Govt slams attempt to `tarnish` Lanka`s image over GLF row

Last Updated: Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 16:52

Colombo: The Sri Lankan government has
slammed attempts to link the non-participation of Nobel prize
winning author Orhan Pamuk at its annual literary festival to
an alleged lack of free expression and dissent in the country.

The government said Pamuk had declared he was staying
away from Galle Literary Festival (GLF) on January 3, long
before rights groups called a boycott to protest alleged human
rights abuses and lack of free expression and dissent in Sri
Lanka.

"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," President Mahinda Rajapakse`s office
said.

The Presidential Secretariat said said Pamuk e-mailed
organisers of the GLF on January 3 to confirm he will not
attend. It was before several fellow authors, including
Arundathi Roy, urged a boycott.

Rights groups, including the Paris-based reporters
without borders, had initiated the boycott saying it was to
protest alleged human rights abuses and the lack of free
expression and dissent in the country.

The GLF organisers were in the meantime making
contradictory statements on why Pamuk and Booker prize winner
Kiran Desai were not attending.

After insisting that the duo were definitely attending
the GLF and dismissing the RSF-led call for a boycott
"frivolous", the organisers then blamed Indian visa
restrictions for their absence.

After Indian diplomats worked behind the scene to put
the record straight, the GLF organisers put out a second
statement today, saying Indian diplomats in Colombo had gone
out of their way to help.

"The Indian High Commission here in Colombo has gone
beyond their call of duty to assist us in this regard,
together with their counterparts in Istanbul," the GLF
organisers said.

"High level assurances of a smooth re-entry for Mr
Pamuk unfortunately were not enough to allay his fears that he
would not be allowed to re-enter India after the festival,"
the GLF said in the second statement.

Pamuk and Desai are attending the Jaipur Literary
Festival in India.

The Galle boycott campaign has been backed by
well-known American linguist Noam Chomsky and controversial
Indian author Roy.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 16:52

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