Language barrier still looms large
It is a matter for regret that every successive government in the past, has wasted precious time in trying to solve the ethnic problem by appeasing a murderous terror outfit, without making any effort to attack the root cause of the dispute, namely language.
Although Tamil ultra-nationalism prevailed during the pre-Independence era, it is common knowledge that violence broke out only after the Sinhala Only Act. When S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayake failed in their attempts to rectify the damage caused by the Language Act due to Sinhala ultra-nationalism, no effort was made by leaders who followed to heal the language wound.
During my travels right across the U.S.A. from the East to the West coasts, I never experienced any difficulty in communicating with the American people. However, during my visit to Jaffna in 1977, being unable to communicate with the citizens there, I felt that I was an alien in my own country.
We have had government name boards and printed forms in all three languages during the past few decades. However, a Tamil civilian from Jaffna or from the hill country is unable to get his or her matter attended to at a Police Station or a government office due to the language barrier.
Every peace loving citizen in this country will no doubt appreciate the government’s three pronged attack, namely elimination of terror, affording instant relief to liberated civilians and its commitment to a political settlement of the ethnic problem. However, there has been no progress on the language issue for five decades.
An accelerated programme for compulsory acquisition of proficiency in all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English in the state sector, supported by suitable incentives is long overdue. All three languages could be compulsory subjects in schools as well.
If the government embarks on such a programme, in five to six years time, the citizens from the North, East and the hill country would acquire communication capability in the not too distant future, resulting in peace and harmony in Sri Lanka.