26/03/2009 22:26 - (SA)
Cape Town - The Dalai Lama should not be allowed to raise global issues on South African soil that would impact on the country's standing, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Thursday.
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." - SAPA
SIDE NOTE: Ok so Manuel has just about lost the plot on this issue. It does not matter who and what the Dalai Lama stands for, it is about freedom of speech and association.
What the government should have done is to make an official statement that they disagree with the Dalai Lama on whatever issue(s) they may conjure but still allow him to enter the country and attend the forum as invited.
We are, after all, a free country with a proud history of turning our backs on the kind of politics that undermine freedom of speech and freedom of association, in particular.
To bar him from our soil undermines our struggle and the very nature of our democracy.
The government must not dictate to free citizens who can and cannot be invited to political or non-political forums on our democratic soil.
This is especially true where the individual poses no threat to peace and order.
Barring the Dalai Lama is just dirty politics motivated by narrow money interests. The real shame is that South Africa is now seen as siding with China and ignoring the plight of Tibet.
Damn, how short is the government's memory?