Singing national anthem in Tamil receives mixed reactions

Ex- minister Mansoor praises Prez, PM for courageous decision


A group of students singing Tamil version of the national anthem at Independence Day celebrations at Galle Face, Colombo (Pic by Kamal Bogoda)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government yesterday went ahead with its decision to have the national anthem sung in both Sinhala and Tamil during 68th Independence Day celebrations at Galle Face, Colombo in spite of opposition to its move in some quarters.

President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Chief Justice K. Sripavan, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan, who is also the Leader of the Opposition, were in the audience.

The Tamil version was sung at the conclusion of the armed forces parade bringing the celebrations to an end.

Former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa last week castigated the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government for giving in to those propagating  separatist sentiments. The former President claimed the government was bending over backwards to appease India.

Standing next to former first lady Hema Premadasa, Trincomalee District MP Sampanthan looked on as the Tamil version of the national anthem was sung.

Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya said that the move would greatly strengthen the post-war national reconciliation efforts. The Tamil speaking people would certainly appreciate the government’s gesture, Prof. Wijesooriya said, urging all communities to sink differences and unite for peace and prosperity.

Asked whether the issue could be exploited by those who had been opposed to the move, Prof. Wijesooriya of the Sinhala Department, University of Colombo, emphasised that the singing of the national anthem in Tamil wouldn’t deprive the majority community of its rights.

He said national anthems were sung in more than one language in five countries including South Africa.

UPFA MP and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader Udaya Gammanpila told The Island that there was ground for moving an impeachment motion against the President for allowing the national anthem to be sung in Tamil in violation of Article 7 and Article 83. Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that in accordance with the Article 83 a change should be subjected to parliamentary approval by a two-thirds majority as well as endorsement at a referendum.

Speaking on behalf of the Joint Opposition, MP Gammanpila alleged that with what he called yesterday’s unconstitutional and stupid move was aimed at appeasing those who wanted the country divided on ethnic lines the separatist project would get a mega boost. Sri Lanka had now joined South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and Fiji as a country having two national anthems. The day separatist forces asked for a different national flag was not far away, he said.

Former Commandant of the elite Special Task Force (STF) and retired Senior DIG Nimal Lewke said that he fully appreciated the government decision. Lewke emphasized that as a person who had risked his life for the country he felt Tamil speaking people would certainly appreciate the government’s gesture. The international community, too, would acknowledge Sri Lanka’s efforts to advance conciliation process, the former police commando said.

Welcoming the inclusion of Tamil version of the national anthem, Leader of Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) and Jaffna District MP Mavai Senathirajah yesterday told The Island that the government had to address a series of other issues. He called for tangible measures to address longstanding contentious issues.

Former Minister A. R. M. Mansoor told The Island that singing national anthem in Tamil should never have been an issue. The veteran UNPer said that Tamil speaking people including Muslims had sung the Tamil version since 1948. "I sang the Tamil version on many occasions during my school days. Situation changed due to terrorism."

He praised President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe for having taken a bold decision. The former trade and shipping minister alleged that some of those who had been around former President Rajapaksa had caused rifts among communities.


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