January 2020

28.01.2020 - President Needs to Resolve Dispute Over National Anthem

An issue that has surfaced and which is causing heartburn among Tamil-speaking citizens is the likelihood that the national anthem will not be sung in Tamil at the forthcoming National Independence Day celebrations on February 4.  Government members have been making contradictory statements on this issue.  Some of them have openly declared that the national anthem will not be sung in Tamil on this occasion whereas Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that no final decision has been taken on this matter.  The National Peace Council is concerned about the government’s delay in taking a decision on this issue.  Adding to our concerns is the provocative action of a government minister who went to the predominantly Tamil-speaking north and ordered the name board of an institution under his ministry to be redone so that the Sinhala wording comes on top and the Tamil wording below it.

The national anthem issue is deeply upsetting to Tamil-speaking citizens in general, and not only in the north, who see the step motherly treatment meted out to the Tamil language.  The issue of language was a key dividing factor in the early years of Sri Lanka’s independence and one of the root causes of the ethnic conflict that escalated into a three decade-long internal war.  We need to learn from the past. The National Peace Council calls on the government to take this issue seriously as it affects the sense of dignity, equality and sense of belonging of those who are Tamil-speakers. It is a travesty that this issue should be re-ignited today a full decade after the end of that war by those who do not believe in the plural nature of our multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and plural society.  The Sri Lankan constitution gives equal place to the Sinhala and Tamil languages, and also ensures that in Tamil will be the language of administration in Tamil majority areas.

In his inaugural speech at his swearing in ceremony, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa noted that he has been elected by the Sinhala Buddhist majority, but he would be the president of all Sri Lankans whether or not they had voted for him.  He was elected by the people to develop the country and to ensure national security.  As Sri Lanka has a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and plural society it is important that the president should be responsive to this reality in his decisionmaking.  The development and national security that Sri Lanka needs will be best secured by citizens who feel that they are treated equally by the state and equally belong to the country.  We believe that the president, as the head of state and head of government is the person who can and should make the decision regarding the singing of the national anthem in Tamil prior to Independence Day, on which day he will take the centre stage as the president of all Sri Lankans.

Governing Council
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.