Sri Lanka: delegation requests implementation of official languages act

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 22 16:33:13 UTC 2007

O.P.A. on Official Languages Act

A delegation of members from the Organisation of Professional Associations
met the Minister of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration and
urged him on the need for the early implementation of the Official
Languages Act. President Dr. Hilary Cooray stated that the OPA is pleased
that the Minister is fully committed to this policy and has taken steps to
encourage a bilingual public service. The collective political will and
also the co-operation of the bureaucrats is absolutely necessary to bring
about the implementation of the dual language policy which could resolve
50 percent of the National problem. The recent incentive scheme introduced
to the public service is a step in the right direction. Dr. Cooray stated
that he would urge all professionals in responsible position who are
members of Member Associations to take meaningful steps in the
implementation of the dual langauge policy.

We should encourage and provide opportunities for the employees to learn
Sinhala and Tamil and also English, - the stipulated link-language. The
language policy should start from the School level up, he said. The
Chairman of the Official Languages Commission (OLC) has appropriately
stated - Neither national integration nor durable communal amity could be
achieved without giving effect to the constitutional provisions on
language. He has also stated ..there is an enormous gap between
constitutional provisions and their application. The OPA is firmly of the
view that effective implementation of laws and provisions of the
Constitution, are fundamental to Good Governance,-as also the need to
ensure continuity of policy.

While the 15 year plan drawn up by the OLC, is commendable, urgent
measures are also required in the short term to ensure compliance with the
law e.g. to ensure that all government signboards in Colombo are in at
least two languages. (60% of the people in Colombo are reportedly Tamil
speaking) The OPA has also offered to participate in monitoring
implementation of the Official Languages Law. The OPA is particularly
encouraged that it has been given an opportunity to participate in
developing the Sinhala and Tamil Language training courses via the audio
and visual media. This is being developed by World View International
(Pvt) Ltd who have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the
Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration. Raja Korale
is the OPA representative in the Steering Committee states, Dr. Hilary
W.M. Cooray President, Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri
Lanka in a press release.


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