Sumanthiran and the Sinhala language proficiency

21 February 2018 - 696   - 11

I was taken aback when I read in today's dailies that a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian had asked for a postponement of the debate on the Central Bank bond scam and the PRECIFAC report saying there was no translation of the latter report.


By Victor Gomez

I was taken aback when I read in today's dailies that a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian had asked for a postponement of the debate on the Central Bank bond scam and the PRECIFAC report saying there was no translation of the latter report.


He is reported to have asked how they can debate a report that is in a language they can neither read nor understand. He adds that if an MP refers to the report, he will not be able to respond because of the language issue.

That really is cute coming from the MP who complained - M.A. Sumanthiran.

He is an Attorney at Law who appears regularly in our courts of law in the south where the plaints and briefs are in either Sinhala or English or both, and rarely in Tamil.

One cannot imagine Mr Sumanthiran of all TNA MPs taking up that argument. He can appear in a court of law where business in conducted in Sinhala or English, but not in Parliament.

The Sinhala language is an official language of this country.

Strange isn't it. And, Mr Sumanthiran of course appeared for a Central Bank employee involved in the bond scam where Perpetual Treasuries, the controversial company owned by the Aloysious family was nabbed for its involvement in the Bond scam. But that is by-the-way, I suppose. A mere co-incidence, I suppose. No conflict of interest and all that.

One cannot recall him asking for court documents in Tamil when he so appeared. But that is, of course not to say Mr. Sumanthiran is not an honourabke man. Appearing for a central Bank employee involved in the bond scam has nothing to do, surely with Mr. Sumanthiran's alleged filibustering inter-alia in the Bond scam debate in Parliament on the grounds that the PRECIFAC report is in a language he doesn't understand.

One need not ask Mr. Sumanthiran to study Sinhala either if he wants to be in the national legislature because he is seen giving press conferences in Sinhala articulating the TNA position - or a section of the TNA's position, to the Sinhala public.

The Speaker has bent backwards by apologizing to the TNA MP. The PRECIFAC report is 8,000 pages that needs to be translated so that Mr Sumanthiran, an Attorney at Law can understand it.

And so, Parliament gives a 'date' (actually indefinite postponement) for the debate. In a court of law this is probably called - the case is laid by. In layman's language it is called these commission reports are put to sleep.

  Comments - 11

  • Jmmysm Monday, 19 March 2018 04:25 PM

    If we had kept the English language as the language of business and made Sinhala and Tamil official languages as well we could have reduced a lot of problems in this country. Every citizen should know English and his mother tongue. As all business is conducted in English there wont be any need to print separate reports, forms,text books etc in all three languages. It would have saved a lot of Money, our youth could have had international quality education and maybe would have prevented youth uprisings as well.

    Reply : 0       1

    Tamil_Citizen Wednesday, 21 February 2018 09:21 PM

    Please imagine the Sinhalese response, if Report is in Tamil which is also an official language.

    Reply : 0       2


    Bilingual citizen Saturday, 3 March 2018 09:27 AM

    But the Sinhalese lawyers do not practice in the Northern courts of law ..where litigants know only one language ..this comment is just on the person who is saying that he cannot take part in a debate because he does not understand the language ....Politicians always do this he is excused for he is paid to make the noise appropriately on the letter of the law not the spirit .

    Reply : 0       1

    Hart Saturday, 24 February 2018 11:40 PM

    Doesn't the Sri Lankan constitution guarantee reasonable use of the Tamil language to conduct business?

    Reply : 0       2

    Vaji Richardson Thursday, 22 February 2018 08:20 AM

    Should not the Sri Lankan parliament have scripts in all three official languages. This should be done in accordance with respect for all citizens who live in Sri Lanka. This journalist is trying to stir up tensions now, while, most of Sri Lankan’s want to move on from this absurd nationalistic ideas. This is old fashioned journalism, and certainly has no place in the world we are now living in.

    Reply : 0       2

    Sandun Perera Thursday, 22 February 2018 12:13 PM

    Guess the British House of Commons has scripts in English, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh! Joke.

    Reply : 2       0

    Sonali Peiris Thursday, 22 February 2018 12:53 PM

    Are we missing the wood for the trees? the writer is implying the MP scuttled the debate on a flimsy excuse given his legal hat in appearing for a bond scam suspect.

    Reply : 1       2

    Concerned Citizen Thursday, 22 February 2018 01:04 PM

    Suppose what Mr Gomez is saying is that Mr Sumanthiran is a lawyer who deals with law briefs in Sinhala. So what's his problem in parliament.

    Reply : 1       1

    Nigel Illankoon Thursday, 22 February 2018 02:29 PM

    This is in response to Vaji Richardson Open your eyes to reality Sir and stop swallowing everything that's being dished out with nationalistic sentiments. No one wants to debate these bond commission and other report findings period. Whether its because there are not enough copies, or the translations are not available - can't you see that each week its a different excuse. Next week it will be because the print is too small. As citizens of this country we have to smarten up and that's what this writer is trying to point out.

    Reply : 1       1

    SAM Monday, 26 February 2018 02:38 PM

    Isnt it a waste of time bringing it into parliament when it cannot give a verdict to it when over 70% of them do not have OL qualifications? Bring it straight to courts and give the verdict. Its like impeaching former CG Shirani Bandaranayake in SC.

    Reply : 0       3

    P. Alahakone Tuesday, 27 February 2018 04:40 PM

    How shallow minded. get this, it is the law and it must be given in all 3 languages. Whether Mr. Sumanthiran knows sinhala or not is not the point. It is the principle that matters.

    Reply : 1       2

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