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Letter: Mandela's Change of Heart

Mainichi Daily News, Thursday, April 10, 1997


To the Editor:

On March 6, 1997, South African President Nelson Mandela, while on the
Singapore segment of a 10-day Asian tour, said that he had no hesitations in
doing business with Southeast Asian nations despite their close links with
Burma's military rulers.  Mandela emphasized that South Africa would be
"completely paralyzed" if it were to be influenced by the foreign policy of
other countries.  Mandela's statements were reported in the March 7, English
edition of a local Japanese daily newspaper.

President Mandela's stance has shocked and dismayed democracy and human
rights activists such as myself.

In a world where political leadership is on the verge of moral bankruptcy,
Mandela is honored as one of its last hopes.  His courage and fortitude as
he led his nation's struggle against the diabolical apartheid system
inspires people all around the world in their own struggle against
repressive regimes.  One such regime is Burma's State Law and Order
Restoration Council.

Mandela's fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is the inspirational leader
for her people's struggle to restore their dignity and regain their human
rights.  Suu Kyi is supported in her struggle by her South African co-Nobel
laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

I am sure President Mandela would accept that a most effective tool in
dismantling apartheid was international sanctions.  In his autobiography
"Long Walk to Freedom," he emphasized to former President F.W. de Klerk that
he would not tell his supporters, the European Community and the United
States "to relax sanctions until he (De Klerk) had completely dismantled
apartheid and a transitional government was in place."

In describing his June address to the joint sitting of the chambers of the
U.S. Congress, Mandela stated that "the new South Africa hoped to live up to
the values that created the two chambers before which I spoke" and "I also
delivered a strong message on sanctions, for I knew that the Bush
administration felt it was time to loosen them.  I urged Congress not to do so."

Burma's quest for democracy parallels that of South Africa.  Suu Kyi has
repeatedly appealed to the international community for the enforcement of
sanctions as the only weapon to force the military regime into a dialogue
with representatives of democracy.  Any form of trade or business either
direct or indirect, such as with the Southeast Asian nations with close
links to Burma's military rulers, would only serve in tacitly perpetuating
their repressive rule.

As Mandela strides across the world's stage, striving to make South Africa
an economic power, he must be aware that the words and deeds of a man of his
stature have deep moral and political implications.  For his personal
freedom and that of his countrymen he is indebted to the international
community, to those who stood by him, who honored his pleas.

Other nations and people such as Burma are struggling that they may enjoy
that same God-given freedom and dignity.  All I ask is that Mandela voice
his support for their cause with that dignity, passion and moral fortitude
that gained South Africa her place among free nations.

Merwyn De Mello
Sumida-ku, Tokyo