Organisers of a book burning protesting the Galle Literary Festival have highlighted environmental credentials to gain demonstration permits. The spokesperson for the book burning denied their environmentalism is a tactic to get media attention. In a media release the organisers said :
“We genuinely care about the ecological impact of free speech, democracy and politics. This protest is will set the standard for non violent low carbon foot print politics in Sri Lanka”. The media release also emphasised that the organisers’ support of RSF’s boycott of the Galle Literary Festival is based on “significantly different ideological reasons”.
As proof of their commitment the organisers claim that they have built a special book burning incinerator with a carbon capture and storage system.
The book burning itself is to take place outside the Moon bastion of the iconic Galle fort at the auspicious time of 4:51pm on Wed the 11th. The public is asked to bring books by authors attending this year’s festival as well as authors who took part in pervious festivals. The organisers’ media release helpfully lists book shops and festival venues where the books can be purchased. For legal reasons, the organisers require that those submitting books for burning to show a receipt proving that they have legitimately acquired the books.
Observers have described the low carbon footprint book burning concept as “unusually innovative”. According to fringe media analyst R.B Pushpakumara,
“There is a tradition of attacking the Galle Literary Festival in the Sri Lankan fridge media. It provides a platform to polish one’s nationalistic/patriotic credentials. Outer fringe media such as blogs bank on this opportunity to attract traffic in the hope of increasing revenue from advertising click through rates. If this book burning actually happens it will hijack all other media reporting of the event.”
The strange mix of environmentalism, book burning and the politics of gaining media attention has shifted the focus away from the organisers of the book burning. They belong to a previously unknown minor political party called the Lanka Totalitarian Freedom Front. They claim to be Sri Lanka’s only “pure” totalitarian political party. Their ultimate aim is the remove ethnic, religious, linguistic identities from Sri Lanka politics.
“Unite the country in a single Esperanto speaking identity totally obedient to the maximum leader’s vision of totalitarian self reliance!” reads the trilingual banner outside the party’s small one room office in outskirts of Galle. It is staffed by a handful of activists dressed in the party uniform of black shirts, white sarongs and white berets. Flanked by portraits of Mahatma Gandhi, Kim Il-sung, Norm Chomsky, and Benito Mussolini, “media leader” Anton delivers a long rambling speech to the handful of curious journalists.
It seems unlikely that the party will be get permission to go ahead with its book burning. However the voices in my head think it’s a great little yarn to spin at this time of the year. Thank you for reading this far. Deranged peal of echoing laughter in a deep voice.