Sri Lanka denies rights behind Pamuk boycott

January 23, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka rejected Sunday suggestions that the novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk had decided to boycott a literary festival on the island because of human rights concerns. Any attempt to link Pamuk’s non-participation at the Galle Literary Festival to “an alleged situation about freedom of expression in Sri Lanka is wholly unfounded,” the Sri Lanka president’s office said in a statement.

Last week, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and a Sri Lankan rights group asked foreign writers to protest against alleged rights abuses in Sri Lanka by withdrawing from the Galle festival, which opens Wednesday.

A day later, Penguin publishers in India told AFP that Pamuk and his partner and fellow writer Kiran Desai would not attend, but declined to specify the reason.

Lucien Rajakarunanayake, director of the Policy Research and Information unit of the Sri Lanka Presidential Secretariat, said Pamuk had informed the festival organisers of his decision to stay away weeks ago — long before the appeal from the rights groups.

Pamuk, author of “Snow” and “The Black Book,” is currently attending the Jaipur Literary Festival in India.

Rajakarunanayake attributed Pa