Outrage at SA govt's Dalai Lama ban
The government’s decision to deny the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the South African Peace Conference has raised the ire of internet users and bloggers.
The controversy surrounding the Tibetan spiritual leader’s attendance at the peace conference prompted organisers to postpone the event, scheduled for March 27.
The Dalai Lama was expected to address the conference, whose aim was to discuss ways of using soccer to fight racism and xenophobia ahead of the World Cup in 2010.
The government, however, refused to grant him a visa, saying his involvement would draw the world’s attention from the World Cup preparations.
“We want the focus to remain on South Africa. A visit by the Dalai Lama would move the focus from South Africa on to issues in Tibet,” said government spokesperson Thabo Masebe on Monday.
The decision was met with opposition from South African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former presidents FW de Klerk, as well as several political parties.
Both Tutu and de Klerk, whose signatures were attached to the invitation sent to the Dalai Lama in November last year, on Monday said they would boycott the event in solidarity with the Dalai Lama.
Thoughtleader blogger Tony Jackman asked what liberation really meant for the African National Congress if it could bar the leader.
“There are a few rare individuals who transcend the barriers that separate most of us, who tread their way through life on that path reserved for those who see beyond what is in front of them, who inhabit a world worth striving for, rather than the shadow of a world in which we exist.
“The Desmond Tutus, Aung San Suu Kyis, Nelson Mandelas, Helen Suzmans, Mahatma Ghandis and Dalai Lamas of the world are nobler than lesser ‘leaders’ who achieve what passes for power but lack the imagination, character and substance even to see a higher plain, let alone walk on it.
“President Motlanthe has this week shown himself to walk on that lower plain reserved for those mortals who are given power but who are sadly lacking in the mettle and imagination it takes to achieve true greatness.”
“I am ashamed to be South African today. I am ashamed of my government. I am ashamed of my president.”
Blogger Michael Trapido took a different view, saying the South African government—as China’s main trading partner in Africa—would have been remiss to have ignored Beijing’s request.
“I wonder what De Klerk’s National Party would have done if they had been placed in the same position by the US for example. I’m almost 100% sure that in these circumstances they would have bowed to external pressure just as quickly.”
However, Trapido was critical of the government’s “blanket rejection” of his visa and said they could have come up with something better.
“Accordingly instead of simply suggesting that it is not in South Africa’s interest to allow the Dalai Lama access, it would be more prudent to offer the People’s Repbulic of China any conditions it would like to impose should the visa be granted. For example that South Africa is inviting the religious leader must not in any way be construed as involving itself in the domestic or independence dispute between the PRC and Tibet”
“It is very easy for everyone to jump up and down and scream foul on this one—just don’t lose sight of the fact that if the government doesn’t factor in the sentiments of a major trading partner the downside is far greater than if they were to snub a popular leader such as the Dalai Lama.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s Globe & Mail on Wednesday also took aim at the government’s decision, saying in an editorial that it was not too long ago “that a large proportion of South Africans were denied basic human and civil rights by an oppressive government”.
The editorial said it was a “source of abiding shame, then, that an ANC government of South Africa would now forsake fundamental principles, abandon the message of a great moral leader like Mr Mandela, and refuse to allow the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a peace conference in the country”.
In addition, an online petition has been launched in an attempt to persuade the government to reverse its decision on the visa.