The Sunday Leader

A GLF With A Twist

By Vimukthi Yapa

A day after announcing the final line-up of the 5th Galle Literary Festival, organisers are having to deal with the double disappointment of Nobel Laureate, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and his fellow writer and partner Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai pulling out of the Festival.
Both Pamuk and Desai appear to have pulled out of attending the festival following an appeal early last week by Reporters Without Borders and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka which called for those who intend attending the Festival to reconsider the situation of the entire media community in the country.
The RSF/JDS joint appeal said, “We ask you in the great tradition of solidarity that binds writers together everywhere, to stand with your brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who are not allowed to speak out.
We ask that by your actions you send a clear message that, unless and until the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda is investigated and there is a real improvement in the climate for free expression in Sri Lanka, you cannot celebrate writing and the arts in Galle.”
The appeal was signed by: Noam Chomsky (American linguist, philosopher, cognitive  scientist, and political activist), Arundathi Roy (Indian novelist, essayist and activist), Ken Loach (British film and television director, known for highlighting social issues),  Antony Loewenstein (Australian political activist, journalist, author and blogger), Tariq Ali (British Pakistani historian, novelist, filmmaker and political campaigner), Dave Rampton (lecturer, he has completed his doctoral research on Sinhala nationalism in Sri Lanka and is based at the Department of Politics and International Studies, at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), and R. Cheran (Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, poet, author and journalist).
This came a day after Amnesty International on Wednesday, January 19, urged the United States to launch a war crimes investigation of Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaka who is on a private visit in the USA.
At the press conference held on Thursday 20th, Festival Curator and author Shyam Selvadurai said that the appeal was “out of context” since the festival this year was not catering to an elite group and was a symbol of tolerance, plurality and in no way politically inclined. He also said that the invited authors were free to express their views as they wished and the GLF organising committee was not curtailing their freedom of expression in any way.
On  Friday January 21st 2011, Agence France Press (AFP) reported that Nobel-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and fellow writer Kiran Desai have pulled out of Sri Lanka’s main literary festival following pressure from press freedom groups, Pamuk’s publisher said on Friday. AFP quoted Hemali Sodhi, Pamuk’s publisher from Penguin India who stated that the two authors will not be attending the festival and will not be commenting on this matter any further.
The Galle Literary Festival organising committee meanwhile said, “It is with great regret that we have to announce that Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai will not be attending the Literary Festival in Galle due to Indian Re-entry visa restrictions. We have been trying to resolve the issue with the Indian Immigration Authorities for the last three weeks but it has just not been possible. Nobody is sadder than Mr.Pamuk and Miss Desai, Mr Pamuk in an e-mail to the organisers said, “I am very sorry for and frustrated about this decision…I looked forward to seeing the beauties of Sri Lanka very much.” Miss Desai in a separate e-mail said, “Nobody could be sadder than me. I love Sri Lanka and had a super  time the last time I was in Galle.”
A Turkish citizen, Pamuk who according to Festival officials is currently in Jaipur, India, and is subjected to visa restrictions making it impossible for him to re-enter India as there must be a gap of at least two months between two visits to the country while being on a Tourist Visa. Despite the controversy never experienced before by the Festival, the event however has broken all records in terms of ticket sales.

7 Comments for “A GLF With A Twist”

  1. raj

    how can a country celebrate a literacy festival and expecting Nobel Price winners who wrote without afraid to attend the festival. Any write who has good moral and like stand up for other writes’s freedom speech will never attend this ceremony.

    • Dimiya

      Do you mind explaining how sabotaging an independent literary festival can help promoting freedom of speech?

  2. kudu

    india s visa rule is really a hindrance and must have been a genius who came up with this idea takes an Indian ha ha ha

  3. Malinda Seneviratne

    I wouldn’t take RWB and JDS seriously. It is sad that the likes of Chomsky have been hoodwinked by these jokers to sign this petition, but then again leftists tend to be a bit naive when it comes to certain things. Calling the LTTE ‘rebels’ is a joke isn’t it? Wrote about it:

  4. uni

    A country which engaged in war and refused to punish those involved has no basis to host literacy festival. Don’t expect any civilised people to attend such festival unless Sri Lanka is willing to corporate for independent investigation on war crime, genocide and supress of media by kidnapping and killing eminent journalists and bombing media institution such as Siresa,

  5. Dickman

    This GLF is a scam. Please don’t fall for it. GLF is nothing but a money making schema run by a white expat where Europeans have a nice time at the expense of the locals.

  6. mark

    Nearly two weeks ago there was an international tamil writers festival held in Colombo, organised by Mr Murugapoopathy, Noel Nadesan both of Australia who are well known supporters of Rajapakse brothers. Mrs Rajeswary Balasubramaniam(UK) and few other Tamil writers from India (not recognised as serious literary writers) participated. Many eminent Tamil writers from all over the world voiced against this festival for the same reason given for Galle festival’s boycot.


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