US sheriff refuses to lower flag in Mandela's honour

US President Obama ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff for the international icon until sunset on Monday. 

But Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark says not in his department.

Emotional farewell: An altar boy lights a candle during a special Sunday service in honour of Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s former wife Winnie and South African President Jacob Zuma also attended services to pay homage to the anti-apartheid hero. Pics/AFP

“It’s just my simple opinion that the flag should only be lowered to half-staff for Americans who have sacrificed for their country,” said Clark.

It should be lowered at the US Embassy in South Africa, he said, but not at home.

“I have no problem lowering it in South Africa in their country but not in our country. It should be the people who have sacrificed for our country,” he added.

Though rare, the lowering of flags for foreign citizens is nothing new. George W Bush did it for Pope John Paul II eight years ago. So did Bill Clinton, when former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in the 1990s.

In fact, the practice goes as far back as 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson ordered flags lowered for former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. But not all world leaders get the honour.

This year, US President Obama issued a statement expressing his condolences for the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But he did not order the flag to be lowered. Meanwhile, the White House announced that both the president and First Lady will attend a memorial service in South Africa honouring Mandela on Tuesday.

President, Sonia, to attend service
President Pranab Mukherjee is to lead a high-level Indian delegation at the memorial service of Mandela, to be held on Tuesday. Sources said that the others to be part of the delegation include UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chand Mishra. Sources added the delegation will fly out today. 

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