Civil Society in South Africa Deplores Failure to Give Visa to Dalai Lama

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Johannesburg. 4 October 2011.  The South African government should stand by its founding values by granting a visa to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, urged civil society in South Africa today.

The Dalai Lama was due to visit South Africa from 6-8 October to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was expected to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace lecture at the University of the Western Cape. Delay in granting him a visa by the South African government has now resulted in him cancelling his trip to the country.

In 2009, the Dalai Lama was denied permission to visit South Africa under apparent pressure from the Chinese government which strongly opposes his support for the human rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people.

“In many regions of the world civil society members are being persecuted for their beliefs and impeded from engaging with the international community due to restrictive visa regimes,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. “… it is highly disturbing that this can happen in democratic South Africa, a number of whose leaders also had to wage their struggle for human rights in exile.”

Enhancing democracy and human rights as well as upholding justice and international law in relations between nations are important pillars of South Africa’s foreign policy. South Africa is also a founding member of the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) trilateral of multi-ethnic and multicultural democracies, which is committed to the establishment of a new international architecture. Recent violent attacks on peaceful protestors by the police, proposed curbs on the freedom of information through impending legislation and the current controversy generated around the visit of the Dalai Lama are marring South Africa’s reputation as a vibrant democracy and human rights leader.

“It is untenable and hypocritical for the South African authorities to even consider denying the Dalai Lama a visa under pressure from a foreign government,” said Srinath.


Terrorists Have No Religion: Indian President

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The two-day International Conference of Jurists on Terrorism and Rule of Law held in the capital city (November 21-22) strongly indicates that concern of the Indian government about terrorism is certainly not confined to only apprehensions about Pakistan-based elements planning and supporting militant elements here. The conference was inaugurated by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and the valedictory address was made by Vice-President Hamid Ansari. A brief analysis of the speeches made by Patil and Ansari suggests that the Indian government is concerned about challenges posed by terrorism to peace within the country and the lapses in the system, which have failed to check the threat posed by militant elements. While Patil focused on the former aspect, Ansari emphasized the latter.  Interestingly, neither Patil nor Ansari mentioned Pakistan or linked terrorist attacks the country has faced with any particular religious and/regional group. During her inaugural address, Patil stated: “Ours is a pluralist society. As a vibrant democracy of more than one billion people, India takes pride in its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious milieu. A democratic ethos infuses the life of the Indian people and the nation. Through respect for plurality and democracy, India celebrates its unity in diversity. We remain firmly committed to democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and religious freedom.” “As a responsible member of the international community, the conduct of our foreign relations since independence has been to promote peace and development and create a better world, free of terror. We have pledged ourselves to a policy of zero-tolerance towards terrorism, from whatever source it originates, wherever it strikes and whosoever it chooses as target,” Patil emphasized.

Patil asserted that “no idea, no cause whatsoever, can justify terrorism.” “Terrorists belong to no religion for they are not apostles of peace but messengers of death and destruction. We have to be overwhelmingly careful that terrorists do not succeed in their evil designs of sowing seeds of misunderstandings and causing fractures between cultures in the international community,” she said. “Instead, we must steadfastly work towards building bridges of understanding between the different cultures of our planet based on respect for rule of law, the protection of democratic values and strengthening of common institutions,” she pointed out.

Describing terrorism as a “perverse global phenomenon,” Patil said that “the struggle against it must be carried to the world stage.” “Terrorism easily transcends borders and thus becomes a transnational crime. Being a crime against humanity, it ought to be recognized as a common enemy of all nations. A terror threat against one, is a threat against all,” she stated. “It is incumbent on the international community to ensure that there is an effective legal framework for the prevention and elimination of terrorism and to bring to justice the sponsors, abettors and perpetrators of terrorism,” Patil pointed out. Acknowledging that “differing theories and ongoing debates have impeded an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism,” Patil said: “We need fresh ideas and creative thinking to provide a strong edifice to international law and to maximize complementarities amongst nations.” She highlighted the need to “evolve a system of sharing best practices amongst criminal justice practitioners across regions and across legal systems, besides providing for country based capacity building assistance for rounded implementation of international legal instruments against terrorism.” “We must be pro-active, committed and persevering in our actions to combat the global threat of terrorism. We owe this to the people we serve and to our future generations,” she said.

During his address, Ansari voiced his concern on “lapses” in the Indian system leading to its “failure to deliver.”  Elaborating on the recent trends in study of the Rule of Law, Ansari pointed out: “Political scientists have argued that an organic development and entrenchment of Rule of Law in a developing country context requires three essential conditions: (i) certainty, meaning equality before law and absence of arbitrary abuse of authority; (ii) perpetuity, the ability to bind future regimes and officials of the state to today’s rules and institutions and (iii) certitude that resort to violence is legitimate and controlled.” Turning to India’s approach, he said: “We remain committed to democratic governance, transparency, inclusive development and the implementation of Rule of Law. Our practice, however, has been marred by lapses resulting in a failure to deliver it in sufficient measure. The supremacy of Rule of Law has been challenged by corruption and the malicious influence of money power; both are made possible by departure from norms of good governance.”

What is noteworthy and also commendable that both Patil and Ansari, respectively, gave emphasis to the role that Indian government has to play in combating the challenge posed by terrorism and lapses which have emerged as “a significant threat to national security.” It is rarely that the country’s leaders have acknowledged their role and responsibility in failure to effectively check the menace posed by terrorism. Against this backdrop, Patil and Ansari’s comments suggest that Indian government has acknowledged that threat posed by terrorism cannot be checked by only holding external elements responsible for the same.

Paradoxically, the two-day conference was also witness to a slight diplomatic tension, when remarks made by a speaker made an envoy walk out of the hall. Saudi Arabian ambassador to India Faisal-al-Trad walked out when former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani in his speech made comments against Saudi Arabia’s Wahabism and Osama bin Laden as responsible for terrorism. Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, however, indulged in “damage-control” exercise by laying stress in his address that comments made by Jethamalini were his own, with which he totally disagrees, and not of the government. Subsequently, Trad returned to the conference hall.

“Terrorism cannot be attributed to any particular religion, as no religion teaches terrorism,” Moily said. Among other speakers, Justice Awn S. Al-Khasawneh, judge of the International Court of Justice asked Jethmalani not to make sweeping statements. He said: “The message from this conference must not be fear-mongering, but tackling terrorism within the framework of law. Combat it with methods such as combination of cooperation among countries by preaching the message of law and peace rather than fear mongering.”