Court ruling declares Botswana denying former president Ian Khama financial, security support for Dharamsala trip unlawful

Former Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama pictured with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the latter’s residence during his visit to Dharamsala. Image: Seretse Khama Ian Khama Facebook.

DHARAMSALA, 30 Aug: A court ruling in Botswana has declared that President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi’s decision to deny his predecessor Seretse Khama Ian Khama air transport to honor an invitation by the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in India in 2019 was unlawful.

The incumbent President of Botswana, “Masisi acted illegally by denying Khama security and international air travel to Khama for his trip to India,” Gaberone High Court Judge Gabriel Komboni ruled on 4 Aug, Zenger News reported on Friday.

Khama has knocked on the door of the court seeking an order declaring that his successor’s refusal to provide air transport and security details was unlawful.

“Judge Komboni has ruled that the Masisi administration’s refusal to support Khama’s trip based on Gaberone’s recognition of the One China policy boils down to a conflict between law and policy,” the report added.

A former president is entitled to up to four international trips and per diem for each trip as may be determined by the [serving] President, according to the President (Pension and Retirement Benefits) Act, the report added.

Khama has also sought reimbursement for all costs associated with his trip including the cost of hiring a private airplane.

“The President cannot refuse to fund a first-class international air travel for the former except one that exceeds this prescribed four trips,” the Judge has ruled.

However, Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe has contested the ruling and had filed an appeal.

“We don’t agree with the judgment. We are of the view that the judge erred in law; hence we are appealing the judgment.”

Former Botswana President Ian Khama joined thousands of Tibetans and supporters at the courtyard of Tsug-lag-Khang, the main temple in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala to observe the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising day on 10 March 2019.

Fearing backlash from China, the Masisi administration declined to finance the former president’s trip.

The Masisi government has stated in the court papers that it “refused to support Khama’s trip due to its recognition of Beijing’s One China policy, which affirms China as one indivisible nation.

Khama has dismissed his successor’s claim and stated in the court that “that he is not aware of such a policy and that even if it exists, it does not relate to his rightful entitlements as an ex-president.

On the effects of his trip on the Botswana-China relations, the Khama has added: “I made it clear to the Chinese then that Botswana is an independent country and that they should not meddle in our affairs. His Holiness’ (Dalai Lama) visit had nothing to do with China. Our independence as individuals comes before any foreign relations. I was not bothered as to what shape our relations with China would take.”

Khamma, the son of the country’s independence leader Sir Seretse Khama served as the fourth President of the country from 2008 to 2018 and the state sponsors former presidents’ international travels.

While in office, unlike the current government, his administration stood against China’s intimidation and confirmed that they will receive the Dalai Lama in August 2017 as a ‘foreign dignitary’ despite Chinese objection.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to later cancel the trip to Botswana due to exhaustion and on his physician’s advice against undertaking long journeys.

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