Only in Sri Lanka, Tamils have equal rights.
Posted on June 3rd, 2009

Herold Leelawardena

If we go by the Tamil web sites, Tamils of Tamil Nadu are not happy about Hindis and Hindi. They point out that the central government of India compels Tamils to learn Hindi for central government jobs even in Tamil Nadu. True, Hindi being the official and national language of India, fluency in Hindi is a must to secure jobs at the center. Being chauvinists as they are, Tamils do not see the benefit of learning the language of the majority or being a part of big power. They just get worked up to be jealous of Hindis and Hindi.

Tamils of Tamil Nadu say, Hindi is spoken only in the northern belt of India by a 40% of the population and yet Hindis impose Hindi throughout India. They ask; what is the point painting our name boards in Hindi when vernacular languages and not Hindi are spoken everywhere other than the Hindi belt. Forgetting that they are just 7% of the total Indian population, Tamils want Tamil to be in par with Hindi. But, how could 7% equal to 40%. Pannikar, a Tamil that aspired to be the Prime Minister of India after Nehru said it all in few words. He is said to have said; Hindis had sidetracked him from premiership because he spoke no Hindi. Had he change his stance and learn a bit of Hindi, he would have been the Prime Minister of a powerful country. Is it not the same attitude that put most Sri Lankan Tamils in a Pandora’s Box?

Tamil is an official as well as a national language of Sri Lanka. What is more, Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that a government issues its official reports in Tamil. Tamils could correspond in Tamil with government officials anywhere in Sri Lanka. No doubt, Tamils have a better deal in Sri Lanka than India. If usage of Tamil is a criterion for happiness of Tamils, then Tamils of Sri Lanka should be the happiest.

75% of the population in Sri Lanka is Sinhalese. And, 85 % of them speak fluent Sinhala, while another 5% could use it in their daily life. That is a much higher percentages than Hindis and Hindi of India. A mare 10% does not speak Sinhala at all. We are told that the cause for Tamil terrorism is the Sinhala, the language of the majority being the official language of Sri Lanka.

Muslims and Estate Tamils do not object to learn Sinhala. As much as Tamils of Tamil Nadu object to learn Hindi, only Jaffna Tamils object to learn Sinhala. However, Jaffna Tamils could go to France and learn French; they could go to Germany and learn German; they could go to Norway and learn Norwegian; they could learn Malay in Malaysia but they resist learning Sinhala in Sri Lanka. Where is the logic or sense behind Tamils not learning Sinhala, the language of the majority by far?

The NGO dollar sharks that put on funny accents, and the old bureaucrats that boast the glory of yesteryear, and the wogs that brag they speak better English than Englishmen go beyond and blame the Sinhala language for all our economic predicaments as well. In spite of the present-day set backs, many consider Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are successful countries. Of these only Singapore uses English as a national language of the country. Reasons are many and have to be discussed separately at length. One thing we ought to understand is that Sri Lanka cannot be a Singapore but a Malaysia. Anyway, the said English wallah must be told that all those countries other than Singapore had used their own languages to reach where they are today.

I am not suggesting for a moment that English should not be thought at our schools. Indeed, it must be thought to everyone if at all possible. However, the path to progress is effective communication. Moreover, the language of the majority is the best language to communicate down the line as has been proved by the aforesaid countries.

Although English wallah wants English to be the official language, many of us want it only as a link language. Even so, less than 10% could use it fluently. Of them, not many could give a meaningful speech in English or write it effectively. Have you observed many of us have lost for words or use Sinhala words in the middle of a discussion? On TV debates in English, I have often noticed most speakers cannot articulate a topic in English as good as they could in Sinhala. That shows the futility of using English to communicate with the masses in Sri Lanka.


Sinhala being a very rich language one could use to articulate any subject as good as in any other language. No wonder, most Sinhalese prefer to discuss and deliberate thing in their mother tong than in English. That is not abnormal or nothing to be ashamed of. It is interesting to note that most Muslims and Tamils speak fluent Sinhala than English. So only a hypocrite could fault the government for conducting its business in Sinhala?

I have no doubt that Tamil language has similar qualities to that of Sinhala. But the fact remains; less than 20% of Sri Lankan population speaks Tamil fluently while another 5% may understand it. It is important to note that at least 75% do not understand Tamil at all, whereas only 10 percent do not understand Sinhala at all.

In spite of the impracticality to use Tamil language effectivily all over the country, the government has made it a national language to please the Tamils. That means, all government notifications, vacancies, gazettes etc. are published in Tamil as well. Though not many officers of all the Divisional offices of the government and the Police speak Tamil, one could write to them and get an answer in Tamil. In a country where 75% do not speak Tamil at all, is it not a gesture of goodwill for Tamils. Where in the world that Tamils are gestured better?

Let me give some more examples. In Sri Lanka, regardless where they live, Tamils are encouraged to educate their children in Tamil language from the kindergarten to the University. In Padukka where I live, 99.5% of the population is Sinhalese. However, there is a Tamil medium government school for that 0.5% with Tamil mother tong. Do the Tamils in Delhi in India or Penang in Malaysia get similar rights?

Lack of willingness to accept the reality by Tamils is the crux of the matter.

Herold Leelawardena

3 Responses to “Only in Sri Lanka, Tamils have equal rights.”

  1. atlas17 Says:

    “I have no doubt that Tamil language has similar qualities to that of Sinhala. But the fact remains; less than 20% of Sri Lankan population speaks Tamil fluently while another 5% may understand it. It is important to note that at least 75% do not understand Tamil at all, whereas only 10 percent do not understand Sinhala at all. ”

    – Oh my God, give this creature some basic logical knowledge… Can’t stop my laugh

  2. Leelawardena Says:

    You can laugh as much as you like, but if you want to check the figures I have given are right or wrong all you have to do is to surf the government web sites.

  3. Sri Rohana Says:

    Dear Herold
    Your article is very realistic and true. None exaggerated very logical.
    Tamils were very happily learned English under British invaders. At that era official language was English only. Education media was English. Government offices had only English language forms and communication in English only. Judicial and Police official language was English. Britishers openly converted Tamil Hindus to Christian religion. (On economic bribes) What happened to Tamils so-called grievances or aspiration under British invaders era?
    Now world has realized that Tamils demands are just a covering shield to get refugee statues from EEC and America. Australia already stopped granting refugee statues to bogus Tamil economic refugees.
    Tamils can fool some at some times but they cannot fool all at all the time.

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