Sri Lanka: Sinhala, Tamil a must for new recruits to public service

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jun 30 14:08:59 UTC 2006

>>From the Hindu (Madras), 30/06/2006

Sinhala, Tamil must for new recruits

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Part of efforts to implement the dual language formula, says Sri Lankan

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Government on Thursday decided to make knowledge
of Sinhala and Tamil compulsory for new recruits to public service at all
levels as part of its efforts to "faithfully" implement the dual language
formula. Minister for Constitutional Affairs and National Integration
D.E.W.  Gunasekara told The Hindu that the move was aimed at redressing
the language-related grievances of various ethnic groups in the island
nation.  "Actually, we are 50 years behind time and such a measure should
have been implemented long ago. I told the Cabinet that faithful
implementation of the dual language policy could resolve 50 per cent of
the problems facing the nation and create an atmosphere conducive for a
dialogue on political issues."

Under the new policy, recruits to higher grades of public service would be
required to have O level proficiency. In other words, a Sinhala officer at
the entry level should have passed O level test in Tamil language and
vice-versa. A working knowledge of Tamil and Sinhala was compulsory for
the third tier of recruitments and minimum qualification for the second
tier of public service was ability to read and write in the other

Attractive incentives

Under the new plan, the public servants would be offered "attractive
incentives" to learn the second official language, and their proficiency,
tested through periodic exams, would count for promotions. Mr. Gunasekara
said though Tamil was officially accorded the same status as Sinhala after
the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord, the dual language formula was never
"fully implemented" and Tamils had suffered on account of it. "The
benefits of the 13th amendment to the Constitution have not percolated to
the Tamil-speaking population in the country which accounts for 25 per
cent. Besides, it should be realised that 52 per cent of Tamil-speaking
people live outside north and east."

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