In an embarrassing turn of events for the Tibetan leadership, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been denied a visa to South Africa for the third time in five years. His Holiness was due to attend a summit of Nobel Peace prize winners to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid. After news of His Holiness’ visa denial made the headlines, six fellow Laureates pulled out of the summit in protest and as a result, the summit that His Holiness had been invited to attend has been scrapped.
The last 60 years since the Tibetan leadership first went into exile has seen very little improvement in the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) reputation or worth. While the six decades has seen a rise in value of a relationship with the Chinese, it has also seen the value of being associated with the Tibetan leadership plummet. This current state can only be attributed to the CTA’s poor leadership, internal bickering and politicking, all of which have shown the world what the Tibetan leadership are really like.
For once the rose-tinted glasses are removed and the romantic daze of meeting His Holiness has worn off, people see the CTA for what they truly are – corrupt, self-serving, desirous and greedy, basically just like any other normal politician and human being. So while His Holiness may indeed be holy and enlightened, those who surround him most definitely are not and this is proven by their track record of accomplishments (or rather, lack thereof).
The CTA claims that they are a democratic nation governed by Buddhist principles, yet their achievements do not mirror the results that we have come to expect from this style of governance. Bhutan, for example, is a neighboring example that many Tibetans will be familiar with. A Buddhist democratic nation that has its independence, Bhutan has developed an extremely positive international reputation for their environmental conservation efforts. Thailand is another independent Buddhist nation, with a strong culture and identity that draws tourists from all over the world, and they have the reputation of never having been colonized. Even nations like Vietnam and Cambodia, both having suffered incredibly devastating civil wars, are seeing their fortunes rise and their people’s standard of living improve as the years go by.
While these Buddhist nations go from strength to strength, the Tibetan leadership in contrast continues to remain as beggars, seeking handouts from foreign donors who have not yet awoken to the fact they are being lied to and cheated. Despite the millions of dollars in donations that governments and private donors have pumped into the CTA’s coffers, the Tibetan leadership have not been able to reopen talks with China regarding the Tibetan issue, let alone secure any sort of progress towards their goal of meaningful autonomy (umaylam).
What is interesting is that this is not the first time that South Africa has denied a visa to the Dalai Lama. They first denied him entry into their country in 2009, when he had been invited to a peace conference in Johannesburg. It was organized to highlight the World Cup in South Africa but when the Dalai Lama’s visa was denied, the conference was cancelled. Two years later, in 2011, His Holiness was invited to South Africa to attend his good friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday. On the eve of his departure, his visit was abruptly cancelled and once again, he was unable to attend the event because his visa application was rejected.
With such a track record, it seems unlikely that the Dalai Lama will ever be welcomed in South Africa. South Africa thus joins a growing list of countries increasingly unwilling to be associated with the Tibetan leadership.
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