Lord Steel meets Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi

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IT was a busy few days for former Borders MP David Steel last week, when he met two Nobel Peace Prize winners in the space of just 48 hours.

Last Wednesday, he was a guest of the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, at a small lunch before His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed a crowded meeting in Parliament.

Lord Steel and His Holiness recalled their first meeting many years ago – in 1994 – at the Samye Ling monastery, near Eskdalemuir, when the then MP welcomed him to open the new library. The two men had also met in London, Rome and two years ago at the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan parliament in Dharamsala, India.

Lord Steel also attended the lecture given by the Dalai Lama on Friday in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

Asked how his meeting with His Holiness had gone, Lord Steel said, like South Africa’s legendary Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama displays no bitterness at his treatment.

“In all my discussions with Chinese politicians both in London and in China, I have in vain urged them to allow him to return from exile and live in Tibet, especially as he has now retired as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile and is purely a religious leader,” Lord Steel told TheSouthern during a break in his current visit to Morocco.

“He could be like the Pope who lives in Rome but has no role in Italian politics. Maybe one day they will see sense.”

Then, on Thursday, after the address given by Aung San Suu Kyi in Westminster Hall, Lord Steel met the Burmese opposition leader at the reception given by Mr Bercow.

In the days before her telephone was cut off by the country’s military rulers, the two used to speak by telephone, and, having known her late husband, Michael Aris, Lord Steel was especially pleased to meet up with Mr Aris’ sister at the reception.

But the former Liberal leader was taken aback when the Burmese politician told him: “I’ve read your book,” adding, “I thought it more important to read the memoirs of opposition politicians rather than those in government.”