By Kalsang Rinchen
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama/file
Dharamsala, March 23 - Norwegian Nobel Committee will not take part in the Nobel laureates’ conference in South Africa if the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama is not granted visa to South Africa, the Norwegian Tibet Committee said today quoting Geir Lundestad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
“We will not take part in the conference unless His Holiness Dalai Lama is granted visa,” Geir Lundestad told Norwegian Tibetan Committee.
The South African government’s refusal to grant visa to His Holiness to attend the Nobel laureates’ conference under pressure from the People’s Republic of China is unacceptable for the Norwegian Nobel Committee, he said, according to the Norwegian Tibet Committee.
Meanwhile, the South African government has defended its decision saying the visit had nothing to do with the status or position of the Dalai Lama.
"The attention of the world is on South Africa because of it being the host country for the 2010 World Cup, and we wouldn't want anything to distract from that," reports quoted Thabo Masebe, the chief spokesperson for President Kgalema Motlanthe, as saying.
Norwegian Tibet Committee said it is also trying to contact the Norwegian national soccer team, which is scheduled to participate in the Mandela Cup soccer match scheduled for March, 28.
The 73 year old Tibetan Nobel laureate was to join other winners of the prestigious peace prize including Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk at a conference Friday to discuss ways of using soccer to fight racism and xenophobia, as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup.
A report by China's state media Xinhua indicated that the decision to deny visa had no Chinese influence. Ronnie Mamoepa of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs reportedly said Sunday, according to Xinhua, that it was an independent and sovereign decision of the country (South Africa). However,The Sunday Independent
newspaper quoted China's minister counsellor at the embassy in Pretoria, Dai Bing, as saying that his government had urged South Africa to deny the visit, warning it would harm bilateral relations.
The paper quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a spokesman for de Klerk as saying they would reconsider their participation in the conference if the Dalai Lama were not allowed to come.
"We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed," Tutu told the paper.
De Klerk has expressed concern to the president and the foreign ministry over the visa, said Dave Steward, spokesman for his foundation.
"If the visa is not granted, Mr de Klerk and other laureates will reconsider their participation in the event, and this would not be a good thing for South Africa and the World Cup," he told the paper.