Sinhala Only is the Practice



M. Z. Abdeen-Kandy-writes

Though it is now settled policy that the Official Languages are Sinhala and Tamil with English as the link language, its implementation, as judged by government communiqués, lacks any commitment. Government letters and notices written in Sinhala only mostly, or in Sinhala and Tamil occasionally and hardly ever with an English copy, continue to be received as earlier. This causes much inconvenience (also justified annoyance) unnecessarily.


A few examples are:

A) ‘Life Certificates’ required from government pensioners every six months are Sinhala only when the back of the form can easily carry an English and Tamil version. This must be really irritating to those, like me, who had to retire prematurely for non-proficiency in Sinhala — the only Official Language then.

B) Notices regarding the enhanced rates of electricity and water units or disconnection of supply for non- payment of bills are in Sinhala only usually. Though this may be a routine matter for the department or Local Government bodies, it can create a lot of labour for the consumer, especially if he is employed far away and has to check up on the correctness of such intimation — a common occurrence really. Invariably, he has to get the clarification / interpretation from the same source of origin.

C) Recently I received a Declaration Form from a leading state bank (!) regarding exemption from Withholding Tax. The instructions were in all three languages but the Decln. Form was in Sinhala only. Certainly, one would expect a greater sense of duty and responsibility from an institute of this standing.

All these show how lightly (if not scornfully), this matter of the implementation has been treated up to now.

It could only be wished that this is not happening according to some agenda. This question of the Official Language(s) has seen some treacherous times and is in the capable hands of Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

It would be an inexcusable crime to allow it to flounder yet again simply for want of a little dedicated commitment.(DBS


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