Colombo: Sri Lanka on Monday denied plans to
scrap the Tamil version of its national anthem, saying the
government had no intention of tampering with constitutional
rights of people after Tamil leaders expressed worries that
the move would harm the reconciliation process.
The denial came in response to a media report that
said the Sri Lankan cabinet had decided to do away with the
Tamil version and insist that it be sung only in one language
-- Sinhala, the mother tongue of the majority community.
The report had troubled the country`s already
alienated Tamil community with its leaders saying that such a
move would do no good to the process of reconciliation.
Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister John
Seneviratne said the cabinet had not taken any decision to
make any changes to the way the national anthem is rendered --
in Sinhala or Tamil.
"We will not do anything to take away the
constitutional rights of our people," Seneviratne told PTI.
"We will continue with what we have been doing all
this time and there is no banning of the singing of the anthem
in Tamil," he insisted.
The minister response came after the local Sunday
Times newspaper reported that the cabinet, headed by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa, had ordered the scrapping of the Tamil
version which is widely used by state institutions in Tamil
In the absence of a clear government position
following the report yesterday, several ministers were
issuing contradictory statements.
While Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa reportedly
hailed Rajapaksa for the move, Tamil minister Douglas
Devananda said there was no such decision.
Seneviratne`s Public administration ministry is
responsible for setting out guidelines for the use of the
national anthem as well as the national flag and also conducts
In Sri Lanka, even school text books have a Tamil
translation of the national anthem. However, not all people
are happy with the two versions of the national anthem.
Weerawansa told the private Derane TV channel that it
was a joke to sing the anthem in Tamil. "It is a mistake that
has been continued since 1978 (when the presidential
constitution was adopted)," Weerawansa said.
"What we are trying to do is correct this mistake. It
is a joke to sing the national anthem in Tamil," he said.
The minister incorrectly drew a parallel with India
and said India`s national anthem was in "Hindi."
Opposition Tamil National Alliance MP Suresh
Premachandran said his own sources within the government
suggested that the cabinet has not taken a formal decision in
the wake of opposition from leftist ministers in the
However, Premachandran said if a decision was taken to
outlaw Tamil, then it would be a major blow to the minority
community and efforts at national reconciliation.
Sri Lanka`s constitution sets out the anthem in
Sinhala, but official government text books issued to students
have a Tamil version.
The Sinhala version is widely used across the country
except for the north and east where the majority speaks Tamil.
Sri Lanka`s drawn out Tamil separatist conflict finds
its roots in language discrimination which Tamils say has
prevented them from getting jobs and higher education.