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South Africa requests the Dalai Lama to defer visit

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Dharamsala, Sep 6 :

South Africa Saturday requested Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to defer his visit to Cape Town for this year only, his private office said here.

“We had a meeting with officials of the South African High Commission and foreign ministry here (in Delhi) and they requested his holiness to defer his visit to their country for this year only,” Tempa Tsering, the Dalai Lama’s representative in New Delhi, told IANS.

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama

He said over phone that South African High Commissioner to India F.K. Morule was also present at the meeting.

“His holiness has a lot of well-wishers and admirers in South Africa. We request only to defer the visit this year,” Tsering said, quoting a South African official.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in this north Indian hill station, had applied for a visa to South Africa Aug 27, in order to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace laureates to be held there in October.

Speaking to journalists at the Indian Women’s Press Corps Friday in New Delhi, South African High Commissioner Morule said he has “heard” that the Dalai Lama had cancelled his visit.

“No decision has been taken on the Dalai Lama’s visa application yet,” Morule said in reply to a question by IANS, adding that they hold the Nobel Peace Prize winner in high esteem and respect him.

The envoy, meanwhile, said South Africa respects the Dalai Lama but added that countries have “national interest”.

“Countries have got national interest… that does not take away the respect they have for eminent people like the Dalai Lama. But South Africa cannot be adventurous, these are the realities of life,” he said.

The envoy, however, added: “The Dalai Lama has been coming to South Africa, he will continue to do so. We have always welcomed him. He has a representative in South Africa as well.”

According to reports, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang thanked South Africa for its “support”.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), quoting Patricia de Lille, the executive mayor of Cape Town, Saturday said: “Based on further discussions with the Dalai Lama’s representatives both in South Africa and Dharamsala, it has now become clear that the officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation contacted the Dalai Lama’s office to inform them that the South Africa government would not grant him a visa to attend the summit, due to sensitivities related to the Chinese government.”

“It is indeed a dark day for South Africa when the ideals for which Nelson Mandela and so many others fought are sold to the highest bidder,” Lille was quoted as saying.

“The Mandela, Luthuli, De Klerk and Tutu foundations will be writing to President (Jacob) Zuma appealing to him to intervene and ensure that a visa is granted to the Dalai Lama so that he can attend the summit.

“Past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize (including former heads of state) will also write a petition to Zuma.

“The Nobel Peace Laureates who have already signed the letter of appeal to Zuma include Lech Walesa, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Muhammad Yunus, Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Tawakkul Karman, Leimah Gbowee and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo,” the mayor said.

“If this last attempt at securing a visa is unsuccessful, the programme of the summit will be adapted to ensure that the Nobel Peace Laureates can make a powerful symbolic protest of the Dalai Lama’s treatment,” Lille added.

Earlier in 2009 and 2011, the Dalai Lama called off his visits to South Africa after the government seemed to find it inconvenient to issue a visa to him, said the CTA.

The Dalai Lama had visited South Africa in 1996, 1999 and 2004.

(IANS)