Sri Lanka literary festival lose stars, India denies visa block

Jan 22, 2011 (LBO) – Organizers of Sri Lanka’s Galle Literary Festival has defended its tradition of openness after two star writers pulled out of the event in the wake of protest from rights groups, while India denied that its visa rules hindered writers. “We are looking forward to welcoming writers and festival goers, to engage in debate, conversation and to raise important issues which reflect a post conflict Sri Lanka,” festival founder Geoffrey Dobbs said in a statement.

“[T]he Festival is one of the few forums in the country which actively promote lively and spirited discussions, we want to continue with this tradition and we will always welcome any writers and journalists to use the festival as a platform to air these issues.”

Paris-base Reporters without Borders and a group representing exiled journalists called on writers to boycott the festival citing repression of media and killings of mediamen which remain unsolved.

Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai said they were not attending the festival.

“Nobody could be sadder than me. I love Sri Lanka and had a super time the last time I was in Galle,” the organizers quoted Desai as saying. Pamuk’s pullout has been blamed on India visa re-entry rules, a charge strongly denied by Indian auth