For about five years, there was an unofficial ban on singing the national anthem in Tamil.
The Sri Lankan government will stick to its decision to have the national anthem rendered in Tamil too at the official event marking the 68th Independence Day here on Thursday, amid objections from certain sections.
In 2010, the rendering of the national anthem in Tamil became an issue as the then Mahinda Rajapaksa government had toyed the idea of allowing only the Sinhala version to be sung. For about five years, there was an unofficial ban on the Tamil version to be rendered at official events. After Maithripala Sirisena became President in January 2015, the ban was lifted.
Commenting on the present government’s move, Lakshman Kiriella, senior leader of the United National Party and Highways and Higher Education Minister, told The Hindu that “the United National Front [led by the UNP] is a coalition of and for all races and religions”.
Thursday’s event on the Galle Face Green will begin with the rendering of the Sinhala version and end with the Tamil version, he points out, adding that there is nothing new about the move as this had been done even on the occasion of the first I-Day anniversary.
A few days ago, Thinakaran, a State-controlled Tamil daily, carried a report on the front page, reproducing the agenda of an official event in 1949 to establish that the practice of singing the Tamil version of the anthem had existed even then. At that time, the term used was “national songs” in Sinhalese and Tamil.
On the Rajapaksa regime’s approach, the Minister said that though there was no order in writing, the previous government did not follow the practice of allowing the Tamil version to be sung.
The anthem, called “Sri Lanka Matha,” was authored by Ananda Samarakoon, a student of Shantiniketan. It is said to have been influenced by Rabindranath Tagore. Criticising the government’s move, Uday Gammanpila, leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya , said there is no Constitutional sanction for the action.