MP Udaya Gammanpila claims that treating the national anthem as existing in any language other than Sinhala is a violation of the constitution because Article 7 of the constitution gives the national anthem as “Sri Lanka Maatha” in Sinhala.
To check this claim, FactCheck consulted the constitution. The officially published versions of the constitution contain the name and words of the national anthem in two languages—Sinhala and Tamil. In Sinhala and English, it is given as “Sri Lanka Maatha”. In Tamil, it is given as “Sri Lanka Thaaye”. Therefore, to suggest the constitution gives the national anthem only as “Sri Lanka Maatha” is incorrect.
For this analysis we considered three facts with regard to the constitution: (1) In Sri Lanka, both Sinhala and Tamil have equal constitutional status as national and official languages. (2) The constitution is officially published in Sinhala, Tamil and English. (3) The constitution does not give primacy to any language or officially published version for its interpretation or use.
Based on these facts, if the MP’s logic is correct, a person could equally well claim that only the Tamil version of the national anthem is constitutional—because the constitution has the national anthem as “Sri Lanka Thaaye” in Tamil, and Tamil is a national and official language in which the constitution is written. This renders the MP’s assertion logically untenable.
Therefore, we classify MP Gammanpila’s claim as FALSE.
NB: The need to interpret the constitution in one language rather than another could arise only if the substance of what is written differs, in different language texts. In that case, only the Supreme Court would have the constitutional jurisdiction to decide on the correct interpretation. However, in this case, both the Sinhala and Tamil versions of the national anthem have the same meaning and prescribe the very same tune.
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