Monday, 22 August 2016 04:31

DIRCs Find Solutions To Language Discrepancies Featured

Under NPC’s project Reconciling Inter Ethnic and Inter Religious Difference (RIID) a meeting of the Kandy DIRC identified three issues relevant to reconciliation that needed to be addressed in the district.

The first issue was about the commentary at the on going Kandy perahera that was done only in Sinhala. This meant that Tamil people could not understand the explanations of the rituals, dances and history even thought there were several Tamil cultural items included in the pageants.

The second issue was protests about road name boards, bus name boards and signs on government buildings having many errors in the Tamil versions. Despite many complaints, no action had been taken to correct them, giving the impression that the government was not interested in advancing the cause of reconciliation between the two communities.

The third issues concerned the classification of estate Tamils as Indian Tamils, which they said led to discrimination when it came to getting birth certificates, identity cards and government jobs. People from the estates in the district wanted to be classified as Sri Lankan Tamils on documentation.

DIRC Kandy decided to start campaign to persuade the government to rectify these shortcomings, starting with discussions with the Chief Minister and the District Secretary. DIRC members submitted written requests about first two issues. The Chief Minister and the District Secretary recognised these concerns and said they would be corrected as soon as possible. The next day, a Tamil commentary was included in the Kandy perahera.

As a next step, DIRC members will meet the governor and raise the other matters with her.

At Nuwara Eliya DIRC meeting, too, the absence of government officials who were fluent in Tamil posed many difficulties for the people in the district. Officials taking down names for a birth certificate or a form, for example, wrote them down in Sinhala as they heard them and often got it wrong. As a result, there was a great deal of confusion and misinterpretation. People felt the government was not taking their requests for Tamil speaking officers seriously. They wanted officers who understood proper pronunciation and could write in the language.

A decision was taken to discuss the issue with government officials in district. In the Kotmale area, a member of the DIRC took the problem to the Divisional Secretary, explaining that the lack of a Grama Sevaka who knew proper Tamil was causing complications for the people. The Divisional Secretary agreed to appoint a Tamil speaking Grama Sevaka and the new official has already taken up his post.