I have had the privilege of reading many letters published in The Island newspaper on the prevalent controversy in regard to the National Anthem, during the last few months. As far as I can remember, most of the writers had favored the conservative view that the National Anthem should be sung only in Sinhala while a few had held the liberal and conciliatory view that it should be sung in both the official languages, i.e. Sinhala and Tamil.
In the meantme I had the opportunity of reading in the ‘island’ newspaper dated 11th January, 2020, a letter written by Dr.Upul Wijayawardhana, which is a very interesting piece of masterly writing, who had taken the view that the Tamil version of the National Anthem should be sung only in the Tamil speaking areas.
In this respect, I wish to state that the previous regime, with whatever the motive it may be, caused the national anthem to be sung in both the official languages at the ceremony held to commemorate the 2016 Independence Day. I can still remember that the faces of the bevy of young girls who sang the Tamil version of the National Anthem on that day were glowed with pride and self-respect.
In addition to these young girls, most of the Tamil people would have felt some sort of complacency and self-respect at the feeling that they had been treated equally. After all, what did we lose by the decision to sing the Tamil version of the national anthem. I can boldly say that it was only the pride and ego of those who did not wish the Tamil version of it to be sung were hurt and nothing else. Can the Sinhala majority ignore the fact that the Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnamambalam Arunachalam struggled back to back with the Sinhala leaders, like Right Hon. D.S. Senanayake and F.R. Senanayake, among others, to win back our independence.
All of them are now treated as National Heroes in our country. In the circumstances, do not we, the majority community, have a moral obligation to show our gratitude at least to those Tamil leaders who did contribute their share in the struggle to gain our lost Independence, no matter posthumously. Needless to state here that it was the Lord Buddha who first taught us the noble quality of gratitude in the very second week after He attained the Enlightenment. Should we, the Buddhists, not follow the noble qualities He taught us.
The previous regime took some appreciative steps towards the reconciliation of different communities in our country after the war. My belief is that all that has now come to a standstill and everything achieved so far in the process is now in complete disarray. Hopes of reconciliation would be totally shattered once the National Anthem is sung only in Sinhala on the next Independence Day.
Recently, the Prime Minister made a statement that the Government has not yet made a final decision about the language or languages in which the national anthem should be sung at the next Independence day. As no damage has been done to the sovereignty of our people or the unitary state of our country as a result of singing the national anthem in both official languages in the past, I suggest that the same practice be continued at the next Independence day, too, as the first step towards the reconciliation under the new Government. One must remember that he cannot eat the cake and have it too, at the same time.