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The current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay

Approach Language is never a simple issue of communication; in contemporary social and political practice everywhere, language goes much beyond its basic utilitarian purposes.

In this sense, Sri Lanka is no exception. By now, Sri Lanka has ended an immensely destructive military conflict that had much to do with a crisis of identity linked as much to language as to ethnicity and contested notions of binary-nationalisms and competitive interpretations of history.

In this context, this is a crucial time to seriously consider the politico-developmental position of language in imagining the future of the country. Today, I will briefly focus on the historical development of the politics of language in Sri Lanka and explore the dynamics of the specific political process that has emerged out of privileging and de-privileging language use in the country.

This necessarily has to focus on the policy discourse that has enhanced language regulation and legislation in Sri Lanka as well as political impediments that have retarded the comprehensive implementation of the provisions of these legislative provisions and regulatory frameworks. For me, heading for the future and imagining the future after a catastrophic and very painful recent past and without the hindsight of the larger history that has molded our collective personality is a recipe for future instability.

And it endlessly disturbs me that often we as a people seem very reluctant to learn from our own history. So contrary to popular belief today, politics of language have not always been a reflection of inter-ethnic rivalry. In its initial stages, the demand for swabasha reflected class connotations even though blurred outlines of Sinhala aspirations could also be detected.

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But such aspirations were not clearly articulated, and did not receive popular support at these stages. Demands for swabasha was a protest against the privileges enjoyed by the English educated elite, privileges not open to the masses educated in the local languages.

An amendment was proposed by V.

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Nallaiah, a Tamil state councilor, for providing both Sinhala and Tamil the status as Official Languages, which was seconded by R. Gunawardena, a Sinhala state councilor. The resolution in this form was approved by 27 to 2 in the Sinhala-dominated legislature, another sign of the lack of ethnic overtones in language politics at this stage.

The resolution specified that Sinhala and Tamil would become the languages of instruction in schools, examinations for public services and legislative proceedings. In 1946, a committee under the current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay chairmanship of J. Jayawardena strongly recommended the establishment of local languages as Official Languages replacing English while recommending that the transition take place over a period of ten years.

But there was no serious movement in the language front despite these official conversations. By the late 1950s however, this cross-cutting interest in empowering local languages diminished in the context of emerging and divisive ethnic politics. D Bandaranaike was elected as Prime Minister in 1956. His main election promise to establish Sinhala as the Official Language of the country replacing English was fulfilled soon after the election, giving no status of parity the current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay Tamil.

This is the manner in which language politics as we know it today was introduced into the Sri Lankan political discourse. All of us are quite aware where these politics have lead us since that time. Language Policy History Let me take a moment to briefly reflect upon the policy formworks that have impacted the language situation in the country.

In 1966, ten years after the passage of the Sinhala Only Bill, the use of Tamil as the language of administration in Northern and Eastern provinces was begun after the implementation of the provisions of Tamil Language Special Provisions Act No. In 1987, through the 13th amendment to the Constitution Tamil was also decreed an Official Language of the state and the legal basis for parity between Sinhala and Tamil was clearly established by law.

In addition, Section 23 of the same amendment provides that the language of legislation will be Sinhala and Tamil while a translation of these legislative enactments and laws must be available in English. Further, Section 24 of the same amendment provides that the languages of the courts in the country will be Sinhala and Tamil. Chapter IV of the Constitution and the 13th and 16th Amendments in particular, formally recognize the earlier mistakes of language politics, and provides for extensive and legally binding solutions.

In effect, Chapter IV as it appears today provides for the equitable use of Sinhala and Tamil in all areas of social and political activity. In that sense, the Constitution is both a historical text of mistakes and also their correction, and a point of departure for the implementation of the Language Policy that has been so exhaustively articulated. When it comes to language rights, the issue is no longer with the Constitution or with regulations, but with their practical implementation.

All old forms not satisfying these criteria should be withdrawn. This was a conscious attempt at implementing some of the most basic provisions in exercising language rights that affect people in routine circumstances. More importantly, the circular requested Secretaries of Ministries to investigate and report the lapses in implementing the Language Policy in departments and institutions under them.

The repeated issuing of these circulars point to a number of realities. The constitutional changes made were serious and these circulars indicate numerous attempts made over the years to implement the provisions in the Constitution. They also point to the failure of the Official Languages Policy at the level of practice due to sheer lack of capacity, mechanisms, skills and the recognition of such lapses as well as a pronounced absence of political will and interest at the ground level.

On 30th June 1998, President Chandrika Kumaratunge writing to her Cabinet of Ministers also made a clear statement regarding concerns over the failure of implementing the Official Languages Policy: Several Instances of failure on the part of Government Institutions to comply with Constitutional provisions relating to Official Languages have been brought to my notice.

These are serious omissions as they cause immense inconvenience and hardship to members of the public who are not conversant with Sinhala.

Besides, it also amounts to a violation of the law. I dread to think of the plight of citizens who receive letters in a language which they do not understand. This is tantamount to denial of that citizen a fundamental right. However, despite good intentions and various attempts outlined above, the overall damage caused by the initial phase of politics of language, and the suspicions these politics created in the minds Tamil-speaking people remain un-addressed at the level of both country-wide practice and felt experience.

In other words, the vast gap between the official recognition of Tamil as an Official Language and the practical implementation of the provisions and conditions it entails, is yet to be bridged. The facilities for communicating with the central government in obtaining its services in Tamil are minimal.

This situation amounts to a violation of constitutional rights of the Tamil speaking citizens of the 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 including that of the North East miserably fail in serving citizens inhabiting those areas who are not proficient in the language of the administration of the respective province in their own language which has Official Language status.

  1. Sri lankan people seem to have been in contact with tamil speakers from southern india since at the sri lankan civil war entered an even , the tamil. The constitutional changes made were serious and these circulars indicate numerous attempts made over the years to implement the provisions in the Constitution.
  2. Writing tips and writing guidelines for students,case study samples, admission essay examples, book reviews, the current sri lankan conflict.
  3. In effect, Chapter IV as it appears today provides for the equitable use of Sinhala and Tamil in all areas of social and political activity.

These statements summarize the social and political repercussions of the politics of language in this country as they exist today despite numerous attempts taken to address them. On the other hand, some significant measures adopted seem to have been formulated in an ad hoc manner despite the articulation of a language sensitive ideological commitment resulting in their state of unsuccessfulness.

The Present Through that rather turbulent road with too many blind corners we come to the present; and the question is what does the present hold? Quite literally, if we had followed the road signs that we ourselves had established in the form of rules and regulations, our politics, at least with reference to language, would have been quite different; if so, we would have been discussing very different things in this conference today.

Last year 2010about one and half years after the conclusion of the war, at the invitation of the Ministry of Official Languages and Social Integration, I visited Vavuniya and Jaffna between 1st and 3rd December to undertake a quick assessment of what the language situation was at ground level in two primarily Tamil speaking areas.

The current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay

Without going into details, I will only offer a summary of my experience which will place in context, the prevailing situation. While government circulars received by this office as a rule come in all three languages and sometimes in two, a great majority of routine communication from government agencies continues to be in Sinhala.

The Vauniya Police has a similar situation with regard to language of service. In a force of about 300 officers and constables attached to the Vavuniya Town Police, only about seven are competent in Tamil. The police acknowledge that with the end of active war, the numbers of people coming to police stations in the region have increased considerably, and that their ability to serve the people in their own language needs to be vastly improved. At present, all complaints are only recorded in Sinhala; a Tamil-speaking person can relate his or her the current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay in Tamil, and if one of the handful of policemen competent in Tamil is available, the narrative is translated into Sinhala which is recorded.

None of these are trained translators and the possibility of errors and inaccuracies seeping into the recorded statements are significant.

The current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay

Structurally, the situation in Jaffna is quite similar to Vavuniya suggesting the existence of a pattern in similar ethno-cultural conditions where the official languages policy is faltering seriously in the process of implementation.

The Jaffna Hospital receives most of its instructions and correspondence from state agencies in Sinhala in a situation where it does not have formal mechanisms to translate the current 2005 sri lankan conflict essay documents. It is clear that Ministry of Health is one of the most consistent violators of the official languages law.

The great majority of correspondence from this Ministry comes in Sinhala which includes letters of appointment, salary increments, and above all, disciplinary inquiries. The police in Jaffna Town has a force of about 600 officers and constables; out of this only about 7 are competent in Tamil though serving an overwhelmingly Tamil majority population.

As in Vavuiya, officers have to take procedural detours to manage with what is available and depend on informal systems when the formal structures are dysfunctional. This state of affairs poses a series of problems which seem to crop up regularly in other central and local government bodies in the north which indicates a consistent pattern and deeper malaise.

That is, despite the constitutional and legal right of the people to receive information and services from central and local government agencies in their own language, this does not happen on a routine basis. While this has lead to a situation of frustration and lack of trust towards the state, people also seem reluctant to take legal remedies to rectify the situation though such procedures exists, for fear of reprimand.

It is in this context that we finally come to the attempted ban of the Tamil version of the national anthem which is entrenched by the Constitution. But as we know quite well, our national anthem in Sinhala, Tamil or any other language is a fine and exemplary text that defies divisiveness in all its forms, and upholds the value of a collective identity.

The fact that the ban was not carried through is another matter. Perhaps that word has lost its meaning just the same way our post-independence language policies have lost their direction. It is in this context that I would like to reiterate a point I made at the very outset. That is, if we do not learn from our history, from our collective past, from our mistakes and from our strengths, we will be the architects of our own future destruction just the same way we have been of our recent past.

I would like to conclude my reflections with a few not so well known words from one of the greatest political leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela: If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

I also wish that wisdom would come to govern our politics in general and our politics of language in particular.