Vigil for Dalai Lama visa

2011-09-30 10:59

A vigil will be held at Parliament on Monday in a final attempt to press for the granting of a visa to the Dalai Lama to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday party.

“This is the last chance we have,” said Karen de Vos, a Buddhist teacher who attended a news briefing in Cape Town by civil rights groups.

“The archbishop’s birthday celebration is on October 8. There is very little time left.”

De Vos said about 300 people were expected to attend the night vigil.

Tutu invited the Dalai Lama, who was refused entry into the country two years ago, to his 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town.

Tutu warned that the government would “shoot itself in the foot” by again refusing his fellow Nobel Peace laureate entry into South Africa.

In 2009, South Africa refused to grant the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to visit the country to attend a peace conference, for fear of jeopardising ties with China, a key trade partner.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising in 1959.

He accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a separatist and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.

Nomfundo Walaza, chief executive of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, said at the briefing that a veil of secrecy surrounded the government’s approach to the Dalai Lama’s visa application.

“There is a veil of secrecy as to what is being discussed,” she said.

“If you send a request for an answer and you vote as a citizen you deserve a response. It is disrespectful to the archbishop who is celebrating his birthday.”

Walaza said the foundation refused to accept “that this is not going to happen”.

“We just think this has been delayed,” she said.

“We are putting pressure because we don’t want it to be forgotten.”

Hennie van Vuuren, director of The Institute of Security Studies in Cape Town, said there was no reason not to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

The Dalai Lama had recently been granted a visa to visit the United States, Argentina and Brazil, he said.

“He is not wanted by the International Criminal Court,” Van Vuuren said.

“He is not wanted for war crimes, he is not wanted in this country or any other country on such grounds.”

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