Manuel: Dalai Lama spat 'a matter between states'

The Dalai Lama could not be allowed to raise global issues on South African soil that would effect the country’s standing, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Thursday.

The South African government denied the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the now postponed 2010 peace conference.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was to have addressed the conference, aimed at thrashing out ways of using football to fight racism and xenophobia ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Speaking during a debate at the University of Cape Town, he said not allowing the Dalai Lama into South Africa was “a matter of relations between states”.

“To say anything against the Dalai Lama is, in some quarters, equivalent to trying to shoot Bambi,” he said.

“Let’s put our cards on the table. Who is the Dalai Lama? I’ve heard him described as a god.
I’ve heard him described as Buddha.

“Is he just the spiritual leader of the Buddhists in Tibet, or is he the one who on March 28 1969 established a government-in-exile in the same way as Taiwan was established to counter the reality of a single China?”

Manuel said Tibet’s history had to be looked at, because the Lamas had been “feudal overlords” in that country.

“The reason why the Dalai Lama wants to be here ... is to make a big global political statement about the secession of Tibet from China and he wants to make it on the free soil of South Africa.

“I’m sure he’s welcome to come at any other time, but we shouldn’t allow him to raise global issues that will impact on the standing of South Africa.

“Quite frankly this has nothing to do with the PSL [Premier Soccer League], it is a matter of relations between states and that’s what we have to stand up for.”

A storm of controversy swept the country this week in the wake of the government’s decision.

Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan came out in support of Health Minister Barbara Hogan who spoke out against the decision.

“I also want to say that, like you, who remembers the years of the 1980s when South Africa was so fortunate to have friends all over the world assisting our human rights struggle, that it is a matter of dismay that human rights does not seem to enter into the picture of some foreign affairs decisions that are made,” O’Regan was quoted as saying in a South African Broadcasting Corporation news bulletin.

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko described Hogan’s comments as “rather unfortunate”.

“The comments of the minister of health were rather unfortunate in the sense that this position on the Dalai Lama is an official position of this government,” said Maseko.

“It is unfortunate that the minister chose to go to a public platform to attack a decision of government when she, in fact, is a member of that collective,” Maseko told reporters on Thursday. - Sapa

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