[Libération] Les Tibétains en mode zizanie – Tibetan in a discord mode

Le Premier ministre, Lobsang Sangay, actuellement en France, essuie des critiques croissantes sur une pratique du pouvoir jugée «autoritaire», «narcissique» et sur l’octroi d’un prêt pour l’achat d’un immeuble.

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Tibetan in a discord mode

Arnaud Vaulerin — 27 janvier 2018, 10:10

Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, currently in France, is receiving increasing criticism of an abuse of power deemed « authoritarian », « narcissistic » and the granting of a loan for the purchase of a building.

Forceful dismissal, ukases, protests, overheated social media: the Tibetan community has been going through a crisis in a discord mode for several months. And everything suggests that it will last until the meeting of Parliament in March. « This is the first time in the history of Tibetans in exile that a protest movement is taking shape with no connection to China, » says one of them on Facebook. A man is at the center of the turmoil: Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister (Sikyong) of the Tibetan government in exile that Liberation met during his visit to Paris.

Elected in 2011, re-elected five years later, this native of Darjeeling (north-east of India) educated on the benches of the prestigious Harvard Law School in the United States is currently on tour in Europe with Tibetans in exile. But the welcome is not always smiling and kind. Sit-ins, complete with placards and slogans, small processions of demonstrators reproach him for a certain drift of power, an « authoritarianism », a « narcissistic » approach and a lack of transparency in the management of the affairs of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

Whether in India, the United States, Belgium, all ask for explanations, the opening of a commission of inquiry, if not an outright resignation. The same goes on Facebook and in comments on news sites. « He presents himself as the president of CTA while he is only the head of an administration without any real accomplishments’, says a Tibetan stationed in Dharamsala who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. He made decisions without consulting Parliament. He lacks credibility with the Chinese to lead CTA.  »

« Illiberal temptation »
Senator and member of the information group on Tibet, André Gattolin also points to a « concentration and presidentialization of power. There is an illiberal temptation of Lobsang Sangay, a lack of respect for the opposition and a refusal to be accountable.  »

The origin of the crisis is not recent. Much of it dates back to 2016 when the campaign for the Sikyong post crystallized between incumbent Lobsang Sangay and Parliament Speaker Penpa Tsering. Everyone admitted that it was not up to the political stakes Tibet faces. Lobsang Sangay won the ballot with 57% of the vote. « There was a tense confrontation between two very different candidates, an ego war, » recalls the Tibetan of Dharamsala.

Once re-elected, Lobsang Sangay appoints his ex-challenger to the Office of Tibet in Brussels. But the Dalai Lama in person intervenes to make Penpa Tsering the de facto ambassador of Tibet in exile in Washington, the most prestigious office.

10-point charge
When he arrived in August 2016, Penpa Tsering discovered that his predecessor Kaydor Aukatsang, with the agreement of Lobsang Sangay, had drawn $ 1.5 million from the Tibet Fund. This humanitarian organization set up to help refugees is paying money to buy new offices in Washington. « In other words, we buy a property with funds normally used for health and education projects, » indignant a Tibetan observer.

Penpa Tsering struggles to find all the documents, conducts the investigation and has the accounts checked. Which does not please the CTA led by Lobsang Sangay. The post-electoral climate is deleterious. The kashag, the Tibetan government, produces a 10-point document to discredit the action of Penpa Tsering.

On November 6, 2017, he is dismissed for « growing deficit of trust, under-performance and insubordination ». Then start the first protests to demand the « truth behind the $ 1.5 million loan ». A petition is signed by more than 8,000 people.

« Passion »
Is the dismissal of Penpa Tsering a political revenge? « I wanted to send him to Brussels, and then I appointed him to Washington, » Lobsang Sangay said. “He was finally dismissed. It is the prerogative of the President and the cabinet to replace the ambassadors when need arises. We did it for good reasons. It is not the decision of one man but of eight people from the government. «