Sri Lanka remains a nation ruled by war criminals who rather love the idea of isolating and killing Tamils. For this reason, many people, including me, globally called for the boycott of the 2011 Galle Literary Festival due to its links to the Colombo establishment and attempts to avoid serious discussion about the country’s police state status during the sessions.
The Galle Literary Festival will play host to a number of best-selling authors and outspoken defenders of human rights. It will also host the first ever non UK launch of an issue of Granta magazine, which is normally passionately pro-human rights but on this occasion has decided to accept sponsorship from Sri Lankan Airlines, a firm managed by the Rajapaksa family (the President’s brother in law is the Chairman of SLA). This will be a fantastic opportunity for these authors and publications to question their hosts and sponsors as to their complicity in the regime’s violations of human rights and abuse of the rule of law.
We have not taken a position upon a boycott of the Galle Literary Festival (although individual advisors may), but we are hoping to raise participants awareness of the current human rights situation in Sri Lanka and in particular, how it affects freedom of expression. We appreciate the quality of the Galle Festival and what it has done for the arts in Sri Lanka. We also realise that it is not state-funded and has tried to stay apolitical. But given the continuing repression and censorship of government critics – including writers – we feel it is important that a festival like this should not take place without these issues being discussed.For those struggling to keep political pluralism and civil society alive within the country, it is vital that the government should feel some pressure, from those in the international community whom it respects and invites to the island, to improve the deteriorating human rights situation and work towards a just political solution.