The National Peace Council (NPC) yesterday urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to decide whether the national anthem will be sung in Tamil on Independence Day as soon as possible.
“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. 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 NPC said in a statement.
It states: This is a deeply upsetting issue for Tamil-speaking citizens in general who see this as another instance of step motherly treatment meted out to them. 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. NPC 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 mulch-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 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, NPC said.
“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 decision making. 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.”