ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43

Customs playing censor, say academics

By Tharindri Rupesinghe

A number of academics have complained that books authored by local academics and printed abroad were being detained by customs authorities. The latest book to be detained, is one authored by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, titled “Economy of Conflict region in Sri Lanka: From Embargo to Repression”.

According to Dr. Sarvananthan, 10 complimentary copies of the book, which was published by the East-West Center in Washington D.C., had been mailed to him by the publishers. “No reason was given. They just said they would return it after they checked,” Dr. Sarvananthan said. Another academic, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director of think-tank LIRNEasia said a book authored by him had been detained since December.

His book, “ICT infrastructure in emerging Asia, Policy and Regulatory roadblocks” is centered around the South Asian region and has one chapter dedicated to ICT issues in Jaffna. “Where is the book censorship authority that I can complain to?” asked the irate author who also added that he was planning to file a case if the book was not released.

Yet another book authored by another Sri Lankan academic had also been detained along with the book he authored. Prof. Samarajiva wondered whether it was the word “militarization” in that book’s title that caused the problem Director General of Sri Lanka Customs, Sarath Jayathilake said the detention of Dr. Sarvananthan’s book hadn’t been brought to his attention. He agreed that such detentions of publications were routinely done. “We usually detain these books if it’s a matter of security and we refer them to Defence (Ministry) or the Government Information Department,” he said, but reiterated that he does not know on what basis this detention had been made.

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