The Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat has said that writer Orhan Pamuk’s absence at the Galle Literary Festival (GLF) had no link to freedom of expression issues in Sri Lanka.

The Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk had informed the organisers in early January 2011 that he will be unable to participate in the festival, due to what he considered to be Indian visa restrictions, said Lucien Rajakarunanayake, Director, Policy Research & Information of the Presidential Secretariat.

Mr. Pamuk made his intentions clear much before the Reporters sans frontières' (RSF) call to writers, to keep away from the GLF due to alleged freedom of expression issues 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,” he added.

Commending the Indian High Commission in Colombo, he said that it had extended all assistance to the organisers of the GLF to resolve the strictly personal concerns of Mr. Pamuk with regard to re-entry to India, on his return after participation in the festival. All these efforts, which included a written assurance of fully facilitated re-entry to India on his return journey, were to no avail. He was expected to come to the GLF after the Jaipur Literary Festival.

This is borne out by the statement issued by the organisers of the GLF that said Mr. Pamuk in an e-mail to the organisers said, “I am very sorry for and frustrated about this decision… I looked forward to seeing the beauties of Sri Lanka very much.” This e-mail had been received January 3, 2011, clearly more than two weeks before the writers’ and RSF’s call for non participation in the festival, which has now become a major international event in the world of literature.

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