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Circular released ordering railway announcements in all three languages

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Another victory for language rights

2012 March - April

A publication of the Centre for Policy Alternatives

Volume II | Issue IV

he Deputy Transportation Authoritys office has issued a circular dated February 28, 2012 emphasizing the need to make the railway announcements at all railway stations in all three languages -Sinhala, Tamil and English, adhering to the State Language Policy. The General Manager of Railways informed the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission by letter that this circular has been issued in response to the complaint No. HRC/3463/2011 made to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission by a group including L. Guruge. In addition to the circular, eight copies of a document entailing a model announcement sheet in the three languages, readable in Sinhala has been sent to railway authorities, principal station masters, station masters and deputy station masters. Further, the letter has also informed that with the assistance of the Official Languages Department 50 railway workers have been trained to announce in the three languages and assigned to railway stations. At the same time under the supervision of the provincial transportation authority sectors of Colombo, Anuradhapura, and Nawalapitiya, railways station masters have been assigned to train tri lingual announcing at the railway stations. The letter also gives details of the following: - A training scheme for railway announcers through the content of Compact Discs prepared by the Official Languages Commission - Consequently a scheme is under way to use the prepared announcements in three languages saved on to CDs to be used in selected railway stations.

Bus destination boards in three languages

Implementation to be before the New Year
Mr. Victor Samaraweera, Secretary of the Ministry of Private Transport Services has informed all Passenger Transport Services Authorities to display the destination of bus routes in Sinhala, Tamil and English with effect from April 13, 2012. Currently, only the buses belonging to inter provincial services display boards in the three languages. But this new order should be carried out by all the buses that have receivead a license from the Provincial Transport Authority. This new arrangement has been agreed as a response in an inquiry of a complaint made by Centre for Policy Alternatives to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission. This decision had been stated by Ms. S.S.G. Edirimanna, AAL, Deputy Director, National Transport Commission at the inquiry.

One warning is about the imminent danger due to blowing up dynamite in a granite quarry. The other is about controlling speed limits due to the presence of the Armed force personnel ahead. The authorities should realize that in an area like Vavunia, where a majority of the population are Tamil speakers, displaying these warnings only in Sinhala is more dangerous than blowing up dynamite.

Beware of language

hese two warnings were displayed in Vavunia.

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

Resolution on Promoting Sri Lankas Reconciliation and Accountability

iven below is the Resolution on Promoting Sri Lankas Reconciliation and Accountability presented by the United States of America at the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and adopted on March 22, 2012. Guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments, Reaffirming that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, as applicable, Reaffirming that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, as applicable, Taking note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka and its findings and recommendations,

and acknowledging its possible contribution to the process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka, Welcoming the constructive recommendations contained in the Commissions report, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, re-evaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement on the devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all and enact rule of law reforms, Noting with concern that the report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law, 1. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and to take all necessary

additional steps to fulfill its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans; 2. Requests the Government of Sri Lanka to present, as expeditiously as possible, a comprehensive action plan detailing the steps that the Government has taken and will take to implement the recommendations made in the Commissions report, and also to address alleged violations of international law; 3. Encourages the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, and the Government of Sri Lanka to accept, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present a report on the provision of such assistance to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-second session.

"We will rectify the error before issuing currency notes in the future"
Says Finance Ministry
In response to a complaint made by Centre for Policy Alternatives with regards to Ministry of Finance and Planning violating the State Language Policy in issuing currency notes, the Superintendent of Currency, Central Bank of Sri Lanka has said that in the future steps will be taken to rectify the error. The superintendent of Currency, Central Bank of Sri Lanka has presented his observations to the Official Languages Commission as the response to the complaint that the currency notes of the denomination Rs. 5000, Rs. 1000, Rs. 500, Rs.100, Rs. 50 and Rs. 20 issued on January 1, 2010 by the Ministry of Finance and Planning, includes the sentence below in Sinhala only: This currency note issued by the Government of Sri Lanka is legally valid in paying any amount of money within Sri Lanka. A similar sentence in Tamil giving the same meaning does not appear on the bills. Observation referred to the fact that advice has been sought from the technical unit of the particular currency note printing company on the possible changes that can be executed on the currency notes that are issued by the Central Bank for the circulation. The advice has been duly received and in the future the issue will be resolved when printing the currency notes.

Violating the State Language Policy

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Vibhasha 2012 March - April

office. 29 public officials attended the event which was organized by People Help Foundation- Mannar. The resource persons at these occasions were Mr. S.G. Punchihewa, Prof. Saideen, Mr. Lionel Guruge and Mr. S. Sivagurunathan. For Journalists A series of workshops to provide language awareness to journalists were also held successfully. These workshops targeting the provincial journalists from the districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mannar and Vavunia were organized by a collective of provincial civil society organizations. Among them are Eastern United Womens Organization, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) district offices of Pottuvil and Batticaloa, People Help Foundation- Mannar, Rural Development Foundation Vavunia, Foundation of Rural Economic Development Panama and Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya. These events were held on October 27, 28 and 29, 2011. Workshop held at Mannar Community Hall on December 12, 2011 from 9.00am to 12.00 noon, organized by People Help Foundation- Mannar. On December 19, 2011, from 3.00pm to 5.00pm, the meeting of members of Tamil language societies in Vavunia District was held in the auditorium of Rural Development Foundation. 14 members participated at the meeting which was organized by Rural Development Foundation. The meeting of the members of language societies in Vavunia District was held in the
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n the recent past many indications of a new concern on language rights were reported from various loctations of the country. Behind this new revival is a collective of civil society organizations spread all over the country. Centre of Policy Alternatives, Eastern United Womens Organization, Movement for the Defense of Democratic Rights, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO), People Help Foundation- Mannar, Rural Development Foundation Vavunia, Foundation of Rural Economic Development Panama and Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya Trincomalee are the active organizations of this Civil Society Network. This network was able to set up nearly 150 languages societies Island wide and organize over 600 awareness programmes on language rights. Among them were many awareness programmes for journalists, public officers as well as members of the language societies. Public Officials are given awareness About 35 public officials attended the awarenss

Towards language rights notes of a struggle

Thus, a network of strong civil society organisations activated to create a new interest regarding language rights
programme held in Hotel Monty on November 15, 2011. This event was coordinated by NAFSO, Pottuvil and the Foundation of Rural Economic Development Panama. Batticaloa The language awareness programme held in Cope In Hotel on December 8, 2011 was attended by about 30 public officials. It was organized by the NAFSO district office. Trincomalee The awareness programme held in the auditorium of the Sarvodaya District Organisation was attended by 55 public officials. This event was coordinated by Eastern United Womens Organization and Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya. Vavunia An awareness programme in Vavunia was held on November 29, 2011 and 40 public officials attended the event which was organized by Rural Development Foundation Vavunia. Mannar On November 30, 2011 the team held an awareness programme in the auditorium of the Government Agents

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission What are the postal addresses to send in complaints?
Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No. 165 Kynsey Road, Borella, Colombo 8. HOTLINE: 0094 011 2689064 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.167,Vihara Mawatha, Mulgampola, Kandy TELEPHONE/ FAX : 081-2234600 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.D 768/1, Pandukabhaya Mawatha, Ampara TELEPHONE/ FAX : 063-2222340 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.623/20 E, Freeman Mawatha, Anuradhapura TELEPHONE/ FAX : 025-2234801 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.23, 1st Floor, N.H.D.A. Building, Kalmunai TELEPHONE/ FAX : 067-2229728 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.24, Sinna Uppodai Road, Batticaloa TELEPHONE/ FAX : 065-2224420 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No. 1, 3rd Cross Street, Jaffna. TELEPHONE/ FAX : 021-2222021 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.227, Main Street, Trincomalee TELEPHONE/ FAX : 026-2222607 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.15, Kalidasa Road, Matara TELEPHONE/ FAX : 041- 2226533 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.150, Station Road, Vyravapuliyankulam,Vavuniya TELEPHONE/ FAX : 024-2222029 Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka No.19/IB, Badulupitiya Road, Badulla TELEPHONE/ FAX : 055-2223030

e introduced in the November December 2011 issue, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission as an institution which provides redress for breach of language rights. Your complaints can be directed to the head office of the Human Rights Commission as well as to the regional offices. Given here are the contact details of these establishments:

Towards language rights

Alagalla Community Hall on December 28, 2011. 10 members participated at the meeting which was organized by Rural Development Foundation. Two meetings of the members of language societies in Trincomalee District were held. The first one organized by Eastern United Womens Organization Kanthale, in the morning of December 20, 2011. 28 were present at this meeting. In the evening of the same day the second meeting was held in the auditorium of the Sarvodaya Sharamadana

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which was organized by Foundation of Rural Economic Development. The meeting of the members of Tamil language societies in Addalachchenai was held in the Main Hall of National School on December 30, 2011 from 3.00pm to 5.00pm. 23 members participated at the meeting which was organized by NAFSO District Office. These workshops on language rights will contribute to the upholding of language rights both in terms of short term and long term processes. This was particularly evident from the journalists who attended these

workshops. They said they gained guidance about how to explore issues on language rights as well as the ways in which these issues should reported in the newspapers. The fact that there was an increase in the frequency of reporting on issues regarding the language rights during the period can be registered. As we emphasised in the very first issue of Vibhasha, the establishment and upholding of language rights in this country is a collective effort. Therefore, before us is a journey which should be taken together by all the parties who are sensitive to language rights issues.

Sangamaya to which 17 persons attended. It was organized by the Sarvodaya Sharamadana Sangamaya. The meeting of the members of language societies in Batticaloa District was held on December 21, 2011. 25 members participated at the meeting which was organized by the NAFSO District office. The meeting of the members of language societies in Ampara District was held in the old Temple , Pottuvil on December 22, 2011 from 9.00pm to 1.00pm. 30 members participated at the meeting

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

Several lessons to learn

From the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report
(Continued from the previous issue)
on up grading thousand secondary schools island wide from year 2011, will pave the way to minimize inequalities and finally eliminate them for good. This policy should be implemented avoiding any division in or pressure on society. This scheme will be only successful if the schools are identified though an unbiased criteria and through a selection process which is unmarred by politicization. The commission recommends that the inequalities in educational facilities island wide should be reduced and finally removed completely. 9.253 The LLRC emphasizes that the government should have a dynamic policy to promote mixed schools which facilitate the children coming from different ethnic and religious back grounds. With regard to this the government should cautiously formulate a policy which aims at facilitating the admission of children from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. It is disadvantageous to the process of reconciliation if the children are disqualified at school admission on the basis of religion. Such responses should be condemned at all times. 9.254 values on cultural diversity and mutual understanding and appreciation among the various ethnic groups should be inculcated in school children and youth which in turn the process of reconciliation will establish firmly in the social structures in the country. Therefore, the commission recommends creating twin school schemes in various areas, student exchange programmes and promoting interaction among students through strategies such as formulating reconciliation societies in schools. Peace Education 9.255 A veteran international legal luminary emphasized the significance of peace education in promoting reconciliation and unity, in giving evidence before the commission. Commissions ideas for the changes that can be done to the curricula are included in the report. 9.256 In order to implement a tri lingual policy, every possible space should be facilitated for the students to interact with each other. Interaction within the class should be encouraged as much as possible. However, in the instances when particular subjects are taught in different languages these students could be assigned to other classes. 9.257 Steps should be taken to build common universities which have numerous options of tri lingual courses to choose, with a student community entailing a mixed ethnicity. It was recently realized fact that the Tamil speaking graduates are restricted to the universities in the North and the East and the Sinhala speaking graduates are congregated in universities in the South. 9.258 The commission believes in the crucial role of sports in promoting inter personal relations among the ethnic groups which in turn facilitates the reconciliation process. Therefore, the commission recommends the organization of inter provincial sports festivals, particularly island wide sports festivals including the Northern and the Eastern provinces.

Greater consideration should be placed on how Information Technology can be used as a tool to break language barriers. Until long term policy in this regard is introduced and implemented, computer software could be used as a temporary measure to facilitate the translation from a language to the other.

he main observations and recommendations of the President appointed LLRCs report were submitted before Parliament on December 16, 2011. From the observations and recommendations an extract of the particular sections pertaining to the language policy was published in the previous Vibhasha issue. The remaining sections are published in this issue. 9.249 Greater consideration should be placed on how Information Technology can be used as a tool to break language barriers. Until long term policy in this regard is introduced and implemented, computer software could be used as a temporary measure to facilitate the translation from one language to the other. 9.250 In this regard, LLRC is concentrating on the interim recommendation stipulating retired police officers with bilingual skills to be placed in the police stations as translators.

Equal opportunities in Education 9.251 The abolition of the feeling of discrimination is a prerequisite to nurture reconciliation between the Sinhala and the Tamil races in the United Sri Lanka. A long time has passed after the government introduced a standardizing as a proactive process in order to eliminate inequality in the educational opportunities offered to the various populations. Therefore, a close assessment of this quota system, an approach based on merit is timely. The future generations will immensely benefit from it. The Commission recommends a committee entailing educational experts to conduct the evaluation. 9.252 The government should commence with new vigor a programme providing equality in educational qualifications. Minimizing the any feeling of discrimination of the minority will strengthen the collective effort. The currently proposed scheme

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

(Charcoal) by my friend Upali. Although Tamil Muslim writers returned to the country with him, relevant literary art officials do not even know about them. It was a small advertisement for the newspapers. However, it was given an apt publicity in Lankadeepa. Even though this was the situation in Sri Lanka, it was a well receive news item in the Tamil and English mass media in India.

avuniyur R. Uthayanan is a world famous award winning Sri Lankan Tamil writer. Currently residing in London, Mr. Uthayanan has penned many books emphasizing the unity between the Sinhala and Tamil races. Among the awards Mr. Uthayanan has won, State Literary Award 2009, Godage Literary Award 2011 and the Award from Chinnajapabhrathi Foundation, India are outstanding. From his literary works the novel Paninilavu has been translated into Sinhala and Hindi. This is considered first instance where a Sri Lankan Tamil novel has been translated into Hindi. An interview with this award winning writer done by the journalist Gamini Kandepola appeared in Vimansa Supplement of Lankadeepa newspaper on March 6, 2012. The responsibility of a literary personality with regarding the strengthening the relations between the ethnicities Sinhala and Tamil was much discussed in the article. Particularly, he had illustrated the idea of the significant role of the SinhalaTamil Translations as well as the Tamil Sinhala translations Given below is some of the extracts of the ideas Mr. Uthayan put across during the interview: Even though I live abroad, I return to my motherland once in two three months. Then I first go to my village to Vavunia. What I see and hear there, become themes in my stories. The war radically changed the lifestyle of the Tamil population. Many lives were lost. As writers we should be more concerned

Strengthening Sinhala Tamil Relations through translation of literature

The responsibility of a literary personality with regarding the strengthening the relations between the ethnicities Sinhala and Tamil was much discussed in the article. Particularly, he had illustrated the idea of the significant role of the Sinhala-Tamil Translations as well as the Tamil Sinhala translations
about the victimized Tamils and reveal the truth. Even if they are Sinhala or Tamil, they are the population of our country. Lack of mutual understanding, not knowing the language, suspicion about each other prolonged the war. Even the intellectuals admit to that now. The lifestyle of the Tamil people in the post war is not known even to the Sinhala population or many Sinhala writers. The Sinhala and Tamil population who lived in harmony suffered from the same economic issues. We can live in harmony even though there are financial issues. I think if the books written by Tamil writers including myself, can be shared with Sinhala society, most of the disharmony will fade away. At present Tamil writers who live abroad and Tamil Muslim writers who have lived in foreign countries from birth have joined forces with Sri Lankan Tamil writers. There should be

more translations of the best Sri Lankan literary works into Sinhala and the best Sinhala literature into Tamil. Local Tamil writers who live abroad have created impressive work as well. When writers from ones own country are appreciated elsewhere, it is important for the local authorities to be concerned about them. Malaysian writer Beir Mohammed was offered Indian Rupees ten thousand and an award by India. When the Malaysian government found out about it, Beir Mohammed was praised for bringing fame to the country and was awarded Rupees hundred thousand! But the unfortunate situation is that our country is not prepared to acknowledge or encourage a writer who has made the country proud. For example, for the first time in the literary history of Tamilnadu, a Sinhala work was given an award. It was for the book Gal anguru

There is clear progress in the Sri Lankan Tamil novel. More books are published now. It is a valuable endeavour to honor Tamil novels with awards. It will encourage writers to produce good work. At the same time Mr. Sirisumana Godage has taken steps to publish Tamil books. We should be thankful to him. Not only that Tamil novels have been translated into Sinhala so that the Sinhala reader has been allowed to hear the heart beat of the Tamil writer. It is pleasing to note that several more groups have realized this responsibility. However, there are many literary award ceremonies are held in Sri Lanka. Except for State Literary Festival, only Godage Literary Festival has a category for Tamil publications to be selected for awards. At the Swarna Pusthaka Award Ceremony the finally selected five novels are offered Rs. fifty thousand each. The best novel selected out of the five is awarded Rupees five lakhs. Likewise if the best Tamil novel is selected and at least Rupees fifty thousand is awarded it will be invaluable. Why is only the Sinhala novel awarded Rupees five lakhs? Tamil publishers also have joined Book Publishers Association. Not only that, there are exhibition stalls displaying the works by the publishers of Tamilnadu and India. Do not Tamil writers have a right to win the awards of the Book Publishers Association? As a lone individual if Mr. Godage can take up this responsibility, why cannot the Book Publishers Association do it? It is only through literature and not with laws and regulation that friendship can be created between two different ethnic group who are suspicious of each other.

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

constitution. making both Sinhala and Tamil Official Languages, the foundation was laid to enable the formulation of new and improved language policies. However, Tamil Language Rights are yet to be adequately implemented. It is often claimed that language discrimination was at the base of the ethnic conflict and the civil war in Sri Lanka that lasted for several decades, although other issues like autonomy and preserving territory have exacerbated the tension. Because the language issue was at the root of the problem, dealing with that issue must be at the core of any solution. Despite the legal steps taken towards reconciliation of language rights, the government needs to take action in implementing specific changes throughout the country. Public servants need to be aware of their duties and be equipped to carry them out. Citizens must also be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and make efforts towards social change and recognition of the Official Languages. Although trilingual policies exist on paper, putting these practices into action will take more time and much effort. Ethnic majorities have often deliberately and politically been used to marginalise other ethnic groups, resulting in a deep seated opposition and strains on society. No area of the country should be the exclusive preserve of one ethnic group. A healthy mix of people is desirable and should be promoted. Movement of population should be on an individual basis and influenced by market forces that determine the natural flow of people. State aided colonization schemes designed to transform the ethnic composition of an area will be resented and should be avoided. Sinhala and Tamil language rights are needed all over the country, with English also playing an important role. Regional autonomy or federalism could help in minimizing the problem, reducing the area of conflict and the cost of making the entire Island fully multilingual. An example of this is that the Batticaloa District could be governed primarily in Tamil but with pockets of Sinhalese areas being able to use their own language in transactions with the Provincial Authorities. Similarly, Matara District could be governed primarily
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The need to Implement Language Rights throughout the Island

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah
Dr. Devanesan Nesiah is a retired senior officer in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service. He held the positions of Government Agent in Jaffna, Mannar and Batticaloa districts. He had a challenging role as the Government agent of Jaffna in the early 80s when the rebellion in the North was gradually growing and finally matured in to the civil war. Later he retired as the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, Environment, and Women's Affairs. Presently, he plays an important role as an intellectual in the field of civil society activism. The subject of his Doctoral research at Harvard University was the legal and administrative methods of redressing the grievances of the underprivileged sections of the society. The following is an article based on the points that came up in the interview.

It is often claimed that language discrimination was at the base of the ethnic conflict and the civil war in Sri Lanka that lasted for several decades, although other issues like autonomy and preserving territory have exacerbated the tension. Because the language issue was at the root of the problem, dealing with that issue must be at the core of any solution.

n a recent interview, Dr. Nesiah elaborated on the implementation of language policy in Sri Lanka. A summary of his views and experience is as follows: In order to understand language rights, one must be aware of the historical and political context within which these issues developed. Both Sinhala & Tamil Language rights had been long inadequate in Sri Lanka, preceding the Official Language Act of 1956 that established Sinhala Language Rights. Under British rule the Official Language was English which undermined both Sinhala and Tamil languages. With the passage of the 13th and 16th Ammendments to the

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

The need to Implement Language Rights

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in Sinhala but with pockets of Tamil Speaking areas being able to use there own language in transactions with the Provincial Authorities. Another tactic would be to facilitate people to migrate from one area to another, breaking the pattern of segregation, but such migration should be free and based on individual wishes and not induced by the state. In 1998 a Language Audit was conducted, led by me and instituted by the Official Language Commission, taking into account the languages used and the capacity of the administration to serve people in the different languages. Very serious shortcomings were revealed. There is a need for regular Language Audits covering the whole country so that any short comings can be dealt with and not allowed to build up over the years, as has been the case todate. Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese should be able to freely travel throughout the country conducting daily transactions without problems. People dont necessarily need to learn all languages, but the government should set up facilities for people to be able to communicate with one another and with state institutions. Even in areas in which one language is dominant, facilitating the use by citizens of the National Language of their choice is crucial; bi-lingual areas should have full bi-lingual capabilities. State institutions anywhere should have at least one or two staff members who can assist with translations as required. The primary focus should be that the public are not inconvenienced, and individuals are able to conduct their business in their language.

According to a recommendation by the LLRC, schools should seek to be reintegrated, creating bi lingual and tri lingual learning environments. This idea was put forth in the 1920s by the Jaffna Youth Congress of which Mr. Handy Perinbanayagam was a leader. Bilingual and trilingual schools were recommended and some have argued that if this policy had been followed it could have carried the potential to transform the country. In terms of current policy, if the government passed the rule that in all senior public examinations and in all recruitment to the public services, knowledge of the second national language would carry extra marks, it would be an incentive to develop language skills. Sharing literature and history across ethnic groups is another means of promoting appreciation of language, culture and history. Books can be translated into other languages. Translations of Sinhala and Tamil literature can be prescribed as texts in schools, doing much to create interest in culture and to promote bilingualism. It is much easier to teach students languages at schools than to teach them as adults, so by having a system of incentives at the school level, the problem will be solved more efficiently. Focusing on education will inevitably have a large impact. Some proposals regarding language rights, language societies, and tri-lingual policies have been well received but others need incentives for best results. Endorsing language rights through these and other measures is essential to build national unity throughout Sri Lanka.

Responsibility of implementing

Official Languages Policy

and some have argued that if this policy had been followed it could have carried the potential to transform the country. In terms of current policy, if the government passed the rule that in all senior public examinations and in all recruitment to the public services, knowledge of the second national language would carry extra marks, it would be an incentive to develop language skills. Sharing literature and history across ethnic groups is another means of promoting appreciation of language, culture and history. Books can be translated into other languages. Translations of Sinhala and Tamil literature can be prescribed as texts in schools, doing much to create interest in culture and to promote bilingualism. It is much easier to teach students languages at schools than

Responsibility of implementing

Official Languages Policy

Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration No. 40. Buthgamuwa Road, Rajagiriya. Tel: 011 2883926 / 2883927 / 2883928 Fax: 011 2883929 E-mail : Web : Department of Official Languages "Bhasha Mandiraya", No 341/7, Kotte Road, Rajagiriya. Tel : 011 2888934 Fax : 011 2888928 E-mail Web : Official Languages Commission 4th Floor , "Bhasha Mandiraya", 341/7, Kotte Road, Rajagiriya. Tel : 011 2871378 Fax : 011 2871379 E-mail : Web : National Institute of Language Education and Training Galewatta, Agalawatta. Tel : 034 3942692, 034 3942683 034 3944352 Fax : 034 3944351 E-mail Web :

Given below are the contact details of the main institutions which hold the responsibility of implementing official languages policy.

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

This is the third installment of the series of articles discussing the mechanisms of redress available in Sri Lanka in the instance of a violation of language rights. This article introduces the role of the Supreme Court the highest court in the Republic, stipulated by the constitution. The objective of this series of articles is the promotion of citizens awareness on redress mechanisms in a violation of language rights. The constitution has established the Supreme Court which is the highest most powerful court of the Republic. The responsibility of this institution is as follows:

Ways to get redress, if language rights are violated..

The Supreme Court

government a case can be filed in the Supreme Court. Examples for the above instance: 1. discrimination on the language used 2. violating governments circulars on language 3. disrupting one from interacting in ones own language 4. working against the State Language Policy 2. As a violation of language rights Part 4 of the constitution is allocated to provisions relating to language. If a right which is mentioned there is violated, a case can be filed at that instance in the Supreme Court. Examples for the instance: If the citizens right to interact in Sinhala or Tamil in an administrative matter is not facilitated When working against the policy factors on language use If Governments administrative circulars and circulars on official languages are violated If one is forced to communicate only in Sinhala language with institutions. If one is forced to communicate only in Tamil language with institutions. At every above mentioned instance, redress can be requested by filing a case in the Supreme Court. Which party should be violating a language right for it to be taken before the Supreme Court? 1. If the violation is by an executive action 2. If the violation is by an administrative action Executive and administrative actions entail the official action conducted by public officials. Therefore, a violation of language rights committed by the private sector, individuals or a legislative action does not amount to file a case before the Supreme Court. Process of filing a case in the Supreme Court The process of filing a case in an instance where a violation of fundamental right or language right take place is mentioned in article 126 in the constitution. The party which has the right to file the case is 1. victim of the violation of right 2. lawyer representing the victim One of the most significant factor in the Article is that if the right is in the immediate danger of violation, a case could be filed against it as well. Except for the victim or the lawyer representing the victim has the authority to file a case, which means no other interested party or an organization does not possess the authority to do so. However, there are a few precedents of it taking place as well.

t holds the sole and the accredited power to decide whether certain bill or part of a bill adheres/conforms to the constitution. power of interpreting the constitution jurisdiction over Fundamental rights function of the ultimate appeal court power to examine election petitions regarding the President and the referenda power to examine the breach of parliament privileges

Legislating for regularization of judicial processes and consultative jurisdiction Instances of violations of language rights that can be brought before the Supreme Court Violations of language rights under two constitutional provisions can be taken before the Supreme Court. 1. As a breach of fundamental right Two fundamental rights under part 3 of the constitution are concerned about language rights. They are 1. Article 12 on equality 2. Article 14 (1) (e) freedom to practice ones own language to enjoy the culture collectively or individually. If these rights are violated by the executive or the administrative act of the

Special redress mechanisms provided by the Supreme Court SC regulations of 1990 have stipulated special relief process for respondents of low income and those who cannot afford to pay the legal fee. In this instance if the potential respondent communicates with the Chief Justice about the violation of fundamental right, it can be accepted as a fundamental rights petition and the registrar of the Supreme Court will submit it to the bar association. Later it will be handled by lawyers of the Human Rights Centre of the Bar Association as a pro bono case. This can be regarded as a valuable opportunity for a person with low income and who cannot obtain the services of a lawyer. Time period allowed to file a case in the Supreme Court Within a month of a violation of fundamental right or a language right, a request can be made from the Supreme Court. A recent precedent relating to this has interpreted as a month from the day the victim was able to seek the assistance of the Supreme Court. If a complaint about the same violation is made to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, the month that the commission takes to conduct the inquiries is not taken into consideration by the Supreme Court in their calculation of time period. The judicial process for a case on violation of fundamental rights or language rights 1. Provision of permission for the further continuation of the case 2. Provision of opportunity for complainants to present the case 3. Examination of the petition 4. Giving the verdict Redress entailed in a verdict 1. Re-formation 2. Rectification 3. Prevention of unjust processes 4. payment of compensation 5. Granting legal fee
The Address for making Complaints: Hon. Chief Justice The Supreme Court Superior Courts complex


Vibhasha 2012 March - April

studying further than Grade 7 or 8. In particular, the dropout rate of girls is high. There is an arrangement in school to provide a meal to primary students. Even though this is the only school that is assigned for Thelingu children, the teachers who come there obtain transfers and move out making it a great challenge to maintain the proper functioning of the school. The teacher in charge of the subject of Sinhala language blames the high dropout rate of girls on underage marriages. A tendency of underage pregnancies also can be observed among the Thelingu families in Kudagama. They are reluctant to attend the family health clinic as well, as revealed by the midwife of Kudagama. I bring the pregnant mothers to the clinic with greatest difficulty. They are employed. They believe that pregnant women and women accompanying children receive a good treatment. As the adults tend to stay away from homes for over 25 days, there is an opportunity for young girls to elope. The other thing is adult women encourage young girls to elope. It is because when women go to read palms with kids they are well treated so these women try to get pregnant in their early lives. That is one reason that our advice on birth control is not effective on them. There is another perspective to this issue. When the adults leave home for employment the young children have to look after their younger siblings as well as the elderly adults. When my parents leave home for jobs I feed the younger sisters and brothers, said Nadarajage Namal, who is a student studying for the Ordinary Level examination. The distance between Kudagama and Thambuththegama is 4 miles, and people over hundred daily travel to and fro on this journey. However, still there is no proper bus service to this village, according to the villagers. Not only the villagers of Kudagama, a group of fisher folks plying their trade in Rajangana tank are also facing the same transport problems. When we queried from the Grama Seva Niladhari of the Kudagama settlement on the issues the people face, he said the following: To Page 12

In several past issues of Vibhasha we discussed language and cultural issues faced by Sinhala and Tamil Aadivasi populations. This article deals with another such group the Thelingu population.

Losing their roots through wandering

agricultural land and settled in Kudagama close to Bandiweva in Thambuththegama. Thus there are 350 Thelingu families living in Kudagama at present. Difficulties in continuing the pre Mahaveli settlement lifestyle, slow adaptation to agricultural lifestyle, low tendency towards education, functioning with backward mentality stemming from social marginalization, under age marriages as a result of poverty, proliferation of alcoholism and gambling are social problems which have cropped up around Kudagama settlement. Since we are requested to engage in agriculture, we do so during the season. During other times we indulge in the jobs we have been continuing for generations. In certain areas we innocently get caught to burglaries. Some consider us as thieves. We get released after 2 -3 days after the Police in Thambuththegama send several messages to get us free. These police officers know that we are not thieves said Agatannage Piyaratne (33) about another challenge to their livelihood. During the conflict they were often checked and they had to face much harassment in the hands of the police officials who did not know the difference between the languages of Thelingu and Tamil, revealed Piyaratne.

n several past issues of Vibhasha we discussed language and cultural issues faced by Sinhala and Tamil Aadivasi populations. This article deals with another such group the Thelingu population. People of our generation have found an income as snake (cobra) charmers and exhibiting the antics of trained tamed Toque Macques (rilawa a primate species endemic to Sri Lanka) and palm reading. But now our children do not like to indulge in those jobs. Our children travel to other areas and sell books. There they sometimes get romantically involved with girls. However, these affairs break off once the girls find out that these boys are of Thelingu origin. People in Anuradhapura know about us and therefore do not get married to us. We are marginalized. This view explained by Agatannage Devika (29), a preschool teacher in Kudagama, the largest settlement where a population of Telingu people live, could be considered as an approach to understand the social marginalization they face at present. Before the formation of Mahaveli settlements, these Thelingu people occupied the village Kuda Kumbuk Weva. Later they were granted

During the conflict they were often checked and they had to face much harassment in the hands of the police officials who did not know the difference between the languages of Thelingu and Tamil, revealed Piyaratne.
The childrens world Kudagama Vidyalaya was established in order to minimize the issues Thelingu children would face in gaining admission to Sinhala schools. There are classes up to Grade 11. The children have to go to schools in Thambuththegama or Anuradhapura if they study for Advanced Level examination. Then they face the challenge of hiding their Thelingu origins while studying in the school. The school teachers complaint that the children do not show any interest

Vibhasha 2012 March - April

Sandagomi explained that the success of English language depends upon the availability of such hand books and guidance. Sandagomis ideas delineate that to solve any issues related to the conventionality or a standard of a language, guidance of academics is essential. Further, he explained about the space to have different schools with regard to language. He explained taking English as an example. He mentioned about American and British English. That kind of conventionality can be sustained with regard to institutions. Therefore, a conventionality in language does not mean a monopoly in language. However, Sandagomi emphasized about the importance of a policy. A conventionality can be sustained with regard to institutions. For instance the Government Printers could have its own editing policy. Different media institutions and publication houses could also maintain such editing policies on their own. Finally, by summarizing the ideas put forth by Sandagomi, several processes can be identified regarding the maintenance of conventionality and standard: 1. Increase the availability of guidance in language usage 2. Language Planning. This responsibility should be taken by the government institutions, universities, relevant organizations and academics. 3. Institutions belonging to private and public sector, which are prominent in the usage of language should have their own language editing policies. In this context mass media institutions and publication houses bear a special responsibility. 4. In above mentioned institutions, a person with the designation and holding the responsibility of a language editor should be maintained.

here is no discrepancy for love of languages, be it Sinhala or Tamil. Sinhalese love their language the same way as the Tamils love their language. An article published in a past issue by a Tamil writer can be considered an example for this. It was extracted from Virakesari newspaper and written by N.M. Kumaravelan. It discussed the manner in which the Tamil language is distorted by the impact of other languages including Sanskrit. The Sinhalese make the same claim over Sinhala. Apart from retaining the purity of their language the next thing they are interested in is the conventionality of the language. Conventionality has been the topic for many debates and they crop up intermittently. This was the main theme of the Anniversary Meeting of the Bhasha Premi Sanvidhanaya (The Organization of those who Love the Language), held on March 11 at the auditorium of the Colombo Public Library. Let us come forward toward a Conventional Sinhala language was the theme of the occasion. Many important ideas were put forth at the meeting. Among them it is of value to point out some of the ideas brought in the key note address by Sandagomi Koperahewa. Sandagomis ideas can be applied to any language. He spoke of the long lived slogan of protecting the conventionality of Sinhala and reminded the audience of the important role of Munidasa Kumarathunga towards this effort. He explained that although at present the interest of this theme is projected by mostly the older generation, in 1941 this enthusiasm was inspired with congregating around Hela Havula by a passionate group of youth who worked on the theme since 1939. Sandagomis conviction was that Hela Havula made a great

conventionality of Language
contribution towards protecting the conventionality of Sinhala language. However, he went on to say that the conventionality of a language cannot be created artificially. According to him there are two factors which affect the conventionality of a language: 1. 2. Usage Planning Thus, print media functions as main medium in promoting conventionalities of language among people. Language used in the mass media becomes the conventional language of the public. Therefore, print media holds large responsibility in creating and maintaining conventionalities in languages. However, Sandagomis perspective is that mistakes happening with regard to the usage of language should not be blamed on mass media as it unfair by them. The relevant planning and guidance in this context should be provided by language experts. The reason for this is that not all who use the language is a language expert. For example many who enter the field of mass media are novices in language. They need some kind of guidance. Government, the universities and other educational institutions, relevant organisations and academics are obliged to provide the guidance. That is what Kumarathunga Munidasa did at that time. It is unfortunate that the responsibility ended with him. The role of these institutions and the academics is to provide these novices with practical dictionaries, handbooks and other sources.

A New Approach to the

Usage refers to the natural conventionality created through the usage of the language. It does not happen artificially or forcefully. This is a main conventionality of a language. Sandagomi explained achieving conventionality through planning. It is the role of the language experts. He drew the example of the role of Kumaranathunga Munidasa. His contribution towards the planning of the Sinhala language is immense. However, these planned languages can only be made a conventionality through usage. Conventionalities that are not used or cannot be used practically do not become conventionalities of a language. At the same time, Sandagomi explained that the issue at present regarding the conventionality of the language is the ones who use the language do not have an understanding of it. Print media is a prominent field in the usage of language.


Vibhasha 2012 March - April

Bus board in three languages before June 30th

Sri Lanka Transport Board promised before the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission to prepare all the destination boards displayed on buses in three languages before 30th June. This was the outcome of an inquiry of the Human Rights Commission made on a complaint submitted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Villagers of Mangalagama deprived of language rights

In areas including Mangalagama belonging to Eravur Pattu, in Batticaloa, where there is a majority of Sinhalese live, there is no public official working in Pattipola Divisional Secretariat which forces the people to undergo many hardships. After the villagers formed a language society, they had faced difficulties in registering the society in the DS office due to the existing language problem. They have not been able to register the society due to this issue.

Losing their roots through.....

These people were granted half an acre of land and half an acre of paddy land through Mahaveli Project. However, there is a third generation now, so there are land problems. They need more land. There is no land to give from the Mahaveli project. Also we cannot give land from everywhere. We are looking for solutions now. By now many families receive Samurdhi welfare. Those that do not have Birth Certificates have been issued with these based on guessed birthdates. However much they earn it is useless for them. They spend it all in a day. People of Aligambay With the leadership of the tribal leader, the elders meeting (variga sabhava) is convened. Then the adults commence their wandering accompanied by their children which is a difficult issue when it comes to the maintaining of preschools. These ideas were put forth by Agatannage Devika. Apart from the common issues faced by the Kudagama Thelingu settlers, there also exist issues particular to Thelingu people living in Aligambay, in Ampara district. The original settlers are said to be a group of people who had come from Kuda Kumbuk Weve village in Thambuththegama around 1947. But what the records note is that some groups of mobile Thelingu people had been settled in Aligambay under the Galoya project around 1942. At present there are 263 families in this settlement. Even though they are of Thelingu origin, they speak Tamil. This language is a hybrid of Tamil, Sinhala, Thelingu, and Hindi. There is a group of Hindus and it appears that there is an increase in the Catholic devotees due to the vigor of the welfare activities conducted by the Christianity centre. There is a shortage of wage labour Compared to villagers in Kudagama, the engagement of these villagers in traditional jobs is very rare. Their main income generation is from cultivation and wage labour. The leader of the tribe in Kudagama is called Archchila and the Aligambay tribal leader is called Thalaiver. Initially we engaged in palm reading. But father does not like it. Our children do not like it. If not for wage labour we do not have a way to earn, said Vanaranka (65yrs). Several villagers of Aligambay said that the Catholic Farther possesses a considerable domination over them, that he is very much against the villagers engaging in their traditional methods of income generation, and at certain times he had set fire to boxes and bags which are used to keep cobras. As there are barriers against indulging in traditional methods of employment, these villagers are compelled to engage in other alternative jobs. They complaint mostly about difficulty they face in living. We used to do wage labour when our labour was valuable. At present mudalalis use machinery and tractors in farming which make our labour redundant. We do not have deeds to these lands. It is difficult to travel to Trincomalee to solve land issues stated the tribal leader (Thalaiver) of Aligambay, Raj Kumar (36yrs). The period of the conflict During the height of the war, many villagers of Aligambay had been massacred at several instances. On February 19 1986, eight villagers who had gone to Udumbankulam for wage labour (harvesting paddy) were killed and burnt in the paddy field. On that same day 131 persons from Komari, Kadiyadi, Thirukkovil, Thambilival, Akkaraipattu and Karathiv were murdered. In 1990, villagers of Aligambay were assaulted, their houses set on fire and six people were killed. Even though the conflict is over, their difficulties in livelihoods have not ended. In 1960 a priest called Cook started a Tamil medium school there. But the percentage of children attending school is low. Obtaining drinking water is an acute problem to the villagers of Aligambay and it is necessary for them to walk many miles to obtain water. As there is no bus service, even a pregnant mother has to be taken to hospital on a motor bike. The Grama Niladhari of Aligambay reiterated the common problems faced by the villagers: 95 houses were given through Gam Udava housing project. 83 persons have ownership to their land. They benefit from Samurdhi welfare fund and other relief.

From Page 10 Toilets were built with aid from Caritas. They get support from the church as well as people. However, these people live an unhygienic lifestyle. Both men and women here consume alcohol. Challenges Like the villagers in Kudagama, villagers of Aligambay have also lost their traditional lifestyle. They face the challenge of adapting to modern society. Kudadama Vidyalaya has produced national level female Kabadi champions. A youth in aligambay has a degree from the Eastern University. There are villagers who have left as migrant workers to the Middle East as well as to engage in jobs as drivers. However, this kind of examples of overcoming the challenge is rare. The lives of these villages silently insist on wider social reformation. This is an extract from the article "The Thelingu People who lost their lives through traveling" based on a research report done on several marginalized communities in Sri Lanka. It was a publication of the Outreach Unit of Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Functioning in two languages even without government incentive

The main office of the Eastern Province Water Board in Trincomalee has made all arrangements to function in Sinhala and Tamil languages. This includes services such as issuing application forms, sending responses and the corresponding processes. However, the officials here are not entitled to the incentive based on the proficiency of official languages as this particular allowance granted to government institutions is not paid to the officials in corporations and boards. But the officials expect that they will be paid the incentive as they provide services in two languages.

Vibhasha 2012 March - April


Hear from Reid Avenue: the need for a dialogue

Cultural Differences should be understood

Nizam Deputy President, Muslim Student Union Students representing various areas and cultures in Sri Lanka enter the university. As soon as they enter the university, they display the local culture which they have been conformed to for many years. For example, I was brought up in Anuradhapura. In that locality I was fortunate enough to live with Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim ethnicities. I did not feel odd when I interacted with Sinhala students. But some students who came from the East had different experiences. There, it is common to have different ethnicities separately living in their own villages. They are used to only one language. Because of this when they enter university, they invariably face a language issue. Since I knew Sinhala I did not have much of a problem. however, I must mention here that I was keen to speak to Sinhala students when they were reluctant to speak to me. Some of the peers who are well known to me, make me feel that they are not genuine when they talk to me. We are not children anymore. We have reached an age where we recognize the theatrical performances of some peers when they speak to us. In fact there is a theatrical relationship between such peers and us. At the same time we often hear queries such as is there ragging in Colombo University or not? In what form does it exist, if So I must reiterate that if one uses words to harass someone that act itself becomes torture. As I mentioned before for certain students coming from different cultures, a use of a word could be torture. There is a popular accusation that these students start crying even if they are asked about their parents. Actually, the issue is not in the question but the arrogant and harsh tone which it is asked. Is it a surprise even if a person of a perfect mental health has a tear in the eye at a moment like that? On the other hand the overtly love they have for the new entrants is backed by a rational which is humorous. Passing on old notes, giving directions to the library, thinking

that the freshers might lose their way in the city are some of them. When we came as new entrants the seniors assigned us the office attire justifying the objective that they should train the undergraduates to go to a workplace properly. The senior had reasons for doing everything. The monotonous academic framework is crucial for the absence of dialogue among the students. At the same time those who think that they should give something back to society are very few. Consequently, a studentship who only thinks of their own advantage is being created. It is significant that you ask our views of the current status through this medium. However, this should not stop at questioning but also should formulate into a platform where solutions to the questions can be searched. That is our belief as the Muslim Student Union. We all know that these questions exist in the University of Colombo. What are needed are solutions to them. Your efforts are appreciated for the same reason.

ecently we received an out-of-the-traditionalbox publication made to a new model. It is named "Reid Avenue" (Reid Mawatha Sinhala) and states the objective of the outcome as creation of a lively dialogue within the university. Released on February 6, 2012 the first issue of Reid Avenue is dedicated to the introduction of the group involved and to explain the need for a dialogue in the university through the understanding of the various representatives of the stakeholders. Among them two representatives had through their ideas, emphasized much concern about issues regarding language and culture. They are Nizam who represent the Muslim student Union and J. C. Daniel representing Tamil Student Union. The factors which they bring forth which differentiate from the other ideas are included here for the necessity of a common dialogue about them.

I did not feel odd when I interacted with Sinhala students. But some students who came from the East had different experiences. There, it is common to have different ethnicities separately living in their own villages.

activities need to be introduced. To facilitate the understanding of the lectures holding kuppi classes are important. Making friends depends on ones family and social back ground in which one is brought up; for this time should be given to adjust to the situations. It is futile to change the ways of a undergraduate who is used to a particular customs and behavior for about 19 years through ragging and forced unity. Any culture has its pros and cons. It cannot be easily changed. Cons can be identified but they cannot be rectified by force. Attire should not be seriously taken into consideration. If the culture from which the student comes is similar to the culture here, there will not be issues. Forcing adjustment to a new culture through ragging is wrong. It will cause the students to hate the university and leave it for good. There is a way for anything to be expressed. If an undergraduate who has lost parents and brothers and sisters to the war, leaves the university after two days, it is suffice to understand the suffering s/he must have undergone. Relatively, the conflicts within the university are minimal. Recently there were conflicts due to misunderstanding and lack of control. This makes us realize that undergraduates possess a weakness of inability to think and also some other flaws. More than agreeing to or against anything there should be an open dialogue where it is possible to present a critique on pros and cons. it is not a reason for something to be not right for it to be wrong. A newspaper can express anything. It is just like a billboard. What is written there should be read and understood rather than looking for rights and wrong of it. Please understand this the same way. This news paper should go to the undergraduates who have come here only to study. This way they will realize where they stand. Outside the university, the undergraduates represent the University of Colombo. However, it is not so in the university. It should be rectified. By setting many mistakes right and so taking the university towards excellence, and through that taking the country forward is what Reid Avenue should proceed to do.

Language should not be a barrier

J.C. Daniel, Editor Tamil Union Language has become a barrier against the interaction of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim students. A student coming from the vicinity of Colombo is able to speak in three language, whereas sometimes a student coming from Jaffna might not possess this capacity. In order to promote the interactions apart from the initial months, more


Vibhasha 2012 March - April At present various programme with the objective of implementing the bilingual policy and providing awareness have been launched by the government, nongovernmental organizations Public response towards these programme vary. Such reaction is coming forth from the academics as well as the public officials. Given below are selected such responses.

We changed our ways collectively

Awareness is necessary for an attitudinal change

Prof. Saiddeen Lecturer in Political Science University of Peradeniya

M.S. Janaka, Divisional Secretary, Divisional Secretariat Vavunia South

hen I took up appointment in this Divisional Secretarial I did not have the urge to work in Tamil language. It was only after I came to this office I felt the importance of working in two languages. There are two Divisional Secretariats (DS) in Vavunia district. a majority Sinhala population come to the DS office, Vavunia South to get their work done. Tamil speaking people also come here to obtain services. Vavunia South DS office can be introduced as an establishment where bilingual policy is not restricted to paper but implemented properly. In the premises of the DS office we display all the notices and advertisements in the two languages. We implement the bilingual policy as an exemplary institution. Our officials strive to assist the people from all the three ethnicities Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim to obtain their services without hassle. We strive to provide documents from our office in the two languages. I must mention that full cooperation is provided by Grama Niladharis, Field officers and Samurdhi animators and all the other officials in order to implement the bilingual policy. The Divisional Secretariat of Vavunia South has become an exemplary establishment by implementing bilingual policy with as a collective effort of all involved in service provision. At the same time, I highly appreciate the bilingual programme coordinated by

For example, now, the war that had been ravaging for 30 years is over. Therefore, some believe that all the problems are over and everything has come to an end. However, those who are vigilant can clearly that the basic root causes still exist.
Rural Development Foundation RDF and the Center for Policy Alternatives. We were able to acquire some facts which we had not known through this programme and the publications that were distributed. The knowledge received by public officials on language rights will strengthen their official work. It is necessary to hold such awareness programmes for all the officials. It will be very useful if this kind of programme continues and the publications are distributed wider.

t present numerous programme with the objective of implementing the bilingual policy and providing awareness have been launched by the government, nongovernmental organizations and other institutions. I had the opportunity to be a resource person of many such programmes. I am expressing my ideas now through the experience I received from them. Particularly, when providing awareness to public officials, I see a drawback in the contribution of the public officials selected from various fields. I have to say that their knowledge is not adequate. For example, at an awareness programme held for nurses in Gampola, the participants informed me that the Divisional Secretariat in Gampola had been made to a bilingual institution 10 years before and they found out that fact only 10 years after. They do not volunteer to receive this knowledge. They cannot afford obtaining this knowledge. Especially the amount of money assigned to be given to enhance the linguistic knowledge needs to be increased. In order to implement the bilingual policy contribution of the government alone is insufficient. The assistance from the non-governmental organizations is necessary for this. During the period 1994 2006 the government targeted to provide bilingual knowledge to three and a half lakhs of public officials. But the

government only provided the language proficiency to 22000 officials. Government and the non-governmental organization should be more concerned in providing language proficiency. Especially, publication of various documents should be carried out with regard to this. It is worthwhile to mention the importance of a magazine like Vibhasha. Such publications should be planned with regard to various establishments. For example, let us take a government institution which needs to work in two languages. If the words, terms, and jargon often used in the official work are published in the two languages in a publication and distributed, it will be easier for the service provider provide services. This refers to compiling a publication including the terminology that is useful in getting the work done in that particular establishment. It is a serious effort. It needs an initial long term survey to proceed. Particularly, the newsletters, magazines and other documents on language policy should not only target on providing only language proficiency and knowledge on bilingualism. This literature should aim especially for an attitudinal change. Details of language policies, history, experience of other countries, consequences of the implementation of language policy should be included in
To page 19

Mass media towards Language Rights

Vibhasha 2012 March - April


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1. 2.

ecently an intellectual personality speaking about the ethnic /national question, named two groups which aggravated it till the present times: Politicians Mass media personnel

In addition, there could be several more groups in this list. There could also be many who hold a different view about the same issue. No one can underestimate the impact of the mass media personnel on the ethnic /national question. When taking into consideration the history of the ethnic question, there is much evidence to illustrate various ways in which mass media personnel have impacted throughout the history. At a glance it could be said that decade starting from 1950 is the worst period which had a very destructive impact. However, this influence at varying degrees could be observed before and after this particular period. This influence has been severe on the issue of language rights in particular. At each occasion the debate on the bilingual policy emerged the majority of the mass media in this country reacted against it. There have also been mass media groups which even under duress advocated for bilingual policy. They have been the minority which had been guided by the political movement which had represented language rights. Although, comparatively, the present circumstance is better than it was in the past, the problem now, is the content of the prevalent news items on language rights lack in depth and quality.

However, in the past few months this condition has changed for the better. There are several reasons for this change. One reason can be that with the end of the conflict, society has focused its attention on the root causes to the conflict. A new attempt to implement the bilingual policy announced by the government can be another reason. In addition, new revived interest among the country wide community level organizations on language rights can also be considered. As mentioned elsewhere in the newsletter, the role played by the expert committee of the civil society organizations on the promotion of language rights, in which the Centre for Policy Alternative is a member, is crucial in this instance. There have been trainings for provincial journalists on language rights which have contributed positively on mass media. As a consequence these trained journalists have proved in their own actions, the revived interest in rethinking about the issue of language rights in a novel way and write about it in the newspapers. Therefore, as a result many aspects of the issue of language rights have been published in the mass media at present. The article Let us rectify the language issue that muddled the North and the South, now (in Sinhala) written by Ananda Sarath Gallage, a provincial journalist from Trincomalee, is one example.

15 i

This article addressed the issue of whether the implantation of two official languages Sinhala and Tamil stipulated by the articles 18 (1) and 18(2) of the 13th amendment is properly taking place or if not what is really happening instead. Apart from the political perspective these articles have dealt with the cultural diversity of the language issue. Ravaya news paper of January 29, 2012 carried a enlightening article on the close links building between Sinhala and Tamil language. The writer is Gunasekera Gunasoma. The influence of the Tamil language in the Sinhala dialect used in the parts of the Eastern province was analyzed in the article. It delineated further how the Sinhala dialect is nurtured through the harmonizing of Tamil language in it. The writer presented the uniqueness of the Sinhala/ Tamil vernacular in his area as follows: In our country, there are Sinhala dialects as well as Tamil dialects particular to certain areas with linguistically diverse aspects. Such Tamil dialect is prevalent in the Eastern province. For instance, certain Tamil terms in the Tamil vernacular such as thachchan, maniyakkaara, siththa vaidyar, pongal, Olai, uravu appear as Odaavi, podiyar, parisaari, pukka, kiduku, sondam in the eastern dialect. Above terms used in the eastern Tamil dialect prevails in the Sinhala dialect in those areas. The traditional villager there use the term Odaavi for the carpenter instead of using the Sinhala term vaduva. Likewise the rich man in this dialect is poidiyar and the indigenous medicine doctor is called pasaari. The roof of the house in the village is made of kiduku which means coconut palm leaves. Pukka or milkrice is made as breakfast in the villagers house. In the village a marriage between sonda female or male cousin can take place. Sonda there refers to the relationship that is

Vibhasha 2012 March - April particularly suitable for a marriage between the cousins. The person who protects the chena and paddy cultivations from animals in the night is called the kaavalkaaraya. His job is to spend sleepless nights doing kaaval (verb). In Tamil kaavalkaaran is the watcher. Paddy/rice harvested from Podiyaars kaani or land is stored in kittang. The person in charge of kittangi is kittangikaarya. A hut in the village is called kudilla in the eastern Sinhala dialect. House warming of a new house or shifting to a new house is called kudiyanava (verb). A girl when she attains puberty has to stay in a room till the appropriate rites are conducted. This staying in a room is called kudillata venava (noun) by the villagers. In order to give a girl in marriage seedaanam needs to be given. Seedanam in Tamil refers to the dowary. A friend or buddy is called kuttaali. The best friend is kuttukaaraya. Making friends with someone is called making kuttali. The writer illustrates instances where Tamil language has influenced the Sinhala folklore. The following is a poem of love from Paanam Pattu: Thalyim thalamudiyum kithulaka mala sema Udayim Nadiyim rana giravige thuda sema Iravum pahalum nidithana mage supurudu lama Neenum naanum eka yahanaka indium lama Thalyim thalamudiyum refers to head and strands of hair (of the woman) which the poet compares to a kitul flower. The womans Udayim Nadiyim- clothes and her walk is compared to a parrot. Her clothes are deep red just like the beak of a parrot. The poet says that in the night (Iravum) and in the day (pahalum) he always thinks of his beloved. His final invitation to her is you and I (Neenum naanum) shall be in one bed in a hut.


Vibhasha 2012 March - April Another folk poem which deals with a fathers instructions to a daughter regarding hospitality in welcoming a Tamil guest delineates the influence of Tamil language on the folk poet: Uspilapita kukulu raala paayi konduva paayi konduva ma(g)hale payi konduva sembuvakata vathura damaa thanni konduva thanni konduva ma(g)hale thanni konduva pingaanakta bath bedala soru konduva soru knoduva ma(g)hale soru konduva kullakata nelli damaa sula(g)hu konduva konduva ma(g)hale konduva // Paayi is a mat. The verb bring means konduva in Tamil. Father tells his ma(g)hale daughter to serve rice (soru) in a plate and offer it to the guest. It there is no rice to cook, she is asked to put pound paddy (nelli) into a winnowing fan /kulla (sula(g)hu) and sieve rice from it. The extent of influence of the Tamil language on the Sinhala dialect can be lucidly understood through examining the folklore of the area. Apart from the above article which dealt with the dialects and the folklore, there were several articles on the analysis of the language policy and related legal issues in the past few months. Among those articles, Who violates the language policy? (in Sinhala) written by Mr. S.G. Punchihewa, a lawyer and published in Ada newspaper on February 6, 2012 was prominent. The article dealt with the contradiction between the stipulated language policy and what really is implemented as the policy at present. Mr. Punchihewa ends his article as follows: With all existing rules and regulations, policy, circulars, cabinet decisions why is it that the language policy is violated? The following example clearly delineates how those people who imposed rules and regulations, issue circulars and made cabinet decisions violate the language policy: the circular 1620/27 giving responsibility to all the departments to implement the


Some Newspaper headlines

Let us rectify the language issue that muddled North and South Ananda Sarath Gallage 19.01.2012, Ada, p.04 Impact of Tamil dialect on Eastern Sinhala dialect Guansekera Gunasoma 29.01.29 Ravaya, p23 Lets pave the way to secure language rights of Colombo citizens C. Dodawatta 24.01.2012, Dinamina, p10 Tri lingual programme was commenced to provide an understanding of the three languages to each child President 30.01.2012, Rivira, p 6 As I said in 71 as an MP to teach the Sinhalese the Tamil language and the Tamils the Sinhala language many problems would have been resolved - President 30.01.2012, Dinamina, p5 A environment conducive for the children to be proficient in three languages has been created Minister Bandula Gunawardene 31.01.2012, Divaina, p14 Who violates Language policy? S.G. Punchihewa 12.02.2012, Ada, p8 Language policy needs to be implemented properly Anuruddha Pradeep, Senior lecturer 12.02.2012, Silumina, p9 Young generation has more inclined to bilingual education Nimal R. Ranawaka, lawyer 14.02.2012, Dinamina, p.11 The only leader who introduced a language policy is President Mahinda - Minister Dulles Alahapperuma 01.02.2012, Dinamina, p7 The tri lingual language policy the government talks about does not exist anywhere Ananda Sangaree 26.02.2012 Divaina, p11 Language as a jewel and not a weapon.. Jayasiri Alawatta 22.03.2012, Divaina (vatamadala) p2 Future challenges of Sinhala language Ideas by: Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa Prof. Vinnie Vitharana Prof. Tissa Jayawardene Prof. Tissa Kariyawasam Journalist Thilakarathna Kuruwitabandara 20.03.2012, Lankadeepa (Vimansa), p1



Head lines of Tamil news articles on language

The destruction caused by Sinhala only language policy in 1956: Deprivation of English and social reconciliation Daya Edirisinghe, lecturer 28.03.2012, Weerakesari, p Tri lingual Sri Lanka is a new project of the Government President in Jaffna 09.02.2012, Thinakaran Language training workshop in Batticaloa Tamil Mirror website 12.02.2012 Language Society Workshop Suder Oli 08.03.2012, p5 Who violates Language policy? S.G. Punchihewa 02.02.2012 & 11.03.2012, Weerakesari Official languages societies in Kalmunai 12.02.2012, Thinakaran Challenges faced by people of Indian origin 12.02.2012, Thinakran Street names should be in Tamil 16.02.2012, Weerakesari, p 27 Tamil Language in danger 16.02.2012,Suder Oli Al Kuran published in Sinhala 16.02.2012, Suder Oli A programme to create language societies in order to implement tri lingual policy 19.02.2012, Thinakran Tri lingual knowledge can build benevolent social movements Athula Wijesinghe, Chief Minister, North Western Province 19.02.2012, Thinakran, p56 Officials called for tri lingual training courses 08.02.12, Thinakural The lesson learnt by the population is not to make another war: Youth keener on tri lingual policy C. Dodawatta 19.02.2012, Thinakaran, Allow Colombo citizens right to language C. Dodawatta 29.01.2012, Thinakural If Senanayake implemented tri lingual policy there would not have been a war Douglas Devananda 01.20.2012, Thinakran Time paved the way to tri lingual social journey 27.01.2012, Thinakaran

language policy has been2012 on November Vibhasha sent March - April 25, 2009. A cabinet decision has also been taken on the same day. The decision was about giving responsibility to implement the language policy 22 years after it was passed by Parliament. Three months after the President and the Cabinet made that decision the currency notes of the denomination Rs. 5000, Rs. 1000, Rs. 500, Rs.100, Rs. 50 and Rs. 20 issued on January 1, 2010 has the sentence below in Sinhala only: This currency note issued by the Government of Sri Lanka is legally valid in paying any amount of money within Sri Lanka*. The signatures of the President as the Minister of Finance and the governor of Central Bank appear in the currency note. Now, who is violating the language policy? Apart from these articles, it is worthwhile pointing out a drawback in the articles on the language rights published at present. That is a majority of these news items are declarations made by government officials and political higher ups. Such news items also provide knowledge to the reader and this is not an attempt to undermine this type of articles. What needs to be highlighted is that media personnel should be more attentive in publishing the practical issues that are faced by the citizens in their daily lives. But it cannot be expected that this trend will occur naturally. There should be a new dialogue within the mass media in this country. The revival that has occurred in the mass media in past few months with regard to this theme has created an environment conducive to a new dialogue. This is prevalent in the newspapers of all the three languages. Even though this is not the time to go through all the relevant news paper articles, it is clear that through them a space has been opened to a constructive discussion. What we have before us is the challenge of going forward with the discussion.


Tri lingual policy, a solid foundation for the reconciliation 25.01.2012, Thinakaran chief editor

Vibhasha 2012 March - April


Many responses with regard to the issues published so far were included in the past issues. There were readers appreciating the news letter and also the ones who gave constructive criticism to improve the document. The specialty of the below responses is that all of them are sent by public officials from various government establishments. We thank you for your responses and reguest further from you to write to us.

Southern province Transport Services commences work in three languages

According to the Southern Province Transport Authority, all the bus terminals under the Passenger Transport Authority of the Southern Province will display the travel destinations in the three languages. In addition, all the information regarding the bus services, bus fares, project information and details of the Authority are arranged to be publicised in the three languages through the Southern Province website. They have expressed this as a response to a query by the Official Languages Commission as a result of a complaint made by the Centre for Policy Alternatives. The above response had been given by the Chairman of the Southern Province Transport Authority.

A productive publication
Divisional Secretariat, Beruwala has been gazetted as a bilingual establishment in Sri Lanka and we are in the process of implementing the policy. All the articles in the Vibhasha news letter are useful and particularly, the article on the introduction to language legislation and practical problems and Memory of a Fading Heritage were very important. Mr. Dhammika Rajapaksha Divisional Secretary, Beruwala

Pambeikulam Police Station functions in Sinhala only

The police station in Pambeikulam area belonging to Vavunia, where a majority of the Tamil refugees who had returned from the refugee camps in India, after the war, have settled, does not have a single Tamil speaking officer which in turn has created many hardships to the citizens in the area. This issue has arisen after the only Tamil speaking officer received a transfer and left to another location. Consequently, the Tamil speaking citizens have to take a translator along with them if they go to the police station.

We are a strong force

Vibhasha news letter has good finishing. It is attractive. You were a solid strength to the language societies as well as for the programmes securing the language rights which were launched by our Ministry and your responses were very useful to us. Mr. G.V.D. Thilakasiri Personal Assistant to the Hon. Minister Ministry of National Languages and National Integrity 40, Buthgamuwa Road, Rajagiriya

Awareness is necessary ..

From Page 14

A dialogue which needs to be appreciated

I am appreciative of the dialogue created by Vibhasha newsletter on tri lingual usage. I believe that it will greatly assist the implementation of the official languages policy. I am grateful if the newsletter can publicise the special programmes and activities organized by out Department in order to inform the public. J.C. Ranepura Commissioner of official languages Department of Official Languages

this regard. At the same time the attitudinal change should persuade people to understand the importance of all languages and that respecting all language is a responsibility. To inculcate that responsibility in the people, articles entailing an attitudinal change are essential. For example, now, the war that has been ravaging the island for 30 years is over. Therefore, some believe that all the problems are over and everything has come to an end. However, those who are vigilant can clearly that the basic root causes still exist. One of the main problems is the proper implementation of the language issue. There are many such problems. It is essential to have an attitudinal change in order to solve these problems. It can be achieved through awareness raising programmes such as various educational programmes, publications.

Write to us
The Sri Lankan language policy is a topic which has been subject to extensive discussion. Through the Vibhasha Newsletter, we aim to further foster this discussion. It is our belief that reader contribution is vital in building up this dialogue. Write to us with your various ideas, news and information. The Vibhasha Newsletter is open to all those who are sensitive to language rights of this country.

Vibhasha Newsletter, The Centre for Policy Alternatives, 24/2, 28th Lane, Flower Road, Colombo 07 Telephone : 0112 370801/4 Fax: 0112 370802

Regarding language rights

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From Colombo to Vavunia

The request to prevent disturbing others is displayed only in Tamil at the public library, Vavunia

Entrance prohibited for lovers the board displayed only in Tamil at the public library, Vavunia

hrough this page we have continued to discuss with our readers the need for street name-boards and other public notices to adhere to State Language Policy. We had visuals of various government institutions violating State Language Policy and most of the incidents were reported from Colombo and its environs. However these photographs provide evidence that it is not only in Colombo that this State Policy is breached. These photographs were collected by a group of Vibhasha representatives during their recent visit to Vavunia

Beware of leptospirosis (rat fever) only in Tamil

Beware of Malaria only in Tamil

Distorted Sinhala language in the name board at Government Veterinary Surgeons office, Vavunia

Patheniyam parasite plants in Vavunia only in Sinhala

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