Dalai Lama visa row going to court

2011-10-17 20:00

Cape Town - The IFP and Cope on Monday filed notice in the Western Cape High Court that they will seek an order declaring the government's handling of the Dalai Lama's visa request unlawful and forcing it to treat future applications by him fairly.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said the issue would arise again soon as the Dalai Lama had been invited to attend an inter-faith prayer meeting in South Africa in March next year.

"We cannot allow this wrong to stand. It is a flagrant wrong, repeated twice," he told reporters in Cape Town.

"It is in the eyes and mouths of all South Africans. This is how people with no courage, no dignity, deal with a problem - by just leaving it," he said.

Oriani-Ambrosini was referring the government's refusal in 2009 to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

Documents tabled at court on Monday included affidavits by the Dalai Lama's representative for Africa.

They explain how both that application and another filed in September this year to allow the Tibetan spiritual leader to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday were frustrated.

Sonam Tenzing said the Dalai Lama's staff tried since July to submit an application to the Indian high commission in New Delhi but were told several times that they could not do so because the mission was waiting for "clearance" from Pretoria to accept it.

The application was finally accepted on September 8 with assurances that it would be speedily processed.

Instead, Tenzing said, this marked the start of weeks of fruitless attempts by the Dalai Lama's representative in India, Tampa Tsering, to check on the outcome.

"The days began to pass without any clear word from the commission. Whenever Mr Tsering made inquiries, he was always told that they were awaiting authorisation from Pretoria.

"I am, and continue to be, of the view that such obfuscation and delay was disrespectful to the Dalai Lama."

Oriani-Ambrosini said Tenzing's testimony indicated that the Dalai Lama's office was not only aware of the court challenge but supported it.

Pressure

Lawyer Gary Eisenberger will table the court application on November 22.

He said the court would be asked to declare that the government had failed to consider the application properly in terms of the Immigration Act.

He contended that the minister of home affairs, the first respondent, may not delegate her department's responsibility to process visa applications to any other - in this case the department of international relations.

"Others may assist the department, but the minister cannot shirk her responsibilities by tossing the buck over to the department of international relations."

Home affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said on Monday the application had been referred to international relations because of the high profile of the Dalai Lama.

"The department has not yet been served with these papers. We will await the serving of these papers before we can comment," he said.

"The Dalai Lama was not a simple administrative or bureaucratic issue but a matter that has political and diplomatic implications and hence we referred it to our department of international relations and co-operation."

The government has been accused of bowing to pressure from China, who deems the Dalai Lama a separatist and discourages foreign nations from hosting him.

The IFP brought a court application in 2009 to have the government's decision not to grant the Dalai Lama a visa overturned.

The Western Cape High Court threw out the case and the party then took it to the Constitutional Court, but it has not yet been heard.

Oriani-Ambrosini said the new application would override the earlier one.

- SAPA

Read more on:    cope  |  ifp  |  home affairs  |  dalai lama  |  mario oriani-ambrosini  |  tibet  |  cape town  |  china  |  sa
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