Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga yesterday said her father had brought in the Sinhala only Bill in 1956 not as a racist move but as a means of giving back to the country its identity after 450 years of subjugation by foreign rulers.
“After eight years of independence, the Sinhala people, who accounted for around 75 per cent of the population, felt that they were being discriminated against, not by the Tamil or Muslim people but by the white rulers and they felt they needed to express their identity by regaining an important place for the Sinhala people. What better way to give people an identity than to elevate the status of their language?,” she asked.
Ms. Kumaratunge said both the languages should have been given rightful place without giving its rightful place to the language of the people who made up the majority of the population.
“We only gave the language of the majority its rightful place. We should have given both languages their rightful place,” she said.
Speaking at the launch of the website of Language Facilitators pool at the BMICH, she said leaders of the 1956 government realized a year later that Tamil language must also be given recognition and brought in the Reasonable use of Tamil Bill, but it had not been implemented so far.
“Every successive government in this country excelled in sweeping the Bill under carpet and not giving the Tamil language its rightful place. This has created a situation where we do not have a single person who can speak Tamil or work in Tamil in most government departments and ministries. I looked into this when I became President. However, we had to face practical problems when recruiting Tamil people due to the war,” she said.
"This may be a small initiative but this is the first time that in post-independent Sri Lanka, a government has taken an effort to create an enabling environment to allow citizens to communicate with the government, in their language of choice,” she said.
Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan said the implementation of the language policy, addressing language related issues and implementing them would be a prelude to solving more than half of the ethnic problems in the country.
"A cabinet paper has been put forward to re-assess the selection criteria of recruitment into government services, where there will be further motivation for learning new languages,” he said. (Ajith Siriwardana)
Video by Indika Sri Aravinda
Comments - 20
Rick C Thursday, 25 August 2016 07:47 AM
The key word here being "FELT" unfortunately that decision cost the country it's future, peace, unity and development. It was a shortsighted decision based on populism. We need to remember that what is popular is not always what is right, and by right I mean best for the future.English would have given all ethnic groups a common language to communicate with. Placing English as secondary had major costs.Also both Sinhala and Tamil had the same level of acceptance prior to the bill. and it should have never been about "regaining identity" it should have been about "creating a unified new modern identity"
Bingo Thursday, 25 August 2016 07:48 AM
So your father gave identity to SL and ever since its wonderland for the masses?. Once the Brits left the Island its going backward with massive debt on common man thanks to you and your family and other family based ruling.
Hassanda Thursday, 25 August 2016 07:51 AM
Now only u realize the main cause madamVery strange - we know wen it was Implemented and thats the main causeOf the Ethnic conflict in this countrySeveral thousand people lost their livesCan u and your family give them backTheir loved onesIts too late to talk
Channa Thursday, 25 August 2016 07:52 AM
I thougt it was introduced in 1956 to get the votes of the majority and now to get the votes of the minority. Languages should unite people rather than dividing.
waco Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:09 AM
SWRD, introduced sinhala letter "SRI " to vehicle number plates.i.e 4 SRI 1322. Why?Isn't this an act of Rasism?
tomsam Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:24 AM
Hindsight is always 20/20 !First put the saffron clad skin heads where they belong; in the vihares and not in parliament and other public places.
Jr SWRD Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:30 AM
Your Father was the FATHER OF ALL PROBLEMS IN MOTHER LANKA - and still wants to be known. Sorry Madam the young generation have no idea of who this SWRD is and we are not interested in also.
Premalal Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:32 AM
A load of bull shit I am tempted to say. But then why insult a great fertiliser and a noble animal which gives it to us.
waco Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:34 AM
In Sri Lankan Official Language should be English. Change the name of the country back to - CEYLON.
waco Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:36 AM
Madam, why didn't you educate your Children in Sri Lanka?
kaboos Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:51 AM
One language two countries and two languages one country (Dr Colvin R De Silva ) due to poor decision we paid higher premium ???????
mackie noohuthambi Thursday, 25 August 2016 08:54 AM
LOT OF PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD WOULD DISAPPEAR IF WE TALK TO EACH OTHER INSTEAD OF TALKING ABOUT EACH OTHER. WE CANNOT RE-WRITE THE HISTORY, BUT WE CAN RE ROUTE THE WAY, WHEN WE FIND THAT THE WAY EARLIER WE WALKED HARMED OUR BODY AND SOUL. WELL SAID CBK. BALMING THE WOUND IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN TALKING OF HOW THE WOUND CAME.
Lakshman De Silva Thursday, 25 August 2016 09:01 AM
Wrong. SWRD brought Sinhala only to get votes from the ignorant who thought it as patriotsm. Patriotism is a prejudice as Earthis one country and mankind it's citizens.The result is that Sri Lankans were denied of English education now the world standard and in pre SWRD era Ceylonese were very erudite in English and now half the population cannot speak English proficiently and denied employment internationally. But the rich and the affluent including SWRD's children received English medium education and was sent abroad.
Aquarius Thursday, 25 August 2016 05:33 PM
As Sri Lankans we should try to learn and understand both languages. That is the way forward to live in peace and harmony.
paska Thursday, 25 August 2016 05:37 PM
So what, who cares, you are the history.
Lankan Thursday, 25 August 2016 09:44 AM
If you look back, it is not just your father, the whole family of SWRD made lot of unpopular decisions which set the country to 30 years backward,including bread and rice queues.
ashydull Thursday, 25 August 2016 09:48 AM
Cutting the nose to spite the face.
Termonator Thursday, 25 August 2016 10:04 AM
Did he make Sinhala only compulsory only because of patriotism or the betterment of the nation? I don't think neither except it is because of to create the class disparity in our country. To make only English speaking class. The consequent phenomena being faced by most of our people is the problem of speaking English language.
LOL Thursday, 25 August 2016 10:22 AM
Absolutely correct !!SWRD sent CBK to France to educate.
Andrew Pitugala Thursday, 25 August 2016 10:46 AM
Short sighted decision for power and our motherland still bleeding.
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