Chandrika gets down to bridge building

... Tamils still receive letters from Govt. in Sinhala

by Zacki Jabbar

Only about five percent of employees in the public service are proficient in Tamil as the national language policy has not been implemented, says  former President and current Chairperson of the Office For National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), Chandrika Kumaratunga.

She told a news conference in Colombo on Tuesday that on ONUR’s  recommendation the government was in the process of selecting 2,000  persons who were proficient in both Tamil and Sinhala.

"Despite Sinhala and Tamil being official languages, Tamils still receive letters from the State in Sinhala. This is due to only

five percent of public sector employees being proficient in Tamil. It is a serious issue which needs to be rectified as soon as possible. Our aim is to secure language rights for every Sri Lankan," Kumaratunga said, adding that most of those being recruited were retired people but with the skills and experience to get the job at hand fast-tracked.

The ONUR is the main government agency engaged in coordinating, facilitating and working on the  war related reconciliation process.

It had  discussed the various issues that came within its mandate with many organisations and it was the first time such stakeholder consultations had been held, she noted.

Kumaratunga said discussions were underway to introduce a National Policy on Reconciliation, which would reflect the people’s mandate and policy of the State for reconciliation, building an inclusive society and stable  democratic  country.

Reconciliation, Kumaratunga observed was also not possible  without proper infrastructure development. So, the government had launched a five year comprehensive development programme for eight districts in the North. The Prime Minister, she revealed had directed the Treasury to allocate funds for the purpose. Since an official decision had been taken any shortfall in funds could be obtained from the donor community. Thereafter, partners from civil society or government able to implement the programmes under ONUR’s guidance would be found, she said.

Kumaratunga said that they expected to complete a great deal of development work in the North by early next year.

The government was committed to ensuring a durable peace through building bridges  between all the people. In that regard ONUR would implement diverse programmes for achieving its objective of national unity and reconciliation. She said that would include engaging all Sri Lankans here as well as abroad in building national unity and reconciliation, create an inclusive society by promoting social integration, ensure coordinated development planning at District level, support the healing process within communities, address issues of female headed households, bring youth and children to the forefront in building national unity and reconciliation, facilitate restoration of lands to rightful owners, promote and provide for a society that respected fundamental rights, freedom, rule of law, equality and diversity, treat and respect all citizens with dignity and non-discrimination irrespective of ethnicity, religion, language, caste, age, gender, sexual orientation, birthplace and political opinion.

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