Independence Day celebrations: Sri Lanka drops Tamil national anthem
This will be the first time since 2016 when there will be no Tamil national anthem at the Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka.
This year, there will be no Tamil national anthem at the 72nd Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka and it will only be rendered in Sinhalese. The announcement was made by the country’s government on Monday, demonstrating the administration's priority for the majority Sinhala community.
This will be the first time since 2016 when there will be no Tamil national anthem at the Independence Day celebrations in the country.
The then Sri Lankan government in 2015 started including the Tamil national anthem as a means of achieving reconciliation with the Tamil minority community.
The national anthem will be sung only in Sinhala, officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Monday.
Sri Lanka's Constitution provides for the singing of the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil.
The Tamil version “Sri Lanka Thaye” is a direct translation of “Namo namo matha” in the Sinhala language.
“The national anthem in Tamil is not just another song but the Sri Lankan identity of the Tamil speaking community,” said Mano Ganesan, a Tamil politician who was the former Minister of National Integration and had been responsible for the Tamil version being accommodated during the previous Independence Day celebrations.
Home Affairs State Minister Maninda Samarasinghe said last week that although there will be only the Sinhala version of the national anthem at the main ceremony, at province based ceremonies, the use of Tamil version will be permitted.
Last month, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree had requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa not to discontinue singing the country’s national anthem in the Tamil language as it “could cause many unnecessary problems internally and internationally”.
Sending a letter from Jaffna, Anandasangaree pointed out to the President that the right of the people to sing the national anthem in their mother tongue has been ensured by the Constitution and the Official Languages Commission, reported Daily News.
He also requested that both versions of the national anthem be sung at the national-level ceremonies to highlight the unity among the communities.
However, according to Jaffna Tamil Buddhist Association President Ravi Kumar, there is no need to sing the national anthem in Tamil as singing it in Sinhala is sufficient.
He said singing the national anthem in the Sinhala language does not affect peace and harmony among different communities in the country.
Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa after his swearing-in ceremony in November thanked the powerful Buddhist clergy for backing his presidential bid and vowed to protect all communities, while giving foremost priority to Buddhism. He also thanked the Sinhala-majority people for electing him.
While the Tamils in 2016 appreciated the symbolic gesture of recognizing them by adding the Tamil version at the Independence Day celebrations, the opposition, then led by the Rajapaksas and a majority Sinhala community member, filed a fundamental rights petition against the move.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who describes himself as "a rebel with a cause", earlier served as the country's President from 2005-2015, a period which was mired by allegations of human rights abuses, especially against the Tamils.
Muslims make up nearly 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's over 21 million people, who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists. About 12 per cent of the population are Hindus, mostly from the ethnic Tamil minority. Some seven per cent of the population are Christians.