Govt passing 'Dalai Lama buck'

2011-09-30 18:30

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Johannesburg - The government is passing the buck on who should decide whether the Dalai Lama should get a South African visa, the Democratic Alliance said on Friday.

"This is clearly a home affairs issue, and the department should treat his application like any other," DA shadow deputy minister of home affairs, Masizole Mnqasela said.

On Thursday night, a home affairs spokesperson said on television that the Dalai Lama's visa application was an international relations issue.

"But this makes no sense," said Mnqasela.

"This is not an official state visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, and so requires no input from the minister of international relations."

Mnqasela said the Dalai Lama would be visiting the country as an ordinary tourist to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday party in Cape Town on October 8.

Tutu has 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.

If the Dalai Lama had a valid passport or travel document, sufficient funds, a return or onward ticket, at least two blank pages in his passport, and his yellow fever certificate, his visa should be granted, Mnqasela said.

Night vigil

He intended writing a letter to Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Friday urging her to intervene.

"It's time for government to stop dithering over the Dalai Lama's visa application and treat him with the same respect afforded to all foreign nationals who visit our shores."

A night vigil is to be held at Parliament on Monday to press for the granting of the Dalai Lama's visa.

About 300 people were expected to attend the night vigil, said Karen de Vos, a Buddhist teacher who attended a news briefing in Cape Town by civil rights groups.

If South Africa refused the Dalai Lama's visa it would be to please China and would be a denial of its struggle for democracy, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

"The South African government's reluctance to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, Tibetans' spiritual leader, has no objective basis and appears to be based on no more than fear of Chinese government displeasure," the group said in a statement.

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.
- SAPA
Read more on:    da  |  international relations  |  home affairs  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma  |  desmond tutu  |  dalai lama  |  cape town  |  china  |  sa  |  tibet
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