Author Shakthika Sathkumara freed on AG’s orders

By Easwaran Rutnam

Author Shakthika Sathkumara has been released on the orders of Attorney General (AG) Dappula de Livera, the AG’s coordinating officer Nishara Jayaratne told Colombo Gazette.

Sathkumara is an award-winning author of seven short story collections, four poetry anthologies, a novel and at least 17 non-fiction books on literary theory, theatre art and Buddhism.

He is also a regular contributor to the literary supplements of various Sinhala-language newspapers. Since 2012, he has been employed by the Sri Lankan government and just prior to his arrest, he served as an Economic Development Officer at the Polgahawela Divisional Secretariat Office.

In February 2019, Sathkumara published a post-modern short story on his Facebook page entitled Ardha. In the subsequent days, an association of Buddhist monks filed a complaint with police alleging the story insulted and defamed Buddhism and Buddhists. The complaint mentions the themes of homosexuality in Ardha and an allusion in the story to an instance of possible sexual abuse in a Buddhist temple. Sathkumara has maintained that he did not intend to insult Buddhism or any religious community by publishing Ardha.

Sathkumara was arrested on April 1, 2019 and charged under two domestic laws: Section 3(1) of Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act which prohibits advocating religious hatred; and Section 291(B) of the Penal Code, which prohibits insult to religion.

The trial against Sathkumara had been subjected to repeated delays and has not moved past the pre-trial phase. Hearings in this case had been repeatedly delayed by the courts without reason—for example, Sathkumara filed an interlocutory petition to the Supreme Court alleging a violation of his constitutional rights, and while this petition was initially scheduled to be argued in September 2019, the Supreme Court, without express reason, rescheduled it to be argued in July 2020. (Colombo Gazette)