Gary Player maintains he has no links to Burma regime

Renowned golfer Gary Player reiterated on Friday his company was only involved in the design of a golf course in Burma and had no links with the controversial Burma regime.

Player was recently removed from the guest list for the Nelson Mandela Invitational golf tournament, which is set to take place in the Western Cape in November.

Player has said that he was disappointed that his integrity and support for human rights had been brought into question by this action.

Earlier this week, influential South Africans, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, appealed to Nelson Mandela to distance himself from Player because of his ties with the country’s regime.

However, Player has maintained that his only link with the golf course was in his company’s design of it, which was completed in 2002.

“At the time we were appointed, Dawn Aung San Suu Kyi had been released and it seemed as though real political change was in the air.
Sadly, since that time it has proven to be a false dawn,” he said.

Player said his company was only paid for its expenses.

“Let me make it abundantly clear that I decry in the strongest possible terms the recent events in Burma and wholeheartedly support Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in his efforts to bring peace and transition to that country, including his call for sanctions,” said Player.

Early this week, the event owner, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMFC), asked the golfer to stand down, adding that he would not be invited “in any specific capacity”.

On the NMCF’s website, the organisation said it was not fully aware of the extent and nature of Player’s involvement in Burma, nor of the political impact of this involvement.

“The children’s fund takes note of the international campaign in support of greater freedom in that country ... We have, however, asked Mr Player to stand down as guest of honour and host for this year’s event.

“Mr Player shares with us a desire to protect Mister Mandela’s good name and ensure that nothing be allowed to detract from the potential success of a prestigious event aimed at improving the lives of children in South Africa,” it said.

Player has traditionally been the host and guest of honour at the NMCF event because of his links with other golfers and his willingness to help.

“The Nelson Mandela Invitational charity golf tournament has been, and still is, my way of thanking and paying homage to our truly remarkable former president, whom we all love and respect,” said Player.—Sapa

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