By The Tibetan Political Review Editorial Board
On August 20, 2010, Lobsang Jinpa la confirmed his candidacy for the position of Kalon Tripa on a Radio Free Asia (RFA) program. As described below, he also clearly set out some of his policy positions, which is a step that we hope other candidates will emulate as this election moves toward a discussion of the important issues facing the Tibetan nation.
The radio program [listen here], hosted by Rinzin Choedon la, included Jinpa, fellow potential Kalon Tripa candidate Phurbu Dorjee la; writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue la; and former General Secretary of Department of Home, Tashi Topgyal la. At the outset, the host explained that this was the first of a series of radio interviews that RFA would conduct with other Kalon Tripa candidates in the coming weeks.
In this interview, Jinpa announced his decision to run for Kalon Tripa. Given this announcement and the fact that this is the first time we have written about his candidacy unlike some of the other potential Kalon Tripa candidates, for the purposes of this piece we will focus on Jinpa’s responses to discern his position on the issues, and where possible contrast it with the position of Dorjee.
The RFA host started by pointing out that Jinpa is one of nominees on www.kalontripa.org, and that he has not withdrawn his name from that list as some other nominees have done. Moreover, she mentioned that the Dotoe Tsokpa (the Kham Association) has also nominated him. She then directly asked him if is running for Kalon Tripa to which Jinpa responded positively, explaining how he reached his decision. He related that many Tibetans in exile and from Tibet have asked him to run for Kalon Tripa and not to withdraw from the race, and that this persuaded him to decide to run. He further stated that he was in good health and that he viewed his contemplated service as Kalon Tripa in the crucial years ahead of us as a way of showing his gratitude to the exile government under His Holiness.
Following Jinpa’s response, both Dorjee and Topgyal said commendatory words about Jinpa’s service in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGiE), his experience, and his good character. Topgyal related his experience working with Jinpa within the TGiE as well as during the first session of the Tibetan Youth Congress circa 1970 and the first hunger strike. Topgyal attested that the best thing about Jinpa is that in addition to his erudition and experience, he is someone without arrogance or ego, and has no superiority complex whatsoever.
The questions then turned to the changes implemented in the last 10 years by the TGiE under current Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche, in the areas of education policy, closing of businesses owned by the TGiE’s Paljor (Finance) Department, and the solgyun (organic) farming that has been tested in some camps in Dhondenling Tibetan Refugee Settlement in south India. The host acknowledged that there have been differences of opinion and strong arguments on both sides and asked if Jinpa and the other guests agreed with the changes made.
With respect to the recent changes in the education system, Jinpa emphasized the need for the dabshok nyidhen (two-winged) approach, implying the need for both modern and traditional education. He noted that several factors ought to be considered when analyzing the education system and that practical considerations are very important, including whether such changes would sit well with the Indian Education Board when our students have to take All-India Board Exams, or whether once they graduate from our schools, they can continue further education in subjects other than Buddhism or Tibetan Culture for which we have colleges like Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi.
Jinpa stated that before we make any judgments as to educational changes, we need to conduct an empirical study of the effects of the recent changes a few years down the road and we need to take stock of the progress made by the 100 students in the special experimental school in Dharamsala and compare that system with the schools under the aegis of the TGiE Department of Education, Central School for Tibetans and Tibetan Children’s Village Schools. Only then can we determine whether the recent changes have been advantageous and must be carried forward or would need to be eschewed.
The next question asked Jinpa to evaluate the recent changes to the finance policy, specifically the closing of all businesses, including stores and restaurants, previously owned by the Finance Department. Jinpa responded that the profitable businesses can be maintained because in addition to bringing in revenue, the businesses also employ people. However, he hedged by noting that hadn’t given thought in particular to changing the current policy or to reopening the businesses previously closed.
As an example of something we can to improve the Finance Department, he emphasized that the chatrel collection for Green Book payments can be streamlined to be more efficient and payment methods should be made more accessible to ensure more people can contribute. He did not say how.
In response to the same question, Dorjee added that in addition to what Jinpa had stated, that he felt that it is the right of every Tibetan to have a Green Book and that we should use the Internet to allow payments through means like PayPal.
The final question turned to organic farming (solgyun) in the Tibetan settlements. Dorjee stated that he favored this change toward organic farming, starting in Dhondeling Tibetan settlement, adding that organic food is more salutary and healthy and that this initiative was started with the right motivation and that organic farming would be very important when we return to Tibet. Topgyal wondered if it was the right time for us to consider making a switch to organic farming from the traditional fertilizer-aided farming that Tibetans have been doing in the settlements.
Tsundue stated that he is from Kollegal (Dhondenling) and offered constructive suggestions stating that whoever the next Kalon Tripa happened to be, it is very important to cooperate with the local Indian authorities to ensure that Tibetan farmers in our shichaks (settlements) get enough water for irrigation, and that it was very important to improve local nyamdrel co-operative societies and to make them more robust.
In response to this question, Jinpa stated that our farmers have been using fertilizers since the 1960s and so to make this change, we would need to do a cost-benefit analysis and compare how organic farming stacks up against fertilizer-aided farming. He also mentioned a study done in a university in England last year that suggested that consumption of organically grown food products wasn’t appreciably more beneficial than non-organic food.
He emphasized that he would need to look at all the factors that prompted the current administration to take up organic farming and that the paramount consideration should be the interest of the Tibetan farmers: he stated that we should look at the output and income difference in pursuing organic farming and whether it would be enough to sustain their livelihood.
Based on the limited information that could be garnered from this interview, Jinpa has impressed upon the TPR editorial board that in addition to being experienced and knowledgeable, he is candid and provides straightforward responses. On first impression, based on this interview, he has struck us as being pragmatic, and someone who would like to see all the facts before making a judgment or decision. We also appreciate his willingness to set out his policy positions on some important issues. We look forward to learning more about the candidate in the coming weeks.