SAHRC statement regarding the delays in the processing of the Dalai Lama’s visa application by Government
Wednesday, 05 October 2011
The Commission has noted with concern the unexplained delays that occurred in the processing of a visa application by the spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The visa would have enabled him to visit South Africa this week to participate in events to celebrate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday. As a result of the delays we are told that the Dalai Lama withdrew his application and will therefore miss out on the celebrations. Importantly, those who would have participated in these celebrations have been denied the opportunity of hearing his views. Those who regard the Dalai Lama as an inspirational spiritual voice are unable to experience the power of his words and those who see him as a courageous human rights defender are unable to express their support and admiration.
Government has a constitutional obligation to provide reasons for its actions or inaction. Failure to provide reasons and an explanation for its handling of this matter raises very serious concerns, about a discriminatory application of its power, a lack of commitment to transparency and to enabling freedom of speech within our country.
Why is it that a well-known international figure who poses no security threat and has no record of behaviour other than a record held in high regard by the international community fails to have his visa processed in an expeditious manner? By providing reasons regarding its handling of this matter government will help dispel perceptions that the Dalai Lama’s application for a visa may have been deliberately delayed as a mechanism to avoid granting him access to South African. By providing an explanation, government may be able to avoid being regarded as willing to sacrifice the country’s commitment to human rights values.
The delays in processing the application have not only raised concern locally but internationally as well, and if government does not clarify this matter swiftly South Africa’s reputation as a moral and human rights leader will be negatively affected.
The Commission hopes that, by providing a clear explanation in this matter, government will help to restore public trust in its commitment to the values that lie at the heart of our democracy and for which so many sacrifices were made.
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