DHARAMSALA, 30 Dec: Sonam Gyatso, the Son-in-law of Kathak Rinpoche’s family today released an open letter after holding an online press conference regarding Sikyong candidate Former Speaker Penpa Tsering.
Gyatso says in the open letter addressed to the Tibetans that he wrote the letter as he felt “it is incumbent upon me to make the necessary clarifications so that not only the record is set straight and people are held accountable for their past actions but also to protect our community from harm and deception.”
He declared the Former Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, Penpa Tsering, “A person who is capable of misusing his power and authority for his personal gains,” someone “who, in past, has engaged in forgery and misuse of authority as an MP,” “an unreliable person who will not be there when a crisis hits,” “not a trustworthy and dependable person.”
He further calls the former Speaker “not just a cheat but, as per the law of the land, also a criminal,” declaring him unfit for the post of Sikyong and demands that “Penpa Tsering immediately withdraw his candidacy.”
Read the open letter in its entirety below:
30th December 2020
AN OPEN LETTER
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Sonam Gyatso. I was born in Kalimpong, West Bengal, India. My mother is from Drogmo Yatung, Rinchengang and my father is from Kumbum, Taktser in AMDO. I did my schooling in St. Augustine’s School and Dr. Graham’s Homes – both in Kalimpong, West Bengal. My BSc degree is from North Bengal University. I studied Civil Engineering at Delhi College of Engineering, University of Delhi.
During my university years in Delhi, I was the President of the Tibetan Youth Hostel in Delhi and also, the President of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Delhi. Thereafter, I was invited to serve the Tibetan Children’s Village. I willingly dedicated the best years of my career life to the service of the Tibetan children and community when it was most needed. During this period, which lasted more than a decade, I headed projects such as the construction of new Tibetan Children’s Villages in Chauntra, Himachal Pradesh and Selakui, Dehradun, Uttarakhand. As the Project Officer of the TCV Head Office in Dharamshala, I had the privilege to successfully implement several building projects in Upper TCV, Dharamshala (notably the new auditorium), and in TCV Suja too. Currently, I live in Pondicherry and manage my own construction firm.
I am sharing this information not to brag about my accomplishments and service but to establish that I am a responsible, loyal, and credible member of the Tibetan community. What I am going to share henceforth, is with full knowledge and understanding of its seriousness and impact upon my own family and our community. I am doing it because I feel that it is incumbent upon me to make the necessary clarifications so that not only the record is set straight and people are held accountable for their past actions but also to protect our community from harm and deception.
Our Sikyong Election is going to take place in a few days and we all know that the position of Sikyong is of utmost importance. It is very crucial for us to choose the right candidate for the post because he or she will be the torchbearer and the face of all Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet. His Holiness the great 14th Dalai Lama has worked tirelessly to achieve whatever we have today for the past six decades and more. As a result of the tremendous efforts by His Holiness, we Tibetans and our cause, are recognized all over the world today. It is due to His Holiness’ leadership, grace, and compassion that we are where we are, today. Our success as a community is also due to the noble service and sacrifice of our dedicated fellow countrymen and leaders in the administration.
Today, our cause and our community are at a very critical juncture. The geopolitical situation in this world is changing dramatically each and every day. Therefore, it is crucial that the Sikyong we elect is worthy, capable, and dependable enough to represent and lead us in these uncertain times. It is important that he or she is able to carry forward the baton passed on by His Holiness with integrity, dedication, and a sense of great duty. Therefore, when we consider which candidate to support and vote for, we need to be extra careful. We should not be deceived by the words and appearances put forward by the candidates and their supporters but also check the facts regarding the past actions and backgrounds of the candidate. This is because actions speak louder than voice.
The clarification I want to make today is about Sikyong candidate Mr. Penpa Tsering’s past. I want to expose to the public what kind of person he really is so that they are no longer swayed by the falsehood he peddles each and every day. I want the people of Tibet to know the real person behind the false character he projects and judge him by his actions instead.
In his personal biography, Mr. Penpa Tsering, who is one of our Sikyong candidates, tries to impress the people by claiming that soon after his college studies, he was ‘directly appointed’ by the ‘Central Administration’ to manage ‘Gangseng Restaurant’ in Pondicherry in 1989. He claims that a year later, he was asked to ‘manage and oversee the export’ business of a carpet factory.
The truth, however, is that there was never a ‘Central Administration’ owned Gangseng Restaurant in Pondicherry in 1989. Gangseng Restaurant was “Snow Lion Restaurant’. It was opened by the late Kathak Rinpoche, who had most generously gone out of his way to invest and establish a start-up business to help Mr. Penpa Tsering build a career. This happened in the year 1987; ‘NOT’ 1989 as claimed.
Also, to note, Mr. Penpa Tsering was not appointed as the manager. He was made an equal partner in the restaurant by Rinpoche. He ran the kitchen independently and employed some of his own friends to work with him. The late Kathak Rinpoche did this for Mr. Penpa Tsering purely out of compassion. It was an act of philanthropy. He had earlier seen him work in a Chinese Restaurant in Chennai during one of his regular visits to the city to meet Tibetan students. He had also met him earlier on previous occasions along with other students in Chennai and had grown fond of him.
But instead of expressing gratitude to the late Kathak Rinpoche, Mr. Penpa Tsering tries to project as if this ‘appointment’ by ‘Central Administration’ was an achievement on his part because of his capability which is a totally false narrative.
The late Kathak Rinpoche was a gifted entrepreneur and constantly engaged in social work. He organized and actively participated in activities in the region to promote and keep alive the Tibetan cause. He was regularly in touch with the Tibetan community in the South especially the Tibetan youth studying in Chennai. He was by nature, a workaholic. His busy lifestyle took a toll on his health. He died in the month of December 1988. He was only 38 years old. He was survived by his grieving wife and three children – the eldest of whom was a daughter who was only 12 years old.
After the demise of Rinpoche, Snow Lion Restaurant had to be closed within months. The restaurant had been in operation not more than a year and a quarter. This closure was not due to lack of business. It happened due to mismanagement of funds, lack of profit, unaccounted expenditure and no proper maintenance of accounts by Mr. Penpa Tsering. It was difficult for the late Rinpoche’s wife, who had no formal education, to sustain and manage any further. So, she decided to close it. Since the restaurant closed, Mr. Penpa Tsering and his friends then had to leave Pondicherry.
A few months later, Mr. Penpa Tsering returned to Pondicherry for the final settlement and transfer of assets to the new buyer of the restaurant. It was then that he proposed to the late Rinpoche’s wife whose life at that moment was in turmoil. He wooed her with promises and assurances to help her with the family businesses and raising of the children. These promises and assurances were also made to friends and well-wishers of the late Rinpoche in the community, especially in Dharamshala. Her eventual acceptance allowed him to live with the family as its head and gave him the opportunity to take over the entire family business.
This leads us to the second gross misrepresentation in his biography.
Mr. Penpa Tsering did not spend the next ten years or so in Pondicherry as the ‘Manager’ of a carpet factory of ‘Central Administration’ as claimed in the commentary by his campaign biographer. He was running the two carpet factories established by the late Kathak Rinpoche which were owned by his family and now come under his control. But soon, the carpet factories also went bankrupt. Eventually, they too had to be closed down. Again, there was no proper accounting, mismanagement of funds, lack of profit, unaccounted expenditure and so many liabilities to settle.
These two false narratives clearly indicate that Mr. Penpa Tsering is cleverly trying to embellish his own record by misrepresenting his past and claiming fake ‘achievements’ when there were none to be claimed. Ironically, these are actually examples of gross failure on his part. It is evident from this that, as a public figure, he has lied deliberately to the public about his past in his biography. He is ashamed to speak the truth about this most crucial period of his life. Instead, he is deceiving the public by creating false narratives. He is papering over the fact that he failed in the restaurant business as well as in the running of the two carpet factories. It is evident from these two episodes that Mr. Penpa Tsering’s claimed knowledge of business management and his qualification in economics were either of no practical use or not utilized in any way.
It is indeed shameful that he is embarrassed to talk about his past. He never attributes these ‘achievements’ in his life rightly to the late Rinpoche who was his mentor, guide and benefactor. The late Rinpoche was like a father figure to him. He did so much for him. I would not be wrong in saying that even many real fathers could not have done this much for their own children.
When the carpet business failed and the family finances were in trouble, it was then that Mr. Penpa Tsering decided to abandon the family and leave Pondicherry. His exit was most dramatic! He actually abandoned and ran away from his family, his responsibilities, and from Pondicherry!
The timing he chose for this to happen is indeed the most memorable. A day earlier, his stepdaughter had gotten engaged. A formal engagement ceremony, with him as the stepfather of the bride, had taken place in the house. The next day, he organized a tour for the visiting guests, his wife and stepdaughter and sent them away from home for a week.
It was only upon their return to Pondicherry that they discovered that Mr. Penpa Tsering, the bride’s stepfather, had abandoned ship! He had left the house and runaway! He had left behind a two-page note explaining to his wife what he thought had gone wrong and how she was supposed to handle the crisis without him on the business front. The entire weeklong family outing was a clever ruse planned by him to get rid of the family while he made his escapade.
It is clearly evident from this episode that Mr. Penpa Tsering is not only an incompetent person to manage anything (let alone our government), more importantly, it shows that he is an unreliable person who will not be there when crisis hits. He will run away from his responsibilities. His words and assurances mean nothing. He is not a trustworthy and dependable person.
When Mr. Penpa Tsering lived with the family, he engaged in regular drinking and partying sessions. No wonder, we all have heard so many tales about his abuse of alcohol. This was always a great nuisance and a bad example to the family with young children. During the last years of his stay in Pondicherry, he started cheating on his wife. He engaged in an extramarital affair with his current wife who was then studying in a university in Pondicherry. This episode of Mr. Penpa Tsering’s hidden past shows that he is not just a cheat but, as per the law of the land, also a criminal!
So when he finally ran away, the family just accepted his departure as good riddance since his coming to the family had caused so much trouble, at that juncture. They left it at that.
Now, you may wonder how consecutive businesses run by Mr. Penpa Tsering continuously failed despite him being so ‘educated’ and ‘capable’. Well, there is a good reason. While Mr. Penpa Tsering may have failed miserably in running the family business of late Kathak Rinpoche, he surely had made plans for his own future and his family in Bylakuppe. He was a great strategist and planner when it came to his own personal agenda and benefit!
Soon after establishing himself as the stepfather in the late Rinpoche’s family, Mr. Penpa Tsering instantly used the late Rinpoche’s good reputation to make friends in Dharamshala. He came in close contact with people like Pang Goen Rinpoche, Geshe Lobsang Ganzay of Tsenyi Dasang, Prof Samdong Rinpoche, Alak Jigme Rinpoche and many more. He led a flamboyant lifestyle with the family money now under his control. It won him many new friends in the elite society and of course, amongst the ordinary people too.
He had used these plus ten years in Pondicherry to build the ground for himself to become who he is today. He helped his own family in Bylakuppe to prosper in every way possible. From making agreements to send regular monthly stipends to his parents in the shichag, to funding the higher education of his siblings, and later, permanently housing his brother and two sisters with him in the late Rinpoche’s house. He appointed his brother as a supervisor in the Pondicherry factory and he was under its regular payroll.
Today, Mr. Penpa Tsering tries to impress upon the public and especially his devoted followers with his vision about oneness and unity of all the cholkhas and cholugs. But, in reality, he is hand in gloves with anti-social people in our society. I do not want to go into the details, but if you listen to his supporters on social media, everything will become clear. You may have also noticed that he has not done anything to stop these people from their dangerously divisive speech and activities. Mr. Penpa Tsering knows everything but he does not say a single word because these people are his friends, cronies, and his hardcore supporters. Seeing his audacity and that of those who support him, one can only imagine what will happen if he becomes our Sikyong.
Mr. Penpa Tsering is a person who is capable of misusing his power and authority for his personal gains. Among the piles of old documents left behind by him in his office when he ran away from Pondicherry in haste, we found copies of letters, letterheads, payment vouchers and empty receipts, office seals along with their printing blocks of different organizations in our society. Copies of interesting letters addressed to an embassy of a foreign country, to grant visas to his sibling brother and sister, were also found. These letters with carefully crafted fake stories were supported by documents signed using his seal as a sitting Member of Parliament and with documents forged from offices of relative and friends holding important positions in our society. This evidence show that Mr Penpa Tsering, in past, has engaged in forgery and misuse of authority as an MP.
Ever since the last Sikyong election, I have wanted to share this information about Sikyong candidate Mr. Penpa Tsering with the public. But because this issue is related to one family and deeply personal, I held back. I was afraid that it would dig up old wounds and dirt. So, I decided to let it pass. But since then, so much has happened. During the last Sikyong elections and its aftermath, Mr. Penpa Tsering has caused so much havoc and disunity in our society. So much so that much of the past five years were spent managing his antics and those of his supporters. When I listen to the discourse in our community, I am surprised that Mr. Penpa Tsering still continues to be one of the most popular candidates despite all that has happened.
Therefore, after much reflection, I have concluded that this is happening because the public is not aware of the kind of person he really is. It is because he is good with words and pretence. That is why I feel that it is incumbent upon me to set the record straight so that no more harm can be done by him and the vested interests who seem to support him no matter what. It is time to stop him from inflicting more harm to our community.
Here, I would like to make it clear, that my decision to come out openly against Mr. Penpa Tsering is not because I want to advocate support for a particular Sikyong candidate. Nor is it based on my affiliation to any particular Cholkha and Chogyu. This action is not motivated by any personal hatred towards him. Nor is this an act of vengeance.
My prime objective is to place the facts in front of people and to let them know the truth. I consider it to be a call of duty and a responsibility towards my country’s community. I am finally doing this because the interest of my nation is ahead of everything. I deeply feel that I have to come out of my comfort zone to dig up the old dirt and wounds to expose him to the public. I feel that if I let it slide, this time it would be a serious act of negligence on my part as my fellow countrymen, who are blindly supporting his candidature without actually knowing the evil and scheming character of this person, will again be swayed by his deceit.
I have thought this out carefully and weighed all the consequences before making this decision to go public and I shall have no regrets whatsoever, for having done so. My decision gives me the satisfaction of having finally spoken out the truth and making it known to the people. It is now up to the general public to analyze, do their research, and make their own final decisions on whom to elect. Please remember, electing the wrong person will do great harm to our country and cause.
The evidence I have shared today about Mr. Penpa Tsering’s past clearly shows that he is not the right candidate for the post of Sikyong. He, in fact, is not suitable for any kind of office or responsibility whatsoever. Now that his dark past which he has shamelessly tried to omit and embellish has come out, I demand that firstly, he offer an apology to the family of late Kathak Rinpoche which is very much delayed and overdue. Secondly, and more importantly, recognizing his past sins and his own shortcomings as a person, I demand that Mr. Penpa Tsering immediately withdraw his candidacy because he is not fit for the important position and responsibility of Sikyong.