On Thursday, the day of its formal launch, controversy hit the fifth edition of the Galle Literary Festival (GLF) from a direction it least expected any ruckus from — authors, commentators and human rights activists.
Participants in the upcoming five-day literary fest that starts on January 26 — that include Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai who fly straight from Jaipur to Galle — were accused of legimitising a regime in Colombo with a poor human rights record. Well, agency reports from New Delhi on Friday said both Pamuk and Desai have withdrawn from GLF. The festival organisers, however, insist that the two authors were not coming because of visa-related restrictions on returning to India from Sri Lanka.
The unexpected developments have left the organisers and local writers and activists fuming, especially after the joint statement from the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), a network of self-exiled journalists who have called for a GLF boycott. But many against the boycott argue that if the festival goes under, it would further shrink Sri Lanka’s precious liberal space.
Authors including Noam Chomsky, Arundhuti Roy and Tariq Ali have endorsed the appeal to shun the festival in a country where freedom of expression was severely impaired.