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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."


November 21, 2008

Samdup Dhargye
Tibet Writes
November 18, 2008

A pivotal fact leading to the loss of independent Tibet is attributed
to Tibet's political isolation. Since the loss of Tibet, the Tibetan
government in exile has achieved tremendous gains for the Tibetan
community in exile in terms of cultural preservation and education.
However, much of what we need to do is often camouflaged with what we
have achieved. Most nations do not see this establishment carrying
any legitimacy nor does any government in the world see anything of
benefit to them of recognising this establishment particularly in the
light of the Chinese Sun. In our efforts to engage in a meaningful
dialogue with the representatives of the Chinese government, we find
ourselves in a similar position today; politically isolated.

Peking ducks have taken us for strolls on the great wall whilst our
savvy duo proved to be political eunuchs in the sterile Chinese
communist court. The issue of the day is how to engage the Chinese in
a genuine dialogue with the Tibetan Government in Exile.

During the invasion of the island of Melos by Athens in 416 BC during
the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians tell the Melians, "The strong do
what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

We as a nation are the Melians as of now. Whether we want to have
momos or thukpa, we have to knead dough first. Whether we adopt a
path for complete independence or a middle path towards genuine
autonomy, we must first have an efficient body that represents us.
The Central Tibetan Administration is in need of major changes. The
government of the people, by the people and for the people needs to
be resuscitated from malignant complacency.

The Central Tibetan Administration, like other bodies of governance,
exhibits strengths and weaknesses. His Holiness the Dalai Lama
commented in his speech given during this years TCV anniversary that
praise shall be bestowed by others but we must examine ourselves for
faults. In order for the Chinese government and the world to take us
more professionally, we must take a moment and analyse ourselves.

The CTA is a reflection of the state of the Tibetan world. The CTA is
a very decorative and traditional body with heavy emphasis on ritual,
tradition and bureaucracy. There are many old civil servants within
the CTA who have served our cause steadfastly in their various
capacities from peons to senior officers. Countless others who have
left us physically are talked about with fondness over ten o'clock
tea breaks and lunch breaks. Civil servants from the black tingmo
generation who have also served to their best are now fading towards

With the evolution of our society in exile, many from the MTV
generation still come from different settlements and cities choosing
the path to serve their beloved leader and government after
graduating from the very schools and institutions that the CTA
established and ran.

While the CTA attracts many young Tibetans to come and serve, it also
faces a genuine problem of not attracting the brightest Tibetans.
Many choose to leave the establishment for other modes of employment
or immigrate. What is known in statistics is the number of civil
servants who left but nothing is known of why they left. Those who
leave, leave heavy-heartedly.

It is said that the English invented bureaucracy. It seems that the
CTA has perfected it. Granted a certain level of bureaucracy is found
everywhere but it is quite astonishing to have to get a chit signed
by the secretary of the department to buy a new stapler. The CTA has
inadvertently become a place to produce bureaucrats par excellence.
Many life long civil servants are experts of the rules of engagement
(Drik-shi) but would care less about national issues. The rule book
has taken the place of the Dhammapada. Curiosity killed the cat.
Tashi the CTA staffer died due to chronic bureaucracy.

Anybody familiar with running a restaurant would know how everyone
working in the establishment would be assigned different tasks and
the team as a whole would work as one. The front of the house, the
back of the house, waiters, prep cooks, dishwashers, ushers and the
all important Chef. In a Platonic sense, everyone has a role to play.
The smooth functioning of the restaurant lies in everyone doing their
assigned tasks. Now imagine if there was no job delegation and
everyone did not do their respective parts and the Chef was a one man
team. How disastrous would the restaurant be.

Imagine if you came to work on time and had no work. Well, this might
be fun for a day to the most; you could read a book or something but
to spend most days waiting for work is a Herculean task. However,
when days roll on and you chat with your immediate boss, you discover
that he/she also does not have work other than the odd letter a day,
then you begin to wonder what you are doing here. It sometimes seems
that the secretary is doing everything and not delegating work.
Common sense tells that delegation would free up the superior
officers time to think and discuss policy issues but if common sense
were so common, everybody would have it. More importantly, proper
management and supervision would ensure better quality of work. An
opportunity for the particular department to transcend 'good enough'
to 'great.'

Watching the local Dharamsala public works department (PWD) road
workers offer great insight into how we at the CTA handle some tasks
habitually. After the monsoons have pock-marked the roads or have
washed away bits of the hillside, these Indian road workers (often
with the whole family) very daintily fix the road. Their wisdom of
not doing a thorough job is that their job for next year would also
be thoroughly fixed if the patch work lasts beyond one monsoon. Semi
professional work is accepted to be the norm and supervisors do not
expect professionalism. A strange mixture of Buddhist kind sentiment
rubs into the workplace. Those who possess a bit of perfectionism are
taken to be distant relatives of Adolf Hitler. Personal relationships
are far too often the deciding factors of good or bad team work. Egos
get hurt when one criticizes how work is being done which results in
a total break-down of communication between extremely high ranking
officers at the cost of the whole department.

Professionalism in policy, in job allocation and execution is not
quite the way of CTA but one hopes that the collective consensus of
the CTA does favour a future of professionalism. On the contrary, a
life long professional of the audio and visual arts was seen to have
a calling in the department of culture and religious affairs. Is the
department making a sequel to 'the Cup'? Such celestial logic would
make Roman Polanski aspire to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. There
is a dearth of professionalism in how we handle many things which
also may reflect on why and how His Holiness emphasised the need for
specialisation and specialists for our exile set-up. However, even if
His Holiness sees the dire need for specialists, the question lurks;
is the CTA ready?

There are two hillside resorts in the outskirts of Dharamsala which
exude great national importance every now and then. The Task force
meetings. A group that brainstorms about strategies on how to talk
with the Chinese. Every one above a certain rank in the CTA and of
some importance is invited to these meetings discussing how to talk
with China. Imagine a room full of right wingers discussing the left
wing. About 95% of those at this resort are from the CTA who share
the same views (more or less). The obvious question remains: Are
these meetings held to garner a common consensus or are they actually
hoping that a brainstorming of like minded people who kowtow the same
political ideologies will lead to new ideas and approaches? Even the
oracle Delphi would not be able to make fresh first flush tea from
last month's used tea bag.

If Charles V (nephew of Catherine of Aragon; first wife of Henry the
VIII) had not conquered Rome in 1527, Henry the VIII could have
received a proper divorce from the Pope, Clement VII. If the CTA revs
up its lobbying in places like the European parliament and other
organisations around the world, we could see something different in
the long run in terms of strategic alliances. As of right now, the
only effective lobbying for Tibet is done by His Holiness the Dalai
Lama which makes the Chinese furious. The only thing that really
hurts the Chinese is when HH visits a foreign country. His Holiness
wins over millions of new hearts on each and every trip he makes like
a giant tide wetting miles of dry sand. However, the follow up of the
various Offices of Tibet has never been measured. The quest to turn
awareness into action involves a lot of work but if we honestly care
about our leader, we must do the bulk of the work now. Keeping the
sands of awareness wet after the tide has receded is our job. The CTA
has apparently outsourced (fashionably so) its lobbying work to ICT
(the international campaign for Tibet) both in America and Europe
signalling a merger with a non-governmental agency. There are no
doubts about ICT's strengths but one wonders where the buck stops. Is
ICT in charge or is the Tibetan Government in Exile in charge? The
fact that the Tibetan envoy to Europe in based in Switzerland (near
Zurich) and that the EU meets in Brussels and Strasbourg is baffling
too. Our envoy, having been raised in Switzerland must be lobbying
the different EU representatives by YODELLING.

I hope these comments will not wound egos. It is meant to heal a
system. It is a very candid approach in writing that I have taken
with no intent of character assassinations. These are my personal
perceptions as a civil servant and I will be extremely happy if my
perceptions are proven wrong by action or if things change for the
better. This constructive criticism is by no means directed to the
present Kashag but it pertains to the culture that has prevailed in
our system from times when the people of Tibet knew what political freedom was.

We as citizens of Tibet living in the free world must be more
responsible and not always take for granted the benefits of being
Tibetans or being the people of the Dalai Lama. Our government needs
to improve to challenge the next world superpower. There are no short
cuts to political victory.

Our greatest strength will always be our people, our race and the
factors that unite us. If we do not stand united, than we will see
even harder days but, if we unite and work, no power will be able to
stop us. The issue of Tibet pertains not just to us but for the
countless generations to come. We must have dignity, confidence and
humility to work for our race transcending personal likes or
dislikes, to think beyond personal hardship and have the courage and
wisdom to work for our common good involving personal sacrifices.

What we have today is a leader who is dedicated to the Tibetan nation
and a government in exile. Our leader who is the symbol and father of
our nation, our race, our civilisation, is 73. From a realist's point
of view, we have about ten more effective years to work for Tibet
under his active guidance. So I hope that there are many skilled and
talented Tibetans who are willing to come and work for the CTA and
make the Chinese listen to us…whatever our terms are. We have a lot
of work to do. Bhod-Gyal-Lo!

Samdup Dhargye is a pen name.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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