Political double standards | Daily News


Political double standards

DMK, PMK sing national anthem in Bengali and call for bilingual anthem for Sri Lanka

The 72nd Independence Day celebrations will be held on February 4 at Independence Square in Colombo on a grand scale and the media reports indicated that the national anthem would be sung in Sinhala. Although an official announcement is yet to be made, some criticism has already been made by a section of the Tamil Nadu politicians.

Main opposition party in Tamil Nadu State Assembly, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and a minor party, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) criticized Sri Lankan Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for contemplating to sing the national anthem in Sinhala.

These politicians seem to have forgotten that all the Tamils living in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India, including themselves sing the Indian national anthem ‘Jana gana mana…..’, a Bengali song of Rabindranath Tagore.

DMK President M K Stalin, son of former Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi said the Sri Lankan Government’s decision of mandating singing national anthem only in Sinhala had disappointed him. “Disappointed and concerned to hear that the Sri Lankan Government has decided only to sing the national anthem in Sinhala for their Independence Day,” Stalin said in a tweet. “Such majoritarianism will only further exclude Tamils in Sri Lanka.”

Internal matter

Stalin did not stop after expressing his disappointment. He demanded the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Subramanium Jaishankar look into this issue. He called for the Indian government “intervention in this immediately.” Stalin seems to be thinking that Sri Lanka is a part of the Indian Republic to call for an intervention in internal matter of this country. This too at a time neither President Gotabaya Rajapaksa nor Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had made any announcement on national anthem.

PMK founder S Ramadoss, who together with V Gopalasamy – better known by sobriquet ‘Vaiko’ openly supported LTTE terrorists, said in a statement, “Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Government had declared that the Tamil national anthem of Sri Lanka would not be played in the upcoming Sri Lankan Independence Day on February 4, 2020. This is against 13th Amendment of Sri Lanka’s constitution framed to give powers to Tamils and Tamil language as per India-Sri Lanka agreement,” Ramadoss noted.

He is ignorant of the fact that the 13th Amendment was adopted to create provincial councils to devolve powers for local administration and not for devolving any powers that affect the unitary state and its sovereignty. It did not include powers on national sovereignty and security.

Vaiko, Stalin, Ramdoss and other Tamil leaders did not protest for placing Dravidians living in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Telengana as the 5th race in the national anthem which goes, Panjaba, Sindhu, Gujarata, Maratha, Dravida, Utkala, Banga. Nor there were any protests by Muslims or Christians for placing Buddhists, though a small minority in India, immediately next to the majority Hindus and pushing back the Muslims to 6th place and Christians to 7th place as the anthem goes Hindu, Bauddha (Buddhists), Sikha (Sikh), Jaina (Jain), Parasika (Parsi), Musolmana (Muslim), Christhiyani (Christian).

As Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, the Cabinet Minister for Public Administration, Internal Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government pointed out, a national anthem was one and should not be split in two. If the national anthem were sung in two languages, it would imply there were two states in Sri Lanka. In the United Kingdom, the people of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland sing the national anthem, ‘God save the King/Queen’. England has no official national anthem of its own; “God Save the Queen” is treated as the English national anthem when England is represented at sporting events. While Scotland uses the “Flower of Scotland” for most sporting occasions, Northern Ireland uses, “God Save the Queen” on all occasions. When Sri Lanka - then Ceylon – was a part of the British Empire, ‘God save the King/Queen’ was the national anthem of this country.

Indian national anthem

When Sri Lanka became free of British Empire in 1948, the government of Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake assigned the Lanka Gandharva Sabha to select a national anthem. Initially, the song – “Sri Lanka Matha/Pala Yasa Mahima/Jaya Jaya”, written by P. B. Ilangasinghe and set to music by Lionel Edirisinghe was selected as the national anthem. However both Ilangasinghe and Edirisinghe were members of the selection committee, there was a protest against the selection. Subsequently, Ananda Samarakoon’s “Namo Namo Matha” was selected. In fact, Samarakoon was a prodigy of Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, Jana gana mana… as well as Bangladesh national anthem Amar sonar bangla…

When some parts of North and East were under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the terror-outfit did not allow the national anthem to be sung in those areas. After liberation of those areas in 2009, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided that the National Anthem can be sung only in Sinhala. After the change of government in 2015, the National Anthem was sung in Tamil at the 68th Independence Day celebrations on February 4, 2016. This practice continued until the last year.

As some analysts pointed out moderate Sri Lankans who want to usher in ethnic amity and harmony on the basis of equality and plurality in the land of their birth, believe the practice of singing national anthem in Tamil should be continued as it would help to advance reconciliation. Some believe that discontinuation would be a symbolic blow to those Tamil people who want to live peacefully with their Sinhala brothers and sisters as equals in a united Sri Lanka.

While there are valid arguments for and against use of national anthem in Tamil, it is for the Sri Lankans to decide and Tamil Nadu politicians or any outside powers should refrain from interfering in such internal issues of an independent, sovereign nation.

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