Book censorship in Sri Lanka?


Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on March 18, 2008  /  2 Comments

LIRNEasia’s first book was launched at a ceremony at IIT Madras in December 2007. Three months later, the book is not yet available for sale in a Sri Lankan bookstore. Why?

According to Sage India, a respected academic publisher, the book is held up at Sri Lanka Customs. The problem is that it came in the same shipment as a book by an English scholar teaching at the Colombo University which had the word militarization in the title. So Customs or whoever are reading the entire shipment to see if it any of the books have anti-state content. This has taken several weeks, leading us to wonder whether they are reading all the copies, unaware that reading one is enough.

Now I have no objection to the Customs or whoever getting educated. I’d be happy to personally donate a copy of our book along with the classic critique of book censorship, Fahrenheit 451, to their library. But as far as I know they have no right, legal or moral, to censor books in a democratic society (I have evidence that this book censorship is occurring on a broader scale and is not limited to this single shipment from Sage India). Our book has nothing about the conflict, other than a single chapter that I co-authored on teleuse between the wars in the government areas of Jaffna. But if this goes on, I may be compelled to write a whole book on the destruction of civil liberties by people who don’t have a clue.

By the way, anyone who wants to read the chapter on teleuse in Jaffna between the wars should simply click on the link. So much for book censorship in the Internet Age.

2 Comments


  1. The objective of censorship is not to prevent access to a work. Even in the pre-Internet world it was impossible to completely bloc the access to any work the state saw unfavourable.

    The censorship is aimed more at (a) discouraging others doing similar work and (b) a threat.

    Banning Aksharaya did not prevent us watching it. Full movie is now available at You Tube.

    However, that does not help the producer Upul Shantha Sannasgala recovering the cost of production. Would have been a massive lost for him.

    Aksharaya has nothing to do with war, but banning it has already resulted in any young director (Ashoka Handagama, Prasanana Vithanage, Vimukthi Jayasundera, Sudath Mahadivulveva) doing any movie even remotely related to war. Even if they want to, it would be impossible to find any producer investing on a movie with an anti-war theme.

    So ban of Aksharaya was a low cost ‘solution’ for the state to remove a stumble block in its attempt of militarisation of society. Strictly speaking, Ashoka Hanadagama indirectly helped them to achieve that objective. Naïve.

    This is not to say Aksharaya is a good movie, but to explain how things work in this country.

  2. i am doing a report on censorship in books and i found very little usable information in this article although if you click on the link below it may be of more help….

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/whodecides/definitions.html

    otherwise you may as well ask a monkey.