[lg policy] Sri Lanka: Do not let ethnic issue hinder development- Minister Nanayakkara

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 14 13:42:02 UTC 2011

Do not let ethnic issue hinder development- Minister Nanayakkara


The responsibility of all is to put the ethnic issue aside and not let
it hinder our development and progress, said National Languages and
Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara during an interview
with the Daily News

Following are extracts of the interview:

Q: What is the connection between language and the ethnic issue?

A: Ethnicity is important in social relations. It becomes
distinguishable by the language spoken. Therefore, language and
ethnicity are interrelated. There are many languages, ethnicities and
sub-ethnicities in the country. We are fortunate to have only two main
languages and three main ethnicities in our country. There are small
groups of other ethnicities as well. The question of using two
languages is the basis of co-existence. If all people living in this
island know both languages, we would have gone very far in uniting the
nation. In a country which had been a colony, the most important thing
is to unite the nation. Knowing two languages is a vital step and a
very big leap forward in this regard. Therefore we are now attempting
to get everybody to learn two languages.

Q:How do you address this issue?

National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara

A: Almost everybody including schoolchildren, teachers and government
servants must learn two languages. My ministry is responsible to
ensure that. Both languages must be written on name boards, in forms
regarding state affairs etc. The two languages must be seen and heard
in all public affairs. Then the two ethnic groups will feel proud.
There is a Language Commission and a National Language Policy in this
country which has prescribed two official languages. The policy must
be implemented through the Language Commission. We also have the
language learning and training institute to train government officers.
For others we have the language section in the ministry which offers
others training in the two languages.

When official languages appear on a name board, official document,
form, public announcement etc the people will overcome their
difficulties of not being able to read and understand. They will be
able to build good relations with other communities and the state.
Both have been distanced from them in the past. We will remedy this
situation. Then the Tamil speaking people will accept the goodwill of
the state and the Sinhalese community. Then they will trust and be
prepared to accept a reasonable arrangement in governing the country.
Communities will unite and help build the country.

Q: What do you think about the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee
to find a solution for the ethnic issue?

A: The proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) will assist to
solve the ethnic problem in many ways. If all parties which are
represented in Parliament, principally the parties in the Opposition,
such as, the TNA, are included in the PSC, that will be the best forum
where we can express our views, give our proposals and make our
suggestions in arriving at a mode of governance for the people in the
Tamil and Sinhala speaking areas.

Political parties may or may not reach a consensus. If they do not
reach a consensus at the very outset in the completion of the work of
the PSC, they can sit together and do the adjustments, give and take
and bridge the gap. The gap can be narrowed more easily than before.
Then we would have become aware of the actual problems that we need to
address, which may be minor or major. We will then be in a better
position to give our agreement in addressing the vital issues. The
minor issues can be further discussed later.

The PSC therefore is a good forum. The SLFP, all parties in the UPFA,
SLMC, other Muslim groups and hill country Tamil representatives will
undoubtedly take part in the proposed PSC and contribute towards
compromise and reconciliation. But there are one or two parties which
may not see eye to eye with the majority. But we can always let them
have their disagreements and accept their submissions, but, the PSC as
a whole can provide the majority position. It would then be known that
the majority holds the view of reconciliation.

The TNA will view the matter from their own standpoint. It may take
some time before they come to a consensus with the majority point of
view of the members in Parliament. The UNP can play the most decisive
role by coming into this and achieving a consensus agreement. They can
add weight to the PSC and the TNA could be persuaded to look at it
more favourably than before.

Q: How do you interpret the latest election victories of the UPFA government?

A: The UPFA has won everywhere with bigger majorities than before
which shows the confidence placed by the people in the government.

The most important fact is that the government held elections in the
North and gave the opportunity to people to exercise their franchise.
The government has given the TNA a grand opportunity to establish
their position among the Tamil people. That should be taken into

Lifting the Emergency regulations is a major step. The Emergency was
replete with thousands of regulations. Now most of those regulations
are gone and the people are free. Only a few regulations will remain
to manage a few things, such as, keeping the LTTE ban, further
detention of hardcore LTTE criminals and maintaining essential High
Security Zones. Relevant rules and regulations need to be introduced
for this. I would prefer if it is done under the PTA because then it
will be done under judicial supervision. But, the general decision
taken in this connection will not be harmful in solving those issues.

Q: What do you think about the Channel 4 videos, Darusman Report and
anti-Sri Lankan elements’?

A: We do not have anything to hide. There was a very bad war for too
long and a lot of deaths in both sides. Innocent people died. Nobody
would deliberately kill civilians. The armed forces were acting in
either defence or offense during engagement with the combatants.

The LTTE used civilians as their shield. The LTTE deliberately killed
innocent civilians in the villages. It is the LTTE which is
accountable. We are not accountable. If anyone accuses us that some
lapse had occurred from our part, I ask them to give the details and
we will hold a full investigation and take necessary action against
culprits. But videos will do nothing other than create wrong
impressions. We need evidence and details.

Q: What is the responsibility of the Opposition, public and media at
this juncture?

A: The responsibility of all is to keep away the ethnic issue and not
let it hinder our development and progress any longer.

Q: What do you think about the latest developments in the world, such
as, the killing Osama bin Laden, the Oslo bombing, London riots etc
and the impact they have on countries like ours?

A: Terrorism has been seen in the ‘heavens of peace’. This is only a
part of the crisis in the world, mainly the crisis of the American and
European economies.

There are cut-backs in social benefits and deprivations of welfare
programmes. Unemployment has increased. These things naturally come in
the form of unexpected earthquakes, shocks etc. The remedy is putting
the world economic order in a proper footing. The world economic order
must take the people as their priority instead of the profits of the
multinationals and finance capitals. Then we can end terror, anger and


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