In a further setback to the Galle Literary Festival, two of the stars of the festival, Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai, have announced that they will not attend.

The festival organisers said on Friday: “It is with great regret that we have to announce that Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai will not be attending the literary festival in Galle due to Indian re-entry visa restrictions. We have been trying to resolve the issue with the Indian immigration authorities for the last three weeks but it has just not been possible.

“Nobody is sadder than Mr. Pamuk and Miss Desai, 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.” Ms. Desai in a separate e-mail said, “Nobody could be sadder than me. I love Sri Lanka and had a super time the last time I was in Galle.”

“The Literary Festival will continue as scheduled from January 26.”

A foreigner cannot re-enter India within two months of leaving the country, on most visas. This is to prevent illegal employment of foreigners in India, a practice that was widely prevalent. With prior permission, exceptions are made. Both Mr. Pamuk and Ms. Desai are in India.

On January 19, Reporters Without Borders and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), a network of exiled Sri Lankan journalists, had announced the launch of an international appeal, which the organisations said were already signed by Noam Chomsky, Arundathi Roy, Ken Loach, Antony Loewenstein and Tariq Ali, asking writers and intellectuals to endorse a campaign for more freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

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