Gary Player under fire over Burma links

Legendary golfer Gary Player has come under fire in South Africa over his company’s business ties with Burma, where a golf course he designed is allegedly used by members of the brutal ruling junta.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an outspoken critic of human rights abuses in Burma, has called for a boycott of all foreign companies doing business in the Asian country, the Saturday Star newspaper in Johannesburg.

Tutu also urged fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela to “listen to what is being said” after a prominent British newspaper columnist called on Mandela to remove his name from a charity golfing tournament next month, to be headlined by Player.

The Player’s Nelson Mandela Invitational tournament is set to take place at Arabello golf club near Hermanus in Western Cape province next month.

The proceeds of the event will go towards children in rural South Africa, according to the tournament website.

Mandela’s spokesperson, Zelda La Grange, rejected calls for the ageing anti-apartheid icon to take a stance on the subject.

“Mandela is a humanitarian and will always oppose any human rights violations,” she said, while asking: “Is it necessary for him to stand up every time they [rights violations] happen and make a statement, at 89?”

Player, considered one of the best players in the history of golf, has helped design hundreds of courses around the world. The Player-designed 18-hole Pun Hlaing Golf Club in Yangon was launched in November 2002.

The Guardian newspaper’s George Monbiot in an opinion article in the paper on Friday claimed golf was the sport of the generals in Burma and that some golf courses had been built on land seized from peasant farmers.

There was a “strong case for asking Mandela to remove his name from Player’s tournament”, he said.

A spokesperson for the Gary Player Group, Duncan Cruikshank, told the Saturday Star the group would not be commenting on the situation in Burma, while adding: “There’s no way Gary Player would look at sanctions-busting. He is a great proponent of human rights.”

Burma’s junta crushed the “saffron revolution” on September 26 and 27, killing at least 10 people, according to official figures.

Anti-government activists in Yangon say the death toll was closer to 200.

Tutu is a strong supporter of Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years, calling her his “only pin-up”.—Sapa-dpa


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