Sri Lanka lifts ban on Tamil version of national anthem!
Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
In an effort to achieve reconciliation with the ethnic minority community possibly in a step by step manner, the Sirisena government of Sri Lanka has lifted an unofficial ban on Tamil version of national anthem.
Sri Lanka marked the country’s Independence by reintroducing Tamil version of the island’s national anthem on February 05 by singing the anthem in Tamil at a ceremony.
School children rendered the Sinhala and Tamil versions of the national anthem at a colorful celebration at the Galle Face Green park to mark the 68th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from Great Britain which reluctantly quit the South Asian region last century.
The move, despite opposition from some quarters, is being seen as an effort by the government to reach out to the Tamil minority after the nearly 26-year war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in 2009.
About 100,000 Tamils, who had originally been brought from Tamil Nadu to work for Sri Lanka, were killed by military during the Rajapaksa’s civil war. Obviously it would take time for Tamils to forget and forgive the Singhalese for their collective crimes against the helpless minorities.
Deputy Minister for Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne said that a new journey begins by reinstating the singing of the national anthem in Tamil. Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva in a Facebook post said: “A first in my lifetime. After many years the Independence Day celebrations came to a close with the national anthem sung in Tamil.”
President Maithripala Sirisena since becoming President in 2015 by defeating self-styled and increasingly authoritarian Mahinda Rajapaksa, under whose leadership the Sri Lankan forces defeated the LTTE, has begun several actions, albeit hesitantly, to win back the Tamils in the reconciliation process.
Rajapaksa, who had imposed an unofficial ban on the Tamil version of the national anthem in a manner to insult Tamil community and let his Singhalese community rejoice at the pathetic fate of Tamils, is obviously upset over Sirisena’s decision to reintroduce Tamil version of Lankan national anthem.
At last year’s Independence Day celebrations a ‘Declaration of Peace’ was read out paying respects to all ethnic groups killed in the civil war with a pledge not to allow violence to recur. The Peace statement was delivered in all three languages by school children.
India perhaps needs to learn from Sri Lanka by introducing national anthem in all regional languages to respect the regional languages as well as unity and truly national integrity. Every language in India must enjoy equal status in today’s modern times.
Lifting the ban on Tamil version of Lankan national anthem would not automatically lead to proper reconciliation but a truly genuine reconciliation process between Majority and minority populations in the island nation naturally requires a series of confidence building measures in terms of helping the Tamil and Muslim communities must be undertaken by the government.
The Sinhalese majority community needs a change in mindset to accommodate the minorities as part of the nation and not as “outsiders” as they were given to think by the Rajapaksa regime.