Sri Lanka: Bilingual proficiency must for new Govt recruits

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Jun 14 13:53:30 UTC 2007


Thursday, 14 June 2007

 <%dim dbpath, pageTle, Section, Section1 %>     Bilingual proficiency must
for new Govt recruits

Rajmi Manatunga

COLOMBO: With a view to 'bilingualise' the public service, the Government
has decided to make proficiency in both official languages mandatory for
persons newly recruited to the service with effect from next month.
Accordingly, proficiency in Tamil will be made compulsory for all Sinhala
speaking persons recruited to State institutions from July 1 while those
speaking Tamil will also be required to prove their proficiency in Sinhala.
Constitutional Affairs and National Integration Minister D. E. W. Gunasekera
told the media yesterday that if the new recruits to the public service and
the provincial public service fail to acquire the required language skills
within five years of the appointment, their increments will be deferred.

"The decision was made as part of the Government's programme to give effect
to the Constitutional provisions on official languages, especially Tamil,
which have not been implemented even after two decades of their enactment.
We hope this measure would enable public servants to attend to the needs of
minorities more effectively and facilitate better understanding between
communities," he said. The Minister pointed out that although 25 per cent of
the country's population are Tamil speaking (nearly 61 per cent of them
living outside the North and the East), only six per cent of the employees
in the public service and 16 per cent in the provincial public service are
conversant in Tamil.

"Therefore, the language barrier is one of the main problems faced by the
general public in obtaining the services of State institutions. Similar
problems are faced by the Sinhalese in the North and the East where the
activates in most government offices are conducted in Tamil," he said.
Gunasekera said that several programmes have been launched to teach Tamil to
employees already in the public service. Accordingly, Tamil language courses
are held in most government institutions while an incentive allowance has
also been introduced for government employees acquiring proficiency in
official languages.

As a further step in the implementation of the Official Languages Policy,
the National Institute of Language Education and Training Bill was
unanimously passed in Parliament on June 7. "The Act provides for the
establishment of a separate institute for the intensive training of
government employees in the official languages. The premises where the
Institute is to be set up has already been earmarked and the Government has
allocated Rs. 45 million for this purpose," he said.

He added that the establishment of the Institute was a landmark given the
lethargic attitude exhibited by the authorities in the past in giving effect
to the Official Language Policy.

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