Activists demand dual language policy

Minister promises to implement decades-old constitutional provision reporter, Colombo, Sri Lanka

May 12, 2011

Religious leaders and civic rights activists gathered in Colombo yesterday to examine ways to solve the language problem that led the country to civil war. Christian and Hindu priests and activists from Tamil areas, including parliament minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara discussed problems and challenges faced by the Tamil speaking people in relation to the official language policy.’ According to the Sri Lankan constitution, Sinhala and Tamil should be the official and administrative languages and English the link language. But non implementation of this policy led to many riots since 1958 and 30 years of war. “A correct vision and courage is the only way for reconciliation and social integrations between Sinhalese and Tamils,” religious leaders pointed out. Professor P. Balasundarampillai of Jaffna University urged the minister to restore a Tamil language department at the University of Colombo to enable Sinhala students to learn the Tamil language. Catholic priest Father Saveri Mariathasan from Mannar diocese said: “Sinhala church leaders can take action to solve the Tamil language problems.” Leaders discussed commencing language courses for students pursuing higher education, to open the language laboratory and the library of the official languages department to anyone interested in learning languages. “Under any circumstances we will implement the policy,” pledged the minister to the audience. Related reports Cardinal challenges youth to learn languages Most Colombo churches now hold Tamil Masses Christians join protest over constitution change SR14202