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War crimes: SA author to give Galle fest a miss

world Updated: Jan 27, 2011 23:38 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Award winning South African novelist, Daman Galgut, has withdrawn from the ongoing Galle Literary Festival (GLF) over concerns about Sri Lanka's human rights record during the end of the civil war.

"We are sorry to announce that Damon Galgut has decided to lend his support to the ongoing international campaign by rights activists to highlight shortfalls in human rights here," Shyam Selvadurai, the festival curator said in Galle, some 116 south of Colombo, where the fifth edition of the GLF is currently underway.

Galgut, a winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2003 for The Good Doctor, declined to take part in the GLF despite arriving in Sri Lanka this week, organisers said.

Galgut would be the first author to be withdrawing from the festival in response to the call given by the Paris-based Reporters San Frontier to boycott GLF over Lanka's human rights record.

A week ago, Noble laureate Orhan Pamuk and Booker winner, Kiran Desai, too had announced their withdrawal from the festival without making clear their reasons for doing so. The GLF organisers said they withdrew because of India's strict visa rules on re-entering the country. India, however, had made it clear that the two award winning authors would have had no problem in returning after attending the GLF.

"It's an unfortunate situation for us that Damon heeded this ridiculous campaign," AFP quoted Selvadurai as telling reporters on Thursday.

"But the festival will go on, with over 60 writers participating."

The RSF had said in its appeal that by attending the event, authors and writers would be endorsing a regime in Colombo which has clamped down on civil liberties and freedom of free speech and expression.