Fight Corruption in India: Personal Experience

During my parents extended stay away from home, our LPG gas connection was automatically blocked after six months of no activity. I didn't know how to get it unblocked. As per the instruction received from friends and family members, I went to the nearest Gas Distributor in Hanur - a small town - with a request to unblock the gas connection. Distributor directed me to fill up a request form and submit it along with a copy of Adhaar card (Indian ID card) and inquire within a week's time.

After my home return, friends shared and suggested that I should have paid 100 Indian rupees as a bribe. If I did, the connection would have been unblocked by the distributor right away. As an individual, I am very uncomfortable with paying bribes or money to get things done quickly. I also feel very uneasy to ask for preferential treatment.

Nonetheless, since my parents were not feeling well, I looked for ways to get our gas connection unblocked. I learned that I need to sneak 100 rupees note in the gas booklet and handover to the distributor. This is how things are suppose to get done quickly in India.

Looming over this uncomfortable things-to-do, I thought about how this bribe-paying first started. Setting aside the local Indian population, I am very familiar with this common behavior of many Tibetans i.e., to pay money to get things done quickly. Initially, some rich guys pay and later, everyone has to pay. It has become a common practice, accepted and unquestioned by all. I believe this is how the story of 100 rupees started - most probably by our own Tibetan people.

Coming back to my problem, even after two weeks, the gas connection was still blocked. I sensed that it was not unblocked as I failed to pay 100 rupees during my first visit. Due to the lack of available options, I researched alternative ways to get my gas connection unblocked.

Despite the poor Internet connection, I managed to find Website of the gas company and created "My LPG" account. Through this account, I wrote a customer complaint on the slow unblocking process and how 100 rupees work with this distributor. To my surprise, within a day, I got an email response from the customer service.

I also downloaded the gas company mobile app which provides a lot of useful information including the gas connection status. The connection was still blocked.

On the very next day, I called customer service center and registered another complaint via phone call. Please remember that you will be given a reference number for each complaints you register. 

Since the connection was still blocked the day after, I went to the distributor for the second time. As I reached the entrance of distributor's office, they already know me. I felt good that my two complaints has done some damages. When I handed over the gas booklet to one of the lady employee, she asked, "who told you that we take 100 rupees to unblock the connection?"

With some sign of anger and frustration, I asked her in English, "Why my gas connection is still blocked. It's been two weeks." I then dialed the customer service center and registered another complaint in front of all employees. The customer service agent also talked directly over the phone to the manager/owner. I also sensed that all employees were getting nervous because of my repeated complaints. 

I don't know what the customer service agent said to the manager/owner but things started to fall in place. I felt I was in control of my rights to get the gas connection unblocked.

The manager/owner showed their Unblock Register and explained how unblocking process works. He also gave assurance that I don't have to come to their office again. He wrote down my cell number and told his employee to call once my connection is unblocked by the sales representative from another office. He even shared the name and cell number of the delivery guy so that I could get a gas cylinder refilled even with the blocked connection. I left their office smiling and saying thank you to everyone.

While riding home, I realized that India is changing; and technology is helping India change. Most importantly, if you are willing, you can be the Change Agent to bring change in your own community.

Saving 100 rupees was less significant than discouraging the ill practice of paying money to get things done quickly or to seek preferential treatment.

At last, in India, the strategy to succeed in an argument is showing some display of anger and little bit of English.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What is happening with RTYC NYNJ?

Since March 10, the political turbulence in New York shows no sign of slowing down. The disputes are unfolding one after another as if there is a race to excite Tibetans in New York and New Jersey and around the globe via news sharing sites. It's very unfortunate that general public has to endure all these turbulence.

After the March 10 event, there were a number of debates, accusations, character assassinations, history lessons, and questions raised on organizational credibility and capability in the social media networks. At first sight, you may think of these turbulence as unhealthy and bad. I am of the same opinion. However, if you give it a second thought, it is good that general public are now taking ownership of their own views and opinions. They decide to take the matter into their own hands which is a sign of maturing democracy.

One of the most recent turbulence is the suspension of President of Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey (RTYC NYNJ) by the executive members of Tibetan Youth Congress (centrex) based in Dharamsla, India. The timing of this executive order - within two weeks of fresh election of RTYC NYNJ executive members - seems to be well planned and intend to send a strong message to all its regional congress. Sitting in New York, the general public could only guess on what message the centrex intends to pass on.

If you had a chance to closely follow the Facebook page of RTYC NYNJ, there is copy of the centrex suspension order as well as the response letter signed by the majority of RTYC NYNJ's current executive members. The copy of both these letters are shared below for deeper understanding of the entire issue.

Looking at these two letters, you will see that both sides have provided their version of the truth which may not always reflect the ground reality. There will be no conclusion in such disputes. It will be prolonged along the line of I-am-right and You-are-wrong and to-and-fro communication or accusations. However, this article is not about the analysis of these letters. It is rather written to propose four ideas for better administration of RTYC NYNJ in the near future.

Idea One

The fresh election date of April 12 for new RTYC NYNJ executive members must be rescheduled at a later date to avoid its conflicting date with His Holiness The Karmapa teaching.

Idea Two
Prior to the election of new executive members, there should be a public voting to review and chose the political stand of Rangzen (independence), Middle Way Approach or No Political Stand for the RTYC NYNJ.

If the public chose other than Rangzen, it should stop using the centrex logo as well as affiliation. It should also disassociate completely from the centrex.

Idea Three
The membership of RTYC NYNJ must be made clear on who are eligible members; who are electoral members; and who are ineligible members. For instance, as of today, anyone can vote irrespective of membership, green book contribution or state of residency.

Idea Four
Guidelines for holding RTYC NYNJ election should be drafted. During last election, this writer witnessed two list of names handed out to people who came to vote. This goes against the principle of fair and balanced election. Moreover, there should be three voting phases: first to shortlist the top 20; second to select the final executive members; and third to select the president.

These shortlisted candidates, including president, should be given an opportunity to share their vision and action plans to the electorate. This will help electorate to elect the right candidate who meets their expectations.