Do not let ethnic issue hinder development- Minister Nanayakkara
The responsibility of all is to put the ethnic issue aside and not
let it hinder our development and progress, said National Languages and
Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara during an interview
with the Daily News
Following are extracts of the interview:
Q: What is the connection between language and the ethnic
A: Ethnicity is important in social relations. It becomes
distinguishable by the language spoken. Therefore, language and
ethnicity are interrelated. There are many languages, ethnicities and
sub-ethnicities in the country. We are fortunate to have only two main
languages and three main ethnicities in our country. There are small
groups of other ethnicities as well. The question of using two languages
is the basis of co-existence. If all people living in this island know
both languages, we would have gone very far in uniting the nation. In a
country which had been a colony, the most important thing is to unite
the nation. Knowing two languages is a vital step and a very big leap
forward in this regard. Therefore we are now attempting to get everybody
to learn two languages.
Q:How do you address this issue?
National Languages and Social
Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara
A: Almost everybody including schoolchildren, teachers and
government servants must learn two languages. My ministry is responsible
to ensure that. Both languages must be written on name boards, in forms
regarding state affairs etc. The two languages must be seen and heard in
all public affairs. Then the two ethnic groups will feel proud. There is
a Language Commission and a National Language Policy in this country
which has prescribed two official languages. The policy must be
implemented through the Language Commission. We also have the language
learning and training institute to train government officers. For others
we have the language section in the ministry which offers others
training in the two languages.
When official languages appear on a name board, official document,
form, public announcement etc the people will overcome their
difficulties of not being able to read and understand. They will be able
to build good relations with other communities and the state. Both have
been distanced from them in the past. We will remedy this situation.
Then the Tamil speaking people will accept the goodwill of the state and
the Sinhalese community. Then they will trust and be prepared to accept
a reasonable arrangement in governing the country. Communities will
unite and help build the country.
Q: What do you think about the proposed Parliamentary Select
Committee to find a solution for the ethnic issue?
A: The proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) will
assist to solve the ethnic problem in many ways. If all parties which
are represented in Parliament, principally the parties in the
Opposition, such as, the TNA, are included in the PSC, that will be the
best forum where we can express our views, give our proposals and make
our suggestions in arriving at a mode of governance for the people in
the Tamil and Sinhala speaking areas.
Political parties may or may not reach a consensus. If they do not
reach a consensus at the very outset in the completion of the work of
the PSC, they can sit together and do the adjustments, give and take and
bridge the gap. The gap can be narrowed more easily than before. Then we
would have become aware of the actual problems that we need to address,
which may be minor or major. We will then be in a better position to
give our agreement in addressing the vital issues. The minor issues can
be further discussed later.
The PSC therefore is a good forum. The SLFP, all parties in the UPFA,
SLMC, other Muslim groups and hill country Tamil representatives will
undoubtedly take part in the proposed PSC and contribute towards
compromise and reconciliation. But there are one or two parties which
may not see eye to eye with the majority. But we can always let them
have their disagreements and accept their submissions, but, the PSC as a
whole can provide the majority position. It would then be known that the
majority holds the view of reconciliation.
The TNA will view the matter from their own standpoint. It may take
some time before they come to a consensus with the majority point of
view of the members in Parliament. The UNP can play the most decisive
role by coming into this and achieving a consensus agreement. They can
add weight to the PSC and the TNA could be persuaded to look at it more
favourably than before.
Q: How do you interpret the latest election victories of the
A: The UPFA has won everywhere with bigger majorities than
before which shows the confidence placed by the people in the
The most important fact is that the government held elections in the
North and gave the opportunity to people to exercise their franchise.
The government has given the TNA a grand opportunity to establish their
position among the Tamil people. That should be taken into account.
Lifting the Emergency regulations is a major step. The Emergency was
replete with thousands of regulations. Now most of those regulations are
gone and the people are free. Only a few regulations will remain to
manage a few things, such as, keeping the LTTE ban, further detention of
hardcore LTTE criminals and maintaining essential High Security Zones.
Relevant rules and regulations need to be introduced for this. I would
prefer if it is done under the PTA because then it will be done under
judicial supervision. But, the general decision taken in this connection
will not be harmful in solving those issues.
Q: What do you think about the Channel 4 videos, Darusman
Report and anti-Sri Lankan elements’?
A: We do not have anything to hide. There was a very bad war
for too long and a lot of deaths in both sides. Innocent people died.
Nobody would deliberately kill civilians. The armed forces were acting
in either defence or offense during engagement with the combatants.
The LTTE used civilians as their shield. The LTTE deliberately killed
innocent civilians in the villages. It is the LTTE which is accountable.
We are not accountable. If anyone accuses us that some lapse had
occurred from our part, I ask them to give the details and we will hold
a full investigation and take necessary action against culprits. But
videos will do nothing other than create wrong impressions. We need
evidence and details.
Q: What is the responsibility of the Opposition, public and
media at this juncture?
A: The responsibility of all is to keep away the ethnic issue
and not let it hinder our development and progress any longer.
Q: What do you think about the latest developments in the
world, such as, the killing Osama bin Laden, the Oslo bombing, London
riots etc and the impact they have on countries like ours?
A: Terrorism has been seen in the ‘heavens of peace’. This is
only a part of the crisis in the world, mainly the crisis of the
American and European economies.
There are cut-backs in social benefits and deprivations of welfare
programmes. Unemployment has increased. These things naturally come in
the form of unexpected earthquakes, shocks etc. The remedy is putting
the world economic order in a proper footing. The world economic order
must take the people as their priority instead of the profits of the
multinationals and finance capitals. Then we can end terror, anger and