Drama in Sri Lanka. The Play’s The Thing.

I am a member of English PEN and I am committed to write this blog. Thanks for being a part of my life. So here goes.    Shortly after Galle Literary Festival announced my attendance  I received a message on behalf of  Gillian Slovo who is the president of English PEN.  “Authors who travel to the Galle festival have found that a round-table event hosted by PEN is a useful preparation for the trip….”  It said “…there are serious free speech issues in Sri Lanka, in particular relating to the government’s treatment of the Tamil minority.  The fear and persecution experienced by many journalists who write on this issue is something that PEN firmly opposes”.  Due to work commitments I couldn’t attend  but I was sent an up-to-date and balanced briefing.    After consideration I decided to go.  On arrival in Sri Lanka I  met one of the writers who was at the PEN meeting.  She told me of another  who had decided to boycott Galle  citing that  it was impossible to facilitate a writers workshop if the attendants were fearful of punishment for what they may write.

I’ll share with you  my experience of the festival in the next blog. On the last day I bought  The Sunday Times (Sri Lankan) .  Tucked away  on page sixteen is an article about a short comedic school play.   The headline reads   “Principal interdicted for allowing mimicking of president in school stage play”.  The article reads  “Mimicking President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a school play has cost the school principal his job.   However, the Principal E.K.Premasiri said yesterday it was he who had first informed police of such a play and wanted them to investigate”.  The Tamil Guardian  has a slightly different take on the story that can be read either of two ways. It says    “Sadly, when you’ve upset one of the king’s henchmen or been party to such sacrilege against Rajapaksa, no good deed goes unpunished.”  Maybe they fear the children could catch the conscience of the king.    Freedom of expression is not  measured by how  loud or how grandly a government declares its principles of freedom but on who is silenced.

Read The Sunday Times  article Read The Tamil Guardian article .

1 thought on “Drama in Sri Lanka. The Play’s The Thing.

  1. Hi Lemn,
    I’m glad you went and have shared your responses/insights. Sri Lanka is an extraordinary island. I was fortunate enough to be there for some weeks in 2002 and the experience was amazing, I felt re-humanised by it, in large part thanks to the warmth, generosity, humour and grace of the Sri Lankans. Many of whom expressed excitement that the decades long conflict with the Tamils had ceased “the war is over” and “now there is peace, welcome, you are very welcome” it was moving and strange, not having personally experienced what it is to live in a country at war I felt humbled and hopeful for them, perhaps wounds would begin to heal and the country to progress. In actual fact they went on to suffer two terrible blows, that of the tsunami (which englufed the port town of Galle) and then the “civil war”. Clearly the government believed that it would be a war to end all wars when they mercilessly bombarded the Tamil North and imprisioned the survivors to have them “re-educated” today that intolerance and repression continues in so called open society.

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