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Monday, April 15, 2024

National Anthem not sung in Tamil on Independence Day celebrations despite LLRC recommendation

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s pronouncement at the recent Independence Day celebration with reference to the LLRC report is an encouraging sign of commitment to addressing the issues arising out of the past decades of conflict and war.

The report was tabled in Parliament in December last year and has received much international attention.

In his speech to the nation, the President pointed out that the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission has stated that all are responsible for this problem. All those who act according to their conscience should take heed of this statement. Therefore, we have already started implementing what was in the Commission.”

Following the release of the report of the LLRC there has been some doubt with regard to the government’s willingness to implement the recommendations as many of them go to the heart of issues of governance and conflict that exist in the country.

However, the President’s willingness to bring the issue of the LLRC to the fore in his widely televised address to the nation and in the presence of the diplomatic community indicates that he is prepared to take a lead in building people’s support for the reforms that are required. This is heartening and requires the support of the opposition political parties, civil society and the international community.

The National Peace Council notes, however, that two important recommendations of the LLRC were not followed through at the Independence Day celebration. These were that the national anthem should be sung in both Sinhala and Tamil languages and remembering all victims of the war at national events.

In Recommendation 9.277 the LLRC stated that “the practice of the National Anthem being sung simultaneously in two languages to the same tune must be maintained and supported.”

In Recommendation 9.285 it stated that it “strongly recommends that a separate event be set apart on the National Day to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict and pledge our collective commitment to ensure that there should never be such bloodletting in the country again.”

We regret that despite the President’s commitment to the LLRC report the national anthem was sung only in Sinhala at the Independence Day event as on previous such occasions. The President also mentioned only the patriots who sacrificed their lives and not all the victims of the tragic conflict as recommended by the LLRC.

We believe that the government needs to find another opportunity sooner rather than later to demonstrate to the nation and to the international community that deeds will follow words and that a new future that takes the lessons of the past into reckoning has begun.

We suggest that all the recommendations of the LLRC with regard to reconciliation and the rebuilding of trust among the Tamil people be speedily implemented to convince everyone locally and abroad that the government is seriously committed to restoration of normalcy in the country and particularly in the North and East.

The religious leaders could join in these events through inter-religious meditation and remembrances. Schools could also join in such ceremonies, including sharing in home-made refreshments, after joint games and relevant dramas with youth taking part in joint activities encouraged by the youth movements.

We believe that a civil society initiative to implement these recommendations on important festive days such as the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in April is a necessity this year in humility and regret for the past and joyful hope for the future.


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