Philippines, Burma, India, China join Nelson Mandela tributes
The Philippines, Burma, India, China and other Asia Pacific leaders joined others across the globe to offer tributes and remembrances to human rights icon Nelson Mandela. The 95-year-old South African anti-apartheid activist and nation’s first black president died Dec. 5 after a prolonged illness.
South African President Jacob Zuma said in a midnight address that Mandela “passed on peacefully in the comfort of his family. We’ve lost our greatest son.”
Flags flew at half-staff in many countries, including Burma, India and the United States.
U.S. President Obama said Dec. 5 that Nelson Mandela inspired millions of people across the world – including Obama himself – to work for freedom, justice, and democracy. “He no longer belongs to us,” Obama said at the White House. “He belongs to the ages.”
Mandela, who was accused along with his African National Congress associates of trying to overthrow the repressive government by force, served 27 years in prison. He was released in 1990, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and served one term as president before retiring in 1999.
After Mandela’s health began to fail, he was hospitalized in February 2012 for a long-standing stomach ailment. His death comes months after his 95th birthday on July 18.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III praises Mandela
Tributes to the former political prisoner hailed from around the globe echoing Mandela’s commitment to human rights efforts.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III praised Mandela as “an exemplar of conscientious resistance to racism, and exponent of reconciliation founded on justice.” Aquino extended his deepest condolences to Mandela’s family, the South African people, “and all men and women of peace and goodwill who mourn the passing of a truly great man,” on behalf of the Filipino people.
“For today, as Nelson Mandela united his people in the spirit of compassion and inclusiveness, so too does he unite the rest of the world – not only in grief and mourning, but also in respect and admiration for a life lived with strength, courage, humility, and dignity,” Aquino said in a Dec. 6 statement. “His memory will serve as a durable guide to humanity as we seek to bequeath to future generations a world better than we found it.”
Aquino said his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, admired Mandela. He recalled then-President Mandela’s 1997 visit to the Philippines, during which the younger Aquino remembered Mandela telling him: “You choose your parents well.”
Aquino said Mandela, who received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of the Philippines, also praised the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.
Mandela’s South Korea visit
After leaving office in 1999 Mandela visited South Korea in 2001 to meet with then-Korean President Kim Dae-jung. Kim had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of his Sunshine Policy regarding North Korea.
Kim, according to news reports, had long been called the “Nelson Mandela of Asia” because to his democracy activism against the military dictatorships that ruled South Korea. When Kim ran for the South Korean presidency in 1997, Mandela sent him the watch he wore in prison as a good luck charm. During his visit, Mandela expressed support for Kim’s outreach to North Korea. Over the next few years Mandela would advocate for peace efforts between North Korea and South Korea.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on an official Dec. 6 visit to Seoul, praised Mandela for having transformed the world. “He was a good man,” Biden said in a written statement from South Korea, the third and final stop on his week-long trip to Asia.
Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi pays tribute to Mandela
Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent nearly two decades under house arrest in Burma, shared condolences. Since her release in 2010, she has become a member of Parliament and expressed her desire to run in the 2015 presidential elections.
“I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of a man who stood for human rights and equality,” the National League for Democracy [NLD] chairwoman told reporters in Rangoon. Suu Kyi was speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day international women’s forum in Burma’s biggest city.
“He made us all understand that nobody should be penalized for the color of his skin, for the circumstances in which he is born. He also made us understand we can change the world — we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions. For this reason I would like to pay him tribute as a great human being who raised the standard of humanity.”
India’s Manmohan Singh praises Mandela as ‘giant among men’
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid tribute to Mandela, describing him as a “giant among men” who was a beacon of hope for those struggling against oppression and injustice.
Singh said Mandela’s death is as much a loss to India and the world as it is to South Africa.
“I am deeply saddened at the passing away of President Nelson Mandela,” Singh said in his condolence message.
The prime minister noted that Mandela not only represented the conscience of the world, he also remained a beacon of hope for those struggling against oppression and injustice long after he had led his own people to victory over such ills.
“Nelson Mandela endured great personal hardship so that others could be provided with dignity, equality and opportunity. He fought discrimination and inhuman exclusion, but rose above bitter divisions to heal and reconcile a fractured nation. His life and work made him a citizen of the world,” Singh said.
Japan, China and Indonesia offer Mandela tributes
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his nation is one with the world in mourning the passing of Mandela. Abe referred to Mandela as a “great leader” and said he “achieved a great deal by putting national reconciliation at the center of his nation-building.”
At the beginning of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s talks with visiting French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Li expressed deep grief over the passing of the civil rights icon.
“We feel deeply aggrieved to know that Mr. Mandela, who is much respected by all people around the world, passed away early this morning.”
During the talks, Li also expressed his sympathies and those of the Chinese government and people to Mandela’s family as well as the South African government and people.
Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa conveyed condolences through a statement released by his office. “We deeply mourn the passing away of a man of honor and principle; a towering figure against the heinous policy of apartheid whose struggles served as a rallying call the world over against racialism, colonialism and other forms of injustice.”
Indonesia has a special bond with Mandela as the former South African president was a fan of the Indonesian traditional cloth of batik, which he wore every time he attended international events.
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