Cape Town - The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, which was to be held in Cape Town from October 13 to 15, has been called off.
As news of another three cancellations emerged - bringing to six the total number of Nobel laureates who have pulled out of the event to protest the Dalai Lama visa debacle - the Cape Argus has been told by independent sources, including from the security sector, that the event has been canned.
The City of Cape Town has confirmed it would make an announcement on Thursday, but until then will stick to its statement of a week ago all preparations are on track.
Mayor Patricia de Lille said then that plans were on track and that the peace summit would go ahead “in the interests of peaceful dialogue.”
De Lille told the council: “If we give up the summit at this stage we will betray the Madiba’s legacy by standing up to the forces that would suppress peaceful dialogue, including the South African government.
But indications were that many of the laureates would not be attending the summit in because of the treatment of the Dalai Lama by the government.
South Africa denied Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader permission to attend the summit to avoid angering China, which regards the Buddhist monk as a campaigner for Tibetan independence.
The decision by the six women comes after 14 peace laureates sent a letter to President Jacob Zuma last month urging him to grant the Dalai Lama a visa for what would have been the first summit of its kind in Africa. There was no immediate word on whether other laureates would join the boycott, with the summit organisers in Rome saying they had not yet had official confirmation from the women.
In an emotional letter to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams explained why she would not be attending.
“Shame on you South Africa, you throw all that hard work back in the faces of those who sacrificed for your freedom. His Holiness has non-violently struggled to regain a country that is rightfully his - Tibet. His struggle is my struggle.
“No entry for my friend, for me means I do not wish to enter. I am available to reconsider my attendance if the summit is held in a different location.”
The six women who have confirmed their boycott are Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, American activist Jody Williams, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman, Northern Irish activist Mairead Maguire and a representative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
“The Dalai Lama advocates a nonviolent, negotiated solution to the Tibet problem,” the Nobel Women's Initiative said in announcing the boycott.
Ebadi also said on Wednesday that she was surprised Tutu had not spoken out about his country's move.
“There is a history of fighting racial discrimination in South Africa and that is why we don't accept this country's refusal to give a visa to the Dalai Lama three times,” Ebadi said in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama is based.
“I am very surprised that Desmond Tutu has kept his silence at this time. I'm surprised he is not speaking openly like the rest of us,” she said at a press conference to mark 25 years since the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel prize.
Cape Argus, Sapa and AFP