For a festival that celebrates people of letters, it is indeed unfortunate that politics should take centre stage. To force political ideology down the throats of celebrated writers – no matter how contentious the issue may be – should be discouraged, India’s Mail Today said in its editorial.
‘This weakens not only the event in this case but hurts the rebuilding process that Sri Lanka is going through after more than three decades of turmoil’, the editorial added.
The Galle Literary Festival 2011 begins today (26) where a record number of visitors are expected within this week.
The Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk had informed the organizers of the Galle Literary Festival (GLF) in early January 2011 that he will be unable to participate in the Festival, due to what he considered to be Indian visa restrictions.
This notification preceded by more than two weeks the call to foreign writers by Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and a few other writers, and by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), to keep away from the GLF due to alleged Freedom of Expression issues in Sri Lanka, and therefore, has no relation to this call. Any attempts to link the non-participation of Orhan Pamuk at the GLF to an alleged situation about Freedom of Expression in Sri Lanka is therefore wholly unfounded, and only serves the agenda of those seeking to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka abroad, the Director, Policy Research & Information of the Presidential Secretariat said.
Ms. Kiran Desai, the Booker prize winner, who has also expressed regrets about not participating in the Festival, has told the organizers: “Nobody could be sadder than me. I love Sri Lanka and had a super time the last time I was in Galle.”
Commenting on the call for boycott by some international writers, Founder of the Galle Literary Festival Geoffrey Dobbs said, ‘It is unfortunate and ridiculous that some writers are appealing a boycott. Action such as this does not help as we are trying to build bridges through this Festival. It has always been a forum for freedom of expression, there is no censorship at all’, adding ‘most intelligent people will realize that such people are trying to get a platform by using events as successful as this to get reported in the media’.
‘I invite those who make allegations against the Festival from abroad to come and present their views. We would be happy to hear their ideas’, Dobbs said emphasizing, ‘I welcome criticism and they should speak out. This Festival is a platform to speak’.
Around 65 Nobel, Booker, Orange, Whitbread, Commonwealth and Gratiaen Prize winning writers, historians, poets and biographers from Nigeria, Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia, India, Pakistan, Canada, England, United States, South Africa, Turkey and Sri Lanka are converging upon the World Heritage City of Galle to participate in the festival which ends on 30 Jan.