CHENNAI, India, 11 July 2016
The government of Sri Lanka has refused to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama to visit Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past. While the earlier Rajapaksa government took such a negative stand towards the Dalai Lama, the present Sirisena government is also adopting the same policy and approach. Such a stand has resulted in the denial to millions of Buddhists living in Sri Lanka an opportunity to receive the Dalai Lama and honour him as a respected Buddhist leader and listen to his learned counsel.
Strange practice of Buddhist country belittling Buddhist leader
According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles, Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the third century BCE. Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation. Several Buddhist shrines were built and Buddhism has continued to thrive on the island.
In the present population of Sri Lanka which is around 21 million, the Buddhists constitute around 70% of the population.
It is strange that such a large Buddhist population dominated country deny visa to the Dalai Lama who is much respected by all Buddhists around the world and is considered as the tall Buddhist religious leader, with lofty commitment to the cause of peace, harmony and human welfare.
No explanation from Sri Lankan government
The admirers of the Dalai Lama in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world are very unhappy about the Sri Lankan government adopting what looks like a hostile attitude towards the holy man.
The Dalai Lama has shown interest in visiting Sri Lanka, but the Sri Lankan government thinks that it is not necessary. Sri Lankan government has never offered an explanation in public about its policy in dealing with the Dalai Lama, though it is known that the visit of the Dalai Lama to Sri Lanka would not create any unrest in the country or cause any harm to the well-being of Sri Lanka.
Recently, an organisation called the Sri Lankan Tibetan Buddhist Brotherhood was reported to have organised an event that was planned as a mark of appreciating the noble mission of the Dalai Lama.
It is reported that the Sri Lankan government’s official website of the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media carried out a report on the exhibition in the “Latest News” section.
Later on, a deputy minister in Sri Lankan government was reported to have remarked that such news item should not have been carried in the official website, as the ministry was not connected with the event. Even while saying so, he went on to say “people respect the Dalai Lama as a Buddhist leader.”
When the Sri Lankan government admits that people of Sri Lanka respect the Dalai Lama as the Buddhist leader, then why should the Sri Lankan government deny visa to the Dalai Lama to visit the country? Obviously, this is an unprincipled stand.
Is it due to fear of China?
A recent report has said that ahead of the arrival of China’s Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka, China has taken exception to this exhibition. A lobby group for China in Sri Lanka has also said that the Chinese government firmly would oppose any country entertaining the visit of the Dalai Lama.
It is very obvious that by denying visa to the Dalai Lama, the Government of Sri Lanka has taken this stand only to please the Chinese government and keep the Chinese leaders in good humour. More than that, Sri Lankan government seems to fear retaliatory action from China, if the visit of the Dalai Lama to Sri Lanka were to be allowed.
Sri Lanka’s sovereignty goes for a toss
Such a stand and approach of the Sri Lankan government shows it in poor light in the eyes of the world as a weak nation that lacks the courage of conviction and that can be vulnerable to pressure tactics from another country.
The denial of visa to the Dalai Lama by Sri Lankan government amounts not only to disrespect for the Dalai Lama but also lack of respect for the expectations and desire of the Buddhist population in Sri Lanka, who constitute the vast majority.
Chinese government is having the last laugh and must be thinking that the Sri Lankan government is weak-kneed and can be made to do anything that it wants, by simply applying economic and political pressure.
In the process, the sovereignty and independence of Sri Lanka has gone for a toss.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice For The Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.