Sri Lanka: Ignoring each other's language cause of ethnic problem

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed May 16 13:25:18 UTC 2007

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

 Ignoring each other's language cause of ethnic problem - Official
Language commission chairman Mohammed Naalir

COLOMBO: Official Language Commission Chairman Raja Collure observed that
had there been proper interaction between Sinhalese and Tamils through
knowledge of each others' language Sri Lanka would not be witnessing an
ethnic problem today. "The prime reason for the ethnic conflict in Sri
Lanka is the language problem. If we were able to find a solution to this
at the very outset there would have been no conflict today. Knowledge is
the means which brings different communities under one umbrella," he said.
Addressing the media at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute Collure said
there are only a limited number of translators available in Sri Lanka.

According to the survey conducted in 2000 there were only 166 translators
throughout the country. Out of them only 44 persons were able to translate
Sinhala to Tamil while only 108 persons were able to translate Sinhala to
English and a mere 14 persons who were Tamil-English translators . "There
was no use of formulating an official language policy if Tamil speaking
people were unable to obtain their essential documents in Tamil.  Sixty
per cent of Tamil speaking people in the country live outside the North
East. They comprise muslims, Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian origin
plantation workers. They are facing huge inconveniences in obtaining their
documents in Tamil", he said.

He further said the Sinhala Government officers in the North East too are
facing the same problems as that of Tamil speaking people living outside
the North East. Addressing the media Professor Somaratne Balasooriya said
50 language translation centres will be established taking into account
the ethnic proportion in a particular area.


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