[lg policy] Sri Lanka's My3 Palanaya Bilingual Policy – A Warning

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Apr 4 15:21:42 UTC 2015

A response to Douglas’s queries on my My3 Palanaya Bilingual Policy – A
Posted on April 3rd, 2015 *Asoka Weerasinghe Kings Grove Crescent .
Gloucester . Ontario.  Canada*

Good Friday, 2015

*Sri Lanka’s My3 Palanaya Bilingual Policy – A Warning*

*Responding to Douglas’ Comments & Questions*

Dear Douglas:

I was pleased that you read my letter of concern to President Maithripala
Sirisena of 30 March, 2015.  It was written from my heart the way I usually
express matters with passion.   And that’s me, alright!  I am also glad
that you had some questions for me which I will try to respond honestly as
well as I could as you deserve nothing less but honesty as I am an admirer
of you as a patriotic son of our Mother Lanka.

I am also amazed that my letter had solicited a robust discussion with 48
comments. I offer my appreciation to all who contributed to the
discussions.  Thank You.

Giving a priority for the languages of the two solitudes” in Canada is
problematic for me.  I am greatly fond of the Inuit and the First Nations
peoples and I am a supporter of their causes, who were here – the *Iroquois,
Plains Indians, Haida, Athabaskans*, *Algonquians, Micmac*, you name it,
having their own languages and cultures, before the French and English
arrived.  I studied the Iroquois, Plains Indians, the West Coast Cultures
and the Inuit in the early 70s when I was responsible and Heading the
Thematic Research Section for the new Iroquois (*People of the Long* *House*),
Plains Indians (*The Buffalo Hunters*), Haida and other West Coast cultures
(*Children of the Raven*), and Inuit (*The Inuit*) brand new Exhibition
Halls for the National Museum of Man, at the Victoria Memorial Museum in
Ottawa.  And I cultivated an amazing respect for these First Nation peoples
and the Inuit. So that has been the basis when I have to deal with the
engineering of bilingualism in Canada and forcing it down our throats.

You asked: *Perhaps you would know that both these languages, viz. Sinhala
& Tamil have been ACCEPTED by STATUTE as Official Languages” of the
country; just as much as English and French are in your country – Canada.”*

Correct.  I do know.  Despite the billions of dollars spent since the
adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969, in Canada,  the already
derisory rates of bilingualism are falling in English Canada.  I wouldn’t
count myself an extremist” for having this negative view of bilingualism in
Canada, for questioning the cost and failure of the current enforced
language policy.

My advice to any nation that tries to reconcile any minority interests to
the majority interests by using ‘language’ is – DO NOT DO IT!  This may
sound very accommodating and generous to begin with but it will never work
out for the country’s interest and will end up with more animosity between
the two groups.  If Sri Lanka wants to do this, she *MUST* study what has
happened in Canada.

When a majority language group puts the minority language on the same level
(by making both languages carry the same weight and the same legal
standing), it puts the minority language at an advantage because there are
fewer people speaking or working in that language and it puts that language
at a premium if both languages are needed for any kind of government work,
which eventually effect the private sector.  I know, I sound a bigot.  But
this is just a realty check, an eye opener for all of us.  And it is easy
enough for people to understand that without a lot of deep philosophical

But here is Canada’s problem. Canada is so screwed up by giving the
minority group so much power in the use of their language that they are now
demanding that only the French language should be allowed to be used in all
French Institutions but ALL other institutions across Canada MUST be
bilingual.  Wow!  It is a hellava-how-do-you-do, isn’t it!    And I as an
anglophone would tell the French to go and fly a kite, and that your French
institutions  should be bilingual too. There won’t be concessions for you
French, and there won’t be any if’s and but’s.

If this bilingual policy was meant to create a new Canada that would be
more united,  more fairer and truly bilingual, then it has failed, big
time.  It has been 46 years since Canada adopted the Official Languages
Act.,  and make no mistake, Canada is not a bilingual country and far from

The Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian public policy research and
educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and
Montreal and tied to a global network of 85 think-tanks, says, Canada’s 10
provinces spend nearly $900 million annually providing bilingual government
services.  Including the $1.5 billion the federal government spends on
bilingualism, Canadian tax payers are footing an annual bill of $2.4
billion for bilingual services, a cost of $85 per Canadian.  This is

With all this money spent on bilingualism, according to statistics there is
a puny growth in bilingualism since the adoption of the Official Languages
Act in 1969.

Many Anglophones especially who have pursued French immersion program are
encouraged to consider themselves as bilingual.  But with no deep economic,
social and cultural reasons to master and maintain the French language, the
skill simply atrophies.

Why?  It is extraordinarily difficult for someone to become bilingual in a
country that is not.

Canada has tried hard and is still trying hard to call itself bilingual but
it is not.  So there you have it.  As a religion, bilingualism is the God
that has failed. It has no fairness, it has produced no unity and the
French in Quebec wants to be a unilingual French community  and insists
that the rest of Canada be bilingual speaking their French language, and
most of the time wants to separate from the rest of Canada. The cost of
this exercise  has cost the Canadian taxpayers untold millions annually.
So Sri Lanka, be warned and don’t quote Canada as a success story and
follow them.  You are going to fall into a pot hole filled with snow.

Douglas, you had asked, *Our studies show that a citizen who wishes to
enter the Government service, viz Federal Service has to possess competency
in both of those languages, as otherwise, he/she cannot secure a Federal
Government job.  The Federal Government job is the most sought after out of
all the jobs available.  Is that correct?*

Security in a Canadian Federal Government job is just a myth.  During the
last couple of years the Federal Government laid-off thousands and
thousands of workers making their jobs redundant right across Canada, and
the stress factor on the community was /is enormous.   As a result of the
Canadian cost cutting exercise, two summers ago I was at the temple (Hilda
Jayewardenaramaya) on Heron Road one morning as I am one of the leaders
together with Bhante Jinananda and Bhante Vijitha who conduct meditation.
That morning we were waiting for a group from the RCMP who were coming
seeking instructions in  *Mindful Breathing Meditation*.   The door bell
rang.  I went down to open the door and there was a lady at the door and I
asked her, Are you from the RCMP?” No I am not, but it is important, may I
come in and speak to you.”  So I invited her in.  And she told that 27 of
her colleagues at the Government Department of Social Services were given
pink slips.  And one was suicidal for having been laid off. Can one of your
monks please help by teaching us how to meditate to reduce our stress and
tension, and  also help our colleague who is suicidal, to come out of that
depression and calm her through meditation?”   The following day Bhanthe
Jinananda  and I went to her Department and guided 27 of them, all females,
who had lost their jobs, in  *Mindful Breathing* *Meditation*.  And it was
a good session and we hope it helped.

So much for bilingualism and so much for job security in Canada’s Federal
Government.  There are many more stories that I could relate, but I won’t.

Oh, yes, let me tell you of my situation in 1972 at the National Museums,
holding a Federal Government job as Head, Thematic Research Section of the
Design and Display Division in Ottawa.

I joined them in November 1970 and was in a unilingual English position.
In 1972, they made it bilingual (English & French), even though the job did
not entail the use of the French language.  We had a competent French
Translation Unit at the Museums to do all the translations of texts, et

I was sent to the French Language School to study the language.  I was
required to pass up to lesson 35, to make me bilingual to hold on to my
job.  I passed Lessons 7 and 15 but failed lesson 21. So I had a problem as
I would be losing my job.  And so did the National Museums have a problem
to let me go.  If they had let me go, they would have had to hire a
bilingual replacement (a liberal research scientist who understood design)
for me to supervise the Research Section responsible for 15 new Exhibition
Halls and three Museomobiles; the Senior researcher for the  Paleontology
Dinosaur Hall; a researcher for the Archeology Hall, and a research
scientist to be in-charge of the large interactive Tree of Life Exhibit in
the Animal Life Hall.   I happened to accept the responsibility to do all
four jobs as funds to renovate the National Museums did not permit us to
hire four new science researchers.  So what was the solution?  The best was
to  revert Asoka’s job to be a unilingual English position.  And so they
did.  The case in point was, did I have to be competent in the French
language and be bilingual”?  The answer is an absolute NO”.  A bit of an
unnecessary and foolish exercise and stressful to the incumbent in the
job.   And in particular when I was head-hunted and brought all the way
from London, England, to do the job.

But here is the real problem and a scary one which is what Sri Lanka went
through for 131 pre-independence years, when the minority Tamils were the
privileged” community riding on the backs of the Sinhalese who were the
wronged” majority due to the divide and rule British colonial policy.

When the majority of the senior positions at levels of Directors and so
forth  in Sri Lanka’s public service were staffed by members from the Tamil
community who hired their own ethnic counterparts to fill vacant positions
in their departments, whether they were bright, brilliant, qualified, or
duds or what-not, the majority Sinhalese were not happy about it as the
vacancies were not filled on the merit principle.  And there was no
fairness and we griped.  And here is a similar incident that happened in
Ottawa, the federal bilingual city in Canada.

Because of the Federal bilingual policy, the majority of the Human
Resources Sections in Federal Departments are staffed by mainly
Francophones.  And so was  in the Department where my friend was a
Director.  When trying to staff a couple of positions in her Directorate
had requested the files of applicants for the jobs from her Human Resources
personnel,  in came several application files and all happen to be of
Francophone applicants.  Then the question was, Are their any visible
minority applicants for the job?”  Yes, there are” was the answer, but they
will come in the second batch.” The call was this Director’s who demanded
having those files because she had a visible minority quota to fill. She
wasn’t happy about it and obviously realized what was going on.

Well, will such shenanigans happen in Sri Lanka  too in their hiring of
bilingual candidates.  It is also possible that a Sinhalese Director
ignores the merit principle and hires a Sinhalese candidate over a Tamil
candidate and vice versa.  So will bilingualism work in Sri Lanka where we
have gone through sick hiring practices prior to adopting the Official
Languages Act.   My guess is as good as yours when corrupt practices of
nepotism and cronyisms are prevalent in Sri Lanka’s society, even with the
present Sirisena My3 palanaya gang.  As in my estimation, none of them  can
claim that they have halos over the crown of their heads.  “Just show me
one”, I would say.

Let me respond to one more question of yours.  You asked: *Also in another
study it has been found that heavily populated Provinces” where
predominantly English speaking people live, the educational authorities
have set up a system to make available facilities for the students to learn
French by setting up a system called French Immersion” schools and study
programs to help them to qualify for wide range of employment opportunities
throughout the country.  What is wrong with such a system being introduced
in our country?”*

This is really a valid question.  But let me answer by quoting extracts
from an article, ‘*The real reason we send our kids to* *French immersion’*
that appeared in *The Ottawa Citizen* on July 23, 2008.   I say,  Read it
and  be warned Sri Lanka”.

*Keep out the slow kids.  Keep out the troubled kids.  Keep out the poor
and the crippled.  Only admit the bright, well-behaved, hard-working kids
from prosperous homes.*

*That’s the ideal classroom.  That’s the one  we want our kids in.  And
thanks to French immersion, we’ve figured out  how to get it.*

*Oh, well never say out loud.  We may not admit to ourselves.  But let’s be

*Everyone knows why French immersion is so popular among the ambitious
parents who drive high-end SUVs, serve on school committees, and draft
detailed plans for getting their children into Harvard.  It’s because
immersion is the elite stream.*

*In the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, more children (2,329 in
2007) start French immersion in Grade One than the English program
(2,014).  But in Grade Two, the number’s flip.  In each successive grade,
the gap gets a little wider as kids trickle  from French immersion to the
English program.*

*The rude word for this process is culling”.  Immersion is tough.  Kids who
struggle the French language are culled.*

*Forget national unity.  Making kids bilingual for the good of the country
is as dead as Trudeau.”*

*Given the importance of immersion in Ottawa, and the potential
consequences of streaming students at the earliest ages, one would think
that Ottawa-Carleton Board would be deeply concerned.  But one would be
wrong.  The board has no research on immersion and streaming.*

*Fortunately, the polite silence was broken by J. Douglas Willms, the
Canada Research Chair in Human Development at the University of New

*In the current issue of Policy Options magazine, Mr. Willms dissects the
data on early French immersion in New Brunswick and shows conclusively that
immersion is segregating students.*

*Kids with special needs are the first to go.  Mr. Willms found that while
17% of children in the English program are in special education plans for
the whole school year.”  That figure drops to 7% in French immersion.  But
that is just the beginning. The segregation associated with French
immersion is much broader and deeper.” Willms wrote.”*

So all in all the French Immersion program in Canada to make the whole
country bilingual has not worked out the way it should have.  If the
Canadian Government tries to sell their bilingualism policy to Sri Lanka,
saying it the best that was, the best that is, and the best that will be,
beware,  since adopting the Bilingualism policy in Canada in 1969,
Bilingualism is a complete failure and it is a failed policy. The Canadian
Federal public service has lost some brilliant, bright, intelligent and
very capable unilingual English-speaking Canadians because of this policy.

But if you ask me, Don’t you believe that the Government of Sri Lanka
should provide information to a predominantly Tamil community in Tamil and
similarly a Sinhalese community in Sinhala.  Sure, that’s how it should be
done.  And let’s find an intelligent and sensible formula to overcome this
problem and not get involved in social engineering with the two languages
and thrust it into the throats of the populace, for the sake of
reconciliation with the minority Tamils of the North.  I say that is

I hope you understand where I am coming from.

Keep well.



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