The Language Act and Tamil services.
Posted on December 8th, 2011

Bodhi Dhanapala, Quebec, Canada.

   Anne Abesekera (AnnA) has written an article entitled  the “language Issue” on 29 November in the Island newspaper. She is  amazed that the Government hadn’t had the grace to acknowledge its failure – and … of previous governments – to implement the Official Languages Act for so long.   Cold comfort to the Tamils who have waited in vain  for several decades to receive official communications in Tamil and to have the right to use their mother-tongue when dealing orally or in writing, with Govt. departments. Then she quotes  Prof. Sasanka Perera: ” The vast gap between … Tamil as an Official Language and the practical implementation … is yet to be bridged.   As recently as 2005, …  The facilities of communicating with the central government in obtaining its services in Tamil are minimal. The situation amounts to a violation of constitutional rights of the Tamil speaking citizens of this country.  Apart from the indignities they are made to suffer, they are put into innumerable inconveniences in transacting business with the Government.  The provincial administration … miserably fail in serving citizens inhabiting those areas…” 

Neither Prof. Perera, nor AnnA, asks (i) How does Sri Lanka compare with other multi-ethnic countries like  USA, Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland  and Canada ? (ii) Why is it that the Tamils wait for the government without acquiring some of the needed capabilities themselves?.

The USA has some 17% Hispanics, and ‘traditional homelands’ in California, New Mexico, Southern Texas.  The US asserts that the Hispanics must learn English.  Britain  today is more multicultural than before, with 4% from India, and 3%  Arabs. English is the only official language.

France has some 10% Arab speakers.  Large parts of France were under Arab rule before the Crusades. Nevertheless,  no concession is given to Arabic. Instead, the nation’s politicians view the threat to the French language with alarm. Arab children must study French and also not wear the now-illegal Islamic head cover. Germany has harboured French speakers in the Alsace-Lorraine region, even before the rise of Germany under Bismark.  However, the recent phenomenon is the 5.6% Arab population. A very menacing right-wing political movement with Neo-Nazi connections ensures that no concessions are made to these new Germans.

Switzerland is the exception to the above problematic nations. The country started as  independent cantons with common mercantile interests, with  similar Swiss-German dialects and French, Italian. The federation simply retained the languages of each canton at confederation.

Canada started as two nations at war. The natives were subjugated in “reservations” run by  possibly highly corrupt band leaders. The average “aboriginal”  lives without running water, doctors or schools. Tuberculosis, alcoholism, crime and drugs are  rampant. Their Languages have no place in the constitution. French and English populations have been  2:3 in  strength. When French separatism arose in the 1960s, Pierre Trudeau and others leaders proposed bilingualism. Bilingual education, bonuses, bilingual promotions  and  incentives were announced. Top posts became necessarily bilingual.
Four decades and after billions dollars of money spend, r Canada is still 80% unilingual. English is  difficult to find in rural Quebec, while French becomes rare  west of Ottawa, the federal capital. The federal services, their web pages etc., are  bilingual; but local-government is 90% unilingual. Canada  made an honest effort; but its bilingualism has failed.

The situation in Sri Lanka, with currently less than 10% Tamils, is not comparable to Canada with 40% French, or with USA with 17% Hispanics. Meanwhile, Tamils who go to Germany, France, or even Poland and Norway rapidly learn those complex languages.  Tamil and Sinhala  have the same structure and many words are common. A Tamil can learn Sinhala easily (or vice versa). So why do the Tamils  wait for the government to ‘implement the law’?

Ordinary Tamils , being practical minded,  have always studied Sinhalese. But the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK)  strongly campaigned since 1956 against learning Sinhala. Psychological and Physical threats were applied. Legal cases were filed even in the Privy council challenging  the act. The manifestos of the ITAK promised an imminent  creation of a Tamil Kingdom;  stamps were printed in the early 1970s. The Banda-Chelva pact or the Dudly-Chelva pact were not trusted by those who read the Tamil manifestos promising Arasu, while English manifestos talked of federalism. By the 1980s, Tamil officers who worked in Sinhalese could die. Sinhalese who knew Tamil left the North. Meanwhile the Tamil politicians informed the world that Tamil-language services are not offered by the government.

We can understand AnnA living in her cuckoo world of Colombo acting as a cat’s paw for for scraping the beggars wound assiduously cultivated by the Eelamists. Not long ago she harranagues about the single sign in Omantha where the name is correctely written in Sinhala. She wanted the Tamil version to prevail not only in Tamil, but also in Sinhala and English. According the CIA fact sheet on various countires, Sri Lanka is said to now have only 5% Tamils, with the rest listed as Indian tamils. This seems to me s to be an under-estimate. But there is no doubt that the Tamils are demographically less significant than the Hispanics in the USA, or the Arabs in France. And yet Ann Abeserker goes about stirring the pot, asking for something evan wealthy  Canada, with more than 40% French could not achieve even under no-war conditions.

 So, even if we ignore Ann A, how is it that a Professor of Sociology is also totally ignorant of the social realities that prevailed in the country? In which country does he live?  Where does he gets his facts? Which nation pays him?

59 Responses to “The Language Act and Tamil services.”

  1. nilwala Says:

    The Tamils WANT the Language Policy to fail – more reason to justify their separatist agenda. Clearly the old double standard is alive and well, as shown by the West deliberately ignoring the failure of multiculturalism in Canada, USA etc..
    Bodhi has written a good article and should send it to The Island Opinion page.

  2. Ariya Says:

    Sorry Barahamin, I made a mistake here about Anne Abeysekera. I was thinking of Anne Ranasinghe.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    Lasantha,

    Rubbish!

    Already over 95% people can speak Sinhala. If the remaining 5% learn it problem solved.

    Tamils in SL today are also a migrant community just like in USA, UK or Australia. Tamils who lived here for thousands of years had thousands of years to learn Sinhala and they DID. Good on them. Most of them are Sinhalese today. Never forget Sinhalese origins include Tamils. It is MOSTLY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS who are not fluent in Sinhala.

    During the LTTE de facto rule, over 400,000 Tamil Nadu illegal immigrants came to/illegally stayed in the country. They are the problem. Once they leave or learn Sinhala there is no problem here.

    In India Tamils are encouraged to learn Hindi but Hindi speakers don’t have to learn any other language!

    Muslims, upcountry Tamils, Malays, European descendants, Veddhas and ALL other minorities are already Sinhala speaking. So don’t drag them in to this.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Take the facts as they exist :

    * No Tamil language taught actively in states adjoining Tamil Nadu i.e. Kerala, Andrapradesh, Karnataka. If these states do not feel the necessity to teach Tamil, why should Lanka which is a separate sovereign state ?
    * No one is going to Tamil Nadu for job opportunities or to migrate there.
    * Lanka will receive a lot of Tamil films of no value if Tamil language is made a must for children
    * Lanka may well become a satellite of Tamil Nadu
    * Sinhala will get side lined with time as more and more Tamil culture expands into Lanka

    * Mr “Pethiyagoda” says : “We must not allow petty issues to divide the brotherly bond between Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala in this resplendent isle ..” Sure, we must not let petty issues divide us. We can seek other less petty, more meaningful avenues of ‘brotherly bonds’ rather than indulge in petty issues. For instance, learning Sc&Tech from a young age will serve all our children, Sinhala, Tamil & Muslim (which, by the way is a religion and not an ethnicity), far better than waste time learning languages that does not serve a good purpose. English is a very useful link language. Tamil can be learnt by those need to do so, for whatever reason. Sinhala must stay as the main language of the land from time immemorial.
    Learning Sc&Tech will serve the whole Nation and form bonds between ethnic groups too.

  5. Voice123 Says:

    @Jimmy, thanks for your support but please dont refer to me as “Sinhala”. I am not Sinhala. I am Sri Lankan. Thanks.

  6. Christie Says:

    Tamils have not lived as long as the Sinhalese in the Island.
    Tamils and other Indians came on the back of the British Raj since 1792, first as foot mennof the Royal Madras regiment, then tax collectors and administrators, then road builders, then agin as soldiers to take over Kandy Kingdom in1815, then as merchants and administrators, after that coffee plantation workrs and last as tea plantation workers.
    There is no other group of people anywhere in the world who have close relatives and almost the exact religion, language, culture etc like Tamils in tamil Nadu and the island.
    British Isles and Europe are similar to Ceylon and India. Where are the Romns, Vikings and French who arrived in British Isles.
    This concept of ethinicity is a concept in countries lik USA, Australia and Canada whre the local inhabitants have been wiped out and those who arrived after the British are called ethinics.

    Time for the Sinhalese, Moors, Burghers and Malays to Unite and fight for their basic rights in economic freedom from tha tamils and other Indians.

  7. Christie Says:

    Tamils have not lived as long as the Sinhalese in the Island.
    Tamils and other Indians came on the back of the British Raj since 1792, first as foot mennof the Royal Madras regiment, then tax collectors and administrators, then road builders, then agin as soldiers to take over Kandy Kingdom in1815, then as merchants and administrators, after that coffee plantation workrs and last as tea plantation workers.
    There is no other group of people anywhere in the world who have close relatives and almost the exact religion, language, culture etc like Tamils in tamil Nadu and the island.
    British Isles and Europe are similar to Ceylon and India. Where are the Romns, Vikings and French who arrived in British Isles.
    This concept of ethinicity is a concept in countries lik USA, Australia and Canada whre the local inhabitants have been wiped out and those who arrived after the British are called ethinics.

    Time for the Sinhalese, Moors, Burghers and Malays to Unite and fight for their basic rights in economic freedom from tha tamils and other Indians.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    For Economic Freedom, we have to become as Self Sufficient as much as possible. The art of importing and selling should become less and less with time.
    To be Self Sufficient we have to become a smart Nation, learned in Sc&Tech, especially Medical (alternative meds.included), Food Technology and all aspects of Engineering, including Environmental.

  9. Marco Says:

    LLRC Report in full

    http://groundviews.org/2011/12/16/the-official-report-of-the-llrc/

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