Tuesday, 09 March 2021 10:08

Language Rights as Fundamental Rights

Three training programmes on policy rights for religious leaders, government officials, health service officers, civil society members, university students and police officers were conducted in Kalutara, Trincomalee and Kandy under NPC’s project National Language Equality Advancement Project (NLEP) conducted by lawyer Jagath Liyana Arachichi.

Mr. Liyana Arachichi explained the concept of language rights in Sri Lanka and their inclusion in the Constitution, pointing out that violation of language rights was a violation of a person’s fundamental rights. People could seek redress by filing a fundamental rights case in the Supreme Court or a lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. They could also complain to the Official Languages Commission and the Ombudsman when government institutions or officials violated language rights.

Participants said that they had not been aware that language rights were enshrined in the Constitution. Discussions revealed that it was the minority communities that faced language issues while Sinhala speakers were not affected. In all three languages, spelling mistakes were common due to carelessness.

“Learning a second language is essential. This will lead to reconciliation,” said a Buddhist monk from Kandy. A Catholic priest from Trincomalee pointed out that the national anthem was not sung in Tamil on Independence Day despite Tamil being an official language.