A very British version of 'tolerance'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 May, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 May, 2000, 12:00am

I was scheduled to speak at a conference on 'discrimination and toleration' hosted by the University of Copenhagen.

I received a British Airways ticket on which I was booked to go to Copenhagen via London.

The London stop is just in transit, so I can transfer to the flight to Copenhagen.

However, last week, I had to pay $377.50 for the transit visa fee and spent several hours at the British Consulate in Hong Kong, waiting to make my application for this transit visa.

Then I was told to come back and collect it the following day.

It seems a lot of trouble to go to and a lot of money to have to spend, just to land at Heathrow and wait in transit for a connecting flight.

I was going to talk about tolerance in Europe and I was getting an object lesson in the British concept of tolerance. Then I recalled that it was the people of this same country who used to control my native country, Sri Lanka, for more than 1.5 centuries as colonial masters and took away what they could from my poor country to enrich themselves.

My experience with the visa shows that even today nothing much has changed.

BASIL FERNANDO Executive Director Asian Human Rights Commission