Sunday, December 27, 2015

Minnesota Debate: The Victors!

Before you begin, read the intro here!
Minnesota North America Chithue debate video here.

Candidates, feel free to post your version of answers if you think you have been misinterpreted . Although I have provided the link of the video above. I welcome any and all critique. 

What is special/unique about you as compared to other North America Chithue candidates? Why should one vote for you?

In my opinion, Chithue candidate Tenzin Rangdol  and Kalsang Phuntsok did best in answering this question. The question was intended for the candidates to both introduce themselves as well as convey to the voters, what their vision was.

Tenzin Rangdol uniquely identified himself by emphasizing on the tremendous amount of resource we have in the form of our youth. He stressed on the need to identify, formulate and implement ways in which this resource can be used for Tibet and showed his intention to work towards that goal. At the same time, he acknowledged the great work our elders have done under the guidance of His Holiness while underscoring the considerable responsibility on the shoulders of Tibetan youth.

Kalsang Phuntsok took this opportunity to jump right into some of the major issues affecting the Tibetan struggle.

He emphasized on the need to resolve the "Rangzen Vs. Umey-Lam" debacle and find a suitable solution that does not negatively impact the unified front of Tibetans to resolve the issue of Tibet. The need to effectively counter and deal with the Dhogyal issue was another major point of his introduction.  He also stressed on how this needs to be done face-to-face and showed his intention to do so. A Chithue according to Kalsang Phuntsok, has the opportunity to work both as an activist as well as a bureaucrat, and thus provides a unique opportunity. He wants to use this opportunity to prepare the Tibetan Youth for future.


Tenzin Rangdol and Kalsang Phuntsok did the best both in articulating their vision, highlighting their views on major issues,  as well as in introducing themselves.

The other candidates were not far behind, but lacked in bringing about new ideas, highlighting their views on major current issues in an articulate way and failed to impress.

I would say Tashi Namgyal was the 3rd best performer in this question.
During one of the Tenshug events, His Holiness expressed how he was saddened by certain comments about his efforts in resolving the issue of Tibet. What can the CTA/Tibetan government in exile, the public or you can do in future to prevent hurting His Holiness' sentiments, someone who has assumed retirement after years of tremendous service for the Tibetan cause?

Again, the answers given by Kalsang Phuntsok and Tenzin Rangdol were most clear, specific and precise.

     Kalsang Phuntsok reflected on the sad turn of events in both our struggle and society by pointing out how the lines that clearly defined hurdles to our movement have blurred. He pointed out how back in the days when Taiwan's meddling in the Tibet issue ( ask your elders about this if you are not aware what this was) and the Dhogyal (Shugden) issue were some of the clearly identifiable obstacles for our movement.

   But now, he added, many are wearing the mask of Rangzen and actually hurting our movement rather than helping it. We should understand that these are planned acts and not random outbursts.

    According to Kalsang Phuntsok, it is the responsibility of the Sikyong to speak out, and before Sikyong its the Chithue who should counter balance comments hurting His Holiness' sentiments. Anyone, who understands the vision of His Holiness, will not hurt his sentiments, no matter what path he/she chooses. We need to be sensible and responsible in what we say or do.

Tenzin Rangdol pointed out in the futility of adopting extreme rhetoric in expressing one's views/ideas and vision. He underscored the need for critique, but also added that there needs to be constructive ideas that show a way forward, rather than just empty rhetoric.

He mentioned that His Holiness has expressed his despair and sadness multiple times even before. And now its the responsibility of the Sikyong and Chithue to speak out and not just sit back in a posture of reserved moderation.  We all need to speak, work and act based on facts and reality, not merely on perception.

There is a major need for elders and parents to teach their children and the younger generation as to what His Holiness has and continues to do for the cause of Tibet. This is a responsibility of families, parents and politicians. If this occurs, many major issues of our struggle will be resolved.


  Tashi Namgyal and Tsewang Rigzin in their answer did not have anything much to add except expressing a general sense of discord with how these comments have affected His Holiness. We are no longer interested in round about meaningless diplo-talk.

  Pema Chagzoetsang summarized what other candidates were saying without any new specific comments/ideas.

Tenzin Rangdol and Kalsang Phuntsok were clear winners in terms of clarity in their view, articulation and originality.
What is, according to you, the top priority for a North America Chithue? What would you do in the next 5 years, if you win the elections, that would be consequential for Tibetans?

This is getting mundane, but frankly, only Kalsang Phuntsok and Tenzin Rangdol had ideas worth mentioning here and they win this question too.

Kalsang Phuntsok

My goal is to be a spokesperson for the North America Tibetans and to always clear any doubts and suspicions that curtail the progress of our movement. No lies!

I believe that Rangzen/Umeylam issue can be resolved alongwith the Dhogyal issue. And I will work towards it. To have plans that make the Sunday schools more effective and thus preserve Tibetan culture, language and heritage in the US.

And finally, Its my intention to not be just an opposing voice in the Tibetan parliament/assembly, but also be a supporting voice for the CTA/ Tibetan government in exile initiatives.

Tenzin Rangdol

Tenzin Rangdol emphasized on the need to focus on and ascertain what the North America electorate views are. He said, to be an effective North America Chithue, its not just enough to attend gatherings, but there is a need to establish continuous and clear channels of communication with the people. And he intends to do this by utilizing all modern tools for communication.

He underscored the need to connect all successful, professional young Tibetans and lead them with example to serve the Tibetan community in any way possible.

Tenzin Rangdol points out the need to connect His Holiness with the younger Tibetans attending high schools, colleges, universities etc. through special audiences and talks when possible.

He concluded by saying that there is a need for more and more younger members in the local associations. Its time to train, groom and pass on the responsibility to the next generation.


Other than the above, the only distinguishing remark was by Pema Chagzoetsang on the role of Tibetan Women.

She said, " I am not fighting for the rights of women as a feminist, but setting an example to improve the self-esteem and capabilities of Tibetan women".

Tashi Namgyal and Tsewan Rigzin did not have anything new to add.

What is your personal vision/path in politics? The debate about Umeylam and Rangzen is affecting the unity of Tibetans, what can you do effectively to resolve this issue?

I have summarized all comments by all candidates for this questions.

Kalsang Phuntsok

I have worked in Tibetan Youth Congress for the most of my life championing Rangzen, but I am someone who understands the merits of the the Middle Way path too. There has been a lot of explanations about each path and obviously there could be differences of opinion.

The problem lies with those who do not clearly understand what each vision stands for.

When I was the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, there hasn't been one day when His Holiness and Katri at the time Prof.Samdhong Rinpoche had to comment on the debate about Rangzen or Umeylam affecting Tibetan unity.

I intend to continue in the same spirit.

Tenzin Rangdol

I am a firm believer in the Middle Way Path. This is based on my self-analyses and thought. To me the debate about Rangzen or Umeylam in exile is in someways very baseless. We have to work for the 6 million Tibetans.  Both path have their reasons and rationale.

Specifically in the US, we have some many Chinese we can connect with rather than wasting our time arguing with each other and wasting away the tremendous opportunity we have in the US to achieve anything tangible.

Whatever path we chose to follow, we need to understand the reasons behind our choice. The Chinese government is already working hard against Tibetan culture, religion, language and land.

We must follow our path based on reality and don't allow mere perceptions to dictate our actions and words.

Pema Chagzoetsang

    In democracy, we need to responsible for whatever path we follow, whether its Rangzen or Umeylam.

     But we cannot be disrespectful to His Holiness in the name of Rangzen. I am a follower of Middle Way Path and there are benefits to the Middle Way Path. Since 1997 we have been following Middle Way Path.

In Taiwan they have been trying to pursue independence but they have not received much global attention or help.

Both the Chinese and the Dhogyal people are looking at us, we need to be careful in how we pursue our path.

Tsewang Rigzin 

Whatever path we choose, you must know that it is for the benefit for all Tibetans that we are striving for. Therefore, we need to be responsible accordingly. Personal responsibility is key. We have to counter the Chinese government and not fight with each other.

We cannot disrespect His Holiness even if we disagree. The sensitivities of the public needs to be considered in a democracy.

I am for Rangzen, but the parliament/assembly supports middle way and I will respect that. Democracy is not only having voices but also accepting the majority view on a policy. As an elected leader, I will follow the norms of democracy.

Tashi Namgyal

No one is forcing all Tibetans to follow Middle Way Path. This is a policy passed in the parliament/assembly and voted upon. Just criticizing UmeyLam is not constructive, follow your path of choosing and show some action, that's what we need.

Personally, I don't see a better way than UmeyLam. Still we must work together in an inclusive manner. Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose were able to do it, so can we. We must be inclusive.


I would leave this one for the readers to decide.

Why are there less women in Tibetan leadership roles? What can be done to improve this?

Pema Chagzoetsang

Pema Chagzoetsang points out that the humble reserved nature of Tibetan women is perhaps the reason for low participation of Tibetan women in leadership roles. She promises to encourage and motivate Tibetan women to participate more.

( As the only women candidate, one would expect her to demonstrate a more in-depth understanding of Tibetan women's plight, issues and current status in our society. Pema Chagzoetsang was not able to convey that understanding. The male candidates demonstrated a more detailed knowledge and understanding of Tibetan women's role in leadership, in our community as well as at our home. The link to the debate is at the beginning and end of this write up.).

Tswewang Rigzin

Tsewang Rigzin pointed out that two of our cabinet (Kashag) ministers, Dolma Gyari and Dicki Choyang are women. Similarly there are many Chithue women too. He added that there needs to be equality of gender where there is opportunity for both genders to succeed and excel.

He did not emphasize on the need to do anything special.

Tashi Namgyal

Tashi Namgyal demonstrated a good understanding of the current social status of women. He pointed out that more or less women in leadership roles is a matter of perspective.

He pointed to the over 30% women chithue in Tibetan parliament, a number that even Indian parliament, one of the largest democracies in the world is unable to obtain.

Similarly he pointed to the number of women in various Tibetan associations across the US. But also added that there needs to be continued efforts to improve this. He however commented that there is no need to make specific laws like reservations for women.

Kalsang Phuntsok

Personally I consider women in general to be effective and successful at taking both the role at home and the role outside of home. I actually consider women to be more effective than man.

May be there is a perception that we have less women in leadership roles. I am all for anything to be done to improve that.

But I don' t think there is a need for specific laws. A law is created when you have no other resort left.

Its even better to change social perceptions and create a nurturing environment for a women's success. Compared to other cultures, societies and democracies, I think the plight of women in great in our community. But surely, things can  be improved and change starts at home and how we treat our women at home.

Tenzin Rangdol

There are no bureaucratic barrier to a women's success in leadership roles. But yes, perhaps there needs to be a change in the perception of the general thinking in our society.

In terms of capabilities, I do not see a difference between male and female. The responsibility is also with the women in our community to come up, take leadership roles and move ahead.

Overall verdict:
Tenzin Rangdol and Kalsang Phuntsok were the clear winners in this debate. I would put Tsewang Rigzin in the third place followed by Tashi Namgyal.

Your vote is important, watch the debate and follow your candidates. We need to vote without bias, and have to put an effort in understanding each candidate. A candidate you personally know might not necessarily be good for the cause of Tibet. So lets be fair and educate ourselves. I know I am!

Next debates:

Capital Area RTYC, VA : Saturday January 9th, 2016 1.00 pm to 3.30 pm
RTYC Toronto: Saturday January 16th, 2016, 2 pm


Kindly watch the debate in entirety yourself and form your own opinions/conclusions. This summary is not a literal translation nor an exhaustive summary either. This piece is solely based on the candidate's performance in the Minnesota debate and is not a reflection on their past experiences or accomplishments. The summary also does not include answers to questions by the audience.The link to the debate video is provided here again. 

*** These are part of a series of articles aimed to stir conversation/interest/discussion for the upcoming North America Chithue elections. For more visit

What is the Role of a North America Chithue?
10 Questions for the North America 2016 Chithue Finalists
2016 First North America Chithue Debate: Was it really a debate?

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