Dalai Lama saga 'embarrassing'
Cape Town - The way government has dealt with the Dalai Lama's visa application reflects poorly on all those responsible, the FW de Klerk Foundation said on Thursday.
The foundation's Centre for Constitutional Rights CEO Dave Steward said former president FW de Klerk had on September 16 stated that a visa should be granted to the Dalai Lama because South Africa was an open society that respected freedom of religion.
"The FW de Klerk Foundation is accordingly deeply concerned over the debacle that has now arisen over the Dalai Lama’s visa application," he said.
The Dalai Lama was a globally respected spiritual leader, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a firm advocate of non-violence.
It was difficult to understand, under these circumstances, the failure to grant him a visa in time for his scheduled departure for South Africa.
Not an official visit
"The claim of the department of international relations and co-operation that they did not refuse his visa and that it was still being processed is simply disingenuous," Steward said.
There had inevitably been speculation that the decision was based on reluctance to upset the Chinese government.
However, his visit was not official and would not have involved any formal meeting with the South African government.
All governments had a responsibility to control entry into their territory. If visitors posed a potential security risk - if they had criminal associations or if they did not have the means to maintain themselves - it was quite appropriate to refuse them entry.
"Clearly, the Dalai Lama does not fall into any of these categories," he said.
It was also accepted that South Africa’s foreign policy should be informed by the values in the Constitution, including the principles of democratic governance, freedom of association, and freedom of religion.
The Dalai Lama qualified eminently in terms of all these values and should have been welcomed to South Africa as an honoured guest.
"The manner in which this matter has been dealt with reflects poorly on all those responsible."
It was also an embarrassment to all South Africans, not least of all to his host, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, whose 80th birthday celebrations the Dalai Lama had been invited to attend, he said.