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Politics, Society

Deconstructing the Scarlet Letter

In Lhasa when people speak of the political past, a popular saying is “dewa shung ghi jhutok desey goleb ghi jhigi reh” which can roughly be translated as “matters of the government are the flat-headed (Desey Sangye Gyatso) regent’s business” implying that it is not the business of ordinary people. However in the exile community, no matter how far one may try to stay away from politics it does have an insidious way of sneaking up on you and latching on to the tail end of your chupa until you surrender to the almighty responsibility of being a Tibetan.

The translation of Woeser’s article in English by High Peaks Pure Earth http://highpeakspureearth.com/2012/why-was-ngapo-jigme-director-of-radio-free-asias-tibetan-service-suddenly-dismissed-by-woeser/ regarding Ngapo Jigme being expelled from RFA is a highly disturbing piece made murkier by letters from Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s desk that are openly circulating online. The first letter was addressed to the RFA’s president Libby Liu urging the head of the organization to provide clarification on the turn of events while the second was penned for our prime minister (Sikyong). When I read the second letter, as a Tibetan, I was offended by the manner in which an outside party had addressed the senior-most elected member of our community. I also realize that my outrage can partly be attributed to what I can only call the medusa-like characteristic of funding bodies and agencies. Their rhetoric about humanitarian initiatives sounds ennobling and is punctuated with buzzwords like peace, sustainability, transparency, accountability and empowerment. However, their power and sense of entitlement over those whose lives and livelihoods depend upon their grace often ends up being a case study in neocolonialism.

You can accuse me of nit picking but note the typo “Indian” underneath the address. I also felt that the letter is poorly written and overly aggressive in its tone. I am sure that the representative’s office could have easily rectified these flaws and proof read the letter but the fact that they didn’t is insulting; do they feel that the office of our prime minister doesn’t even warrantee the decorum and diplomacy that may be extended to any other public office? I am almost tempted to prepare an alternative letter to showcase the fact that one can be assertive without being offensive but it is not my place and my responsibility to complain about how far the standard American’s literacy rate has fallen.

Despite my hang-ups about the letter I agree that clarification is needed as to whether Sikyong and anyone else had a role in Ngapo Jigme’s eviction. If the Sikyong had indeed maneuvered the RFA president towards such an action (which the letter seems to imply) then he should state (valid) reasons for doing so because this inadvertently raises questions about Ngapo Jigme’s integrity and more importantly it becomes an issue of the freedom of Tibetan press. Furthermore, given the occasion I was struck by the representative’s digressive tirade on self-immolation and particularly the concern regarding “serous accusations” about US funding for Tibetans that “may have been misspent”. Certainly at first glance it seems as if he is getting different issues mixed but the more I think about it I am willing to infer that these are dots connecting the line. However given that we have very little information to begin with and total silence from the Sikyong, this is a one-sided story for now.

Perhaps it is an unfortunate fact of life that it takes very little time before the line between truths and perception blur…despite local sniggers about the Sikyong’s infamous cow and other such sound bites (many view his personal narrative as egocentric instead of sociocentric); he has maintained the relatively “fresh”, scandal-free, progressive persona that capitulated him into power. If the above accusations- fund misuse, censorship of the press and attempt to subvert divergent views- hits the proverbial fan, the Sikyong stands to lose much for tales have a way of outliving the man.


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