Some questions on Sinhala and Tamil languages | Sunday Observer

Some questions on Sinhala and Tamil languages

24 January, 2021

There is much ado about the claims that the 1956 Official Language Act was responsible for the ethnic issues in Sri Lanka. The advocate of this notion must explain how the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) formed in 1949 sought to create a Tamil Nation as per translation of its name? They must also explain how a grievance over the Sinhala language could be solved by giving into a demand for ‘federalism’ as sought via the Bandaranaike-Chelvanagayam Pact. What does Sinhala language have to do with federalism?

Let us ask some questions, find the answers and think about the false notions being spread.

1 What was the language spoken during the rule of the Kings that ruled Sri Lanka?

2 Were the kinglets that the Kings established ‘independent’ and ‘sovereign’ or were they under one ruler who ruled the entire island?

3 Is there any evidence to show Tamil as an official language at any time in the island’s history?

4 What was the language of administration during colonial rule?

5 John D’Oyly learnt Sinhala, did he also learn Tamil? Why didn’t’ he?

6 If Jaffna was a separate kingdom, why didn’t British sign a separate treaty with the Tamils similar to the Kandyan Convention signed in 1815?

7 The colonials set up the best missionary schools in minority areas as part of divide and rule policy, giving the best education to the minorities and enabling them to secure the best jobs, thereafter – didn’t the Sinhalese suffer the greater discrimination during colonial rule as a majority? – their language rights, cultural rights, religious rights were all earmarked to be vanquished.

8 The ‘elite’ that the British nurtured through their education system in the English language, converting to Christianity meant that Sinhalese and Tamils who converted only could obtain English education. Were these not the ones who preferred to remain the chosen elite continuing to think and act like the British even after independence? Were these not the brown sahibs the British wanted to hand over powers to on their behalf?

9 Wasn’t the demand to reverse the discrimination to Sinhalese manipulated into showcasing a majority-minority rift, again part of colonial divide and rule policy?

The demand to reverse the discrimination suffered by the Sinhalese had not linked to Tamils nor did Sinhalese demand any rights to them denying anything to Tamils. But, the media campaign was tasked to show this simply to deny the rights due to the Sinhalese.

The publicity was quickly directed to showcase that the demand for reversing the discrimination to Sinhalese was actually a demand to deny Tamils their rights which they were enjoying in excess of their population ratio. Statistics will reveal the jobs enjoyed by Tamils in state sector on account of Tamils being given better education opportunities. The Sinhalese demand was not to deny what the Tamils were given but for the Sinhalese to be also given with the same spoon.

10 Did the Tamil language enjoy the official language status at any time of the islands’ history?

11 Did the Tamil language enjoy the official language/administrative status during the Portuguese, Dutch or British rule– if not, how can the 1956 Official Language Act making Sinhala the Official language and ‘reasonable use of Tamil’ become a grievance to Tamils? To claim that anything is purposefully denied, anyone has to be enjoying that right first.

It was only via a bogus and intrusive Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987 demanding passing of the 13th Amendment that Tamil was made an official language. Tamil is not a National Language even in India in spite of over 72 million Tamils.