Mutual understanding vital for communal harmony -Vasu
National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva
Nanayakkara told the Sunday Observer in an interview that much headway
has been made during the last two years to implement Tamil as an
official language and promote communal amity and mutual understanding
among the different communities towards the goal of unifying the country
as one nation.
He said the last UNHCR resolution was not drastic but in implementing
the LLRC report which the Government has started on, there are
interventions from interested parties and States who attempt to
re-activate the issue.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: As Minister of National Languages and Social Integration,
how far have you been successful in implementing Tamil, with Sinhalese,
as the official language and promoting communal amity in the country?
A: We have come a long way in the last two years. I believe a
number of government institutions that have not been using Tamil as an
official language along with Sinhalese are now using it. In the
bilingual secretariat areas Tamil administrative officers are operating
fully, other than in police stations and hospitals.
More Tamil-speaking administrative officers are being recruited.
Similarly, Management Assistants, which is the Government’s clerical
service, are being recruited from among those who can speak Tamil as
well, especially from the Tamil and Muslim communities. The total number
required will be recruited in this manner. Only about 10 percent of the
Sinhalese know Tamil while about 30 percent Tamils know Sinhalese.
This is a major drawback for the mutual understanding and goodwill
among the communities. So we are implementing programs for more people
to learn the others’ language. It will gradually resolve the problems
and grievances of the people.
The Sinhalese are now learning Tamil and the Tamils are learning
Sinhala. We are promoting it as a Ministry. It will facilitate mutual
communication, understanding and goodwill. As more and more people learn
the two languages they will be able to converse with one another and a
greater understanding will be achieved.
The problems of security, self-respect and dignity arose mainly due
to the communication gap. All these problems will be resolved if the
communication gap can be overcome.
Around 28,000 – 30,000 people have been trained in Sinhalese and
Tamil, according to the interests expressed by the language societies
under the 'two language cadre program'. Over 40,000 public servants were
trained in the ‘other language’ in 2012. When we reach the projected
target the grievances of the people will become nil.
Q:What do you consider as the main reason for the three-decade
long ethnic strife and turbulence?
A: Mutual understanding is the primary requirement for
communal harmony. The lack of mutual understanding was the cause for the
problems in the past. Understanding will come only out of equality,
self-respect, individual security and equal opportunities. So we, the
government, should make those things possible.
Once they are promoted, understanding will follow between and among
the communities. Some of the grievances are due to logistical reasons,
some due to wrong attitudes of bureaucrats and certain groups and
sections of society, including the extremist elements who make things
uncomfortable for the smaller communities.
In the past, recruitment to government service was not done according
to the ethnic percentage and everything was polarised in the long
protracted war. These things are being addressed now.
Q: The Indian government has given protection to President
Mahinda Rajapaksa on his visit to India to pay homage at the Tirupathy
Hindu temple and at Bodhi Gaya, despite protests from fundamentalist
political elements. How do you look at it?
A:President Rajapaksa undertook a private visit to Tirupathy.
He is our President and he has political opponents here and abroad who
will denounce him, protest against his visits and do everything possible
to make him uncomfortable. But he is undeterred and the Indian State has
given him sufficient assurance and protection that he can move into any
part of India or South Asia on a private visit.
Q: Political analysts have insinuated that the presence of the
two super powers, India and China, in the country for their own
strategic reasons may pose future problems with regard to regional
security. What are your comments on it?
A: There is no Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
India as a big naval power, is our neighbour and relation as President
Rajapaksa said. India will act jointly and concurrently with us with its
naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Q: Will there be any repercussions if the UNHCR passed a
resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN sessions scheduled for next month
A: There will be no adverse repercussions in any material way.
It will depend on the wording of the resolution. The last resolution was
not a drastic resolution against us. Passed with the consent of India it
was ensured to be with the concurrence of the government on implementing
the LLRC report which we have already undertaken to do. We have launched
an action plan to implement the LLRC report. But there is intervention
by interested parties and States in the UNHCR.
Q: Sections of the international community have reiterated the
need for a solution to the grievances of the minorities. What are your
views on it?
A: We need a solution to the national question - we call it a
national question because the country has ultimately to be unified as
one nation. To unify the nation, we need an agreement reached through
negotiations and consultations with all communities.
It has to be based on preserving and promoting the identities of the
different ethnic groups and communities while unifying the country as
one nation. It has to be an agreement of consensus. A solution followed
by that should be on the manner in which the governance has to take
place according to the different communities, their needs and
Q: The TNA which has shown reluctance to join the
Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) talks to find a solution has lately
undertaken a visit to South Africa whose representative was in the
Darussman Committee which had adversely reported on Sri Lanka. What are
A: I do not think that the TNA is contributing productively
towards finding a solution.
They is increasing antagonism by their conduct and the position they
have taken on the issue. I do not think they have a genuine interest in
the unification of the country. The grievances are there, I agree. But
they can be resolved through discussions and agreements. No authority
outside the country can impose any solution on us. It is entirely a
matter for the communities of the country to reciprocate to one another
and evaluate a solution acceptable to them. The TNA should take part in
the PSC instead of going to cities and countries which have nothing to
do with the problem.