|No Tamil in this military sign board|
The pace of implementing the Government’s Official Language Policy has been far from satisfactory, Minister of National Languages and Social Integration Vasudewa Nanayakkara told The Nation. Minister Nanayakkara admitted the Government had not gone speedily enough when it came to ensuring language equality in the country. He also acknowledged that not a single prosecution had so far been conducted with regard to language violations. “This is a matter for the Attorney-General’s Department and they have to advise us. However, nothing has been done for the last two years,” he further stressed.
The Nation pointed out that the legal requirement of giving due prominence to Sinhala and Tamil, the two official languages, and English which is the link language, was still being ignored in many places, to which he agreed. “If you look at Vavuniya, you have notices in all three languages. However, as you come further down to somewhere like Anuradhapura, the notices only appear in Sinhala. This is true, but the task we have is also enormous and we have been trying very hard”.
He added restructuring the Official Languages Commission was being given priority in implementing that language policy. “The commission is currently housed in two or three cubicles. They just don’t have the space to accommodate new staff. I have told them for over a year now to look for premises that can accommodate them better, but this has still not been done,” the minister revealed. The commission currently lacks a full-time chairperson, while the post of director-general remains vacant. Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Official Languages has been undertaking secretarial duties of the commission, which is not proper given his position, according to the minister. Such shortcomings have made speedy implementation of the language policy difficult and Nanayakkara acknowledged he was disappointed at the pace of progress.
“However, we have a research officer currently looking into the restructuring of the commission and we also hope to introduce amendments to the Official Languages Commission Act so that the process can go forward at a faster rate,” the minister said.By Sandun Jayawardana