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South African author joins boycotting Sri Lanka literary festival

[TamilNet, Thursday, 27 January 2011, 12:15 GMT]
Award winning South African novelist and playwright Damon Galgut, citing concerns over rights record of Sri Lanka, boycotted the literary festival in Galle, despite his arrival in the island this week, AFP reported Thursday. "It's an unfortunate situation for us that Damon heeded this ridiculous campaign," the festival curator Shyam Selvadurai told reporters. Nobel laureate Turkish-born Orhan Pamuk and his partner, fellow writer Kiran Desai, last week pulled out of the festival. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, Reporters without Borders and a group of intellectuals led by Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy led a campaign to boycott the festival, saying that this was not the time to give legitimacy to Sri Lankan government. However, the US embassy in a press release Tuesday said that it welcomes the festival.

This is the fifth year the literary festival is taking place in Galle in Sri Lanka. If it could “help bring about fuller freedom of expression in Sri Lanka," as claimed by the US embassy, what effect had it brought on Sri Lanka in the past five years, ask critics.

Galgut is a winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2003 for "The Good Doctor", set in post-apartheid South Africa. His latest novel, "In a Strange Room," is shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

Meanwhile, writing an open letter to the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) last Saturday on the sponsors of the literary festival in Jaipur, India, Gopal Krishna of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties said: “We find the manner of celebration of literature in which NHRC is involved along with those companies and agencies that are involved in genocides, civil wars, war crimes, aggression, occupation, protecting despots and fraudulent financialization is quite disturbing.”

The forum has made a special mention of the corporates, DSC Ltd that was involved in the Commonwealth Games scam, the Rio Tinto Group, a mining company, which according to the forum is guilty of collusion with fascist and racist regimes, Shell Oil Company which according to the Nigerian author and environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa, condemned to death, committed the crime of war against the Ogoni people, and the Coca Cola Company that is accused of forcing residents in certain places of India to rely on water supplies from outside the areas, by drying up their groundwater.


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