Sunday, 19 December 2010

Why it is necessary to have one National Anthem sung in one language ?

Ananda Samarakoon

The necessity to sing our National Anthem in Sinhala is being debated now. It appears to be an appropriate time to discuss the importance of a National Anthem and in which language it should be sung. There are comparisons of the language of the National anthems sung in different countries.

It is time that we in Sri Lanka should in certain matters take our own decisions evaluating our own situation, cultural values , our national construct etc. without having to do some thing because some others are doing it, or some others are not doing it.

It should be the same with regard to the choice of the language in which the National Anthem is sung, or even what flag we should have as our national symbol. Sri Lanka has evolved since its Independence from the British Rule in 1948. Our Independence took significant changes. The first Independence was negotiated by the then National political leadership. We were then able to face the British rulers as a united Nation and demand Independence.

There were no Communal differences then. In 1951 the Sinhala lyrics of the song Apa Sri Lanka was initially accepted as the National Anthem, the beginning of the song was subsequently changed. It was thereafter translated into Tamil and those who wanted to sing it in Tamil was allowed to do so, for the sake of convenience.

A nation should have one National Anthem and it should be sung preferably in the National language. It is not important that in India it is sung in Bengali, or in Malaysia it is sung in Malay, or in South Africa it is sung in several ethnic languages. If Sri Lanka were to be a true nation without communal distinctions, we may also have our National Anthem in Tamil. For that the Tamils should make patriotic moves.

But India , Malaysia, and South Africa or even Canada have a reasons for having their National Anthem in different languages . It is simply because in those countries the different ethnic communities have no “unholy” wars with the respective governments about setting up “homelands” or demand recognition of different ethnic languages as National languages.

In India, whether one comes from Gujarat, TamilNadu, Kerala or Maharashtra, they are all Indians. They speak different languages as well, but Hindi is the National Language. It is the Same with Malaysia- they are all Malaysians, or in South Africa they are all South Aftricans.

Unfortunately in Sri Lanka the Tamils want to make it different. The Tamils in Sri lanka are not Sri Lankans, but they are Tamils in Sri Lanka. That is the problem.

That is also the problem in every thing in Sri Lanka with the Tamils. They want Tamil also as the National Language. The Tamils have aspirations, the Tamils have grievances, Tamils want political devolution, Tamils want North and East for themselves,

Every Tamil Journalist pretends to be more intelligent than any one else. In Transcurrent DBS Jeyaraj, who sometimes writes objectively, is not without his Tamil “blinkers” when writing about the National Anthem. As he says the singing the National Anthem in Tamil had been left without objection. But it does not mean that we should not remind that the Official Version of the National Anthem is in Sinhala.

He says , “ It could be seen therefore that this Island nation has displayed a sense of accommodation towards the usage of Tamil language in the sphere of “officially” singing the national anthem throughout its post independence period.” Many things had been left as they had been for many reasons. “, because of terrorism for instance.

And as I pointed out it took a long time for the real Independence to come to Sri Lanka. After changing of hands from the British rule to Independence in 1948, Mr.SWRD Bandaranaike broke away from the UNP and formed the SLFP. MEP lead by SLFP came in to power replacing the UNP in the elections of 1956. It was the Independence won by the active participation of the people. The idea of a Nation came into being after the 1956 election.

It was this idea of a Nation that prompted Mr.SWRD Bandaranaike to declare Sinhala as the National Language. It was also the beginning of the Communal separation of the country with the racist politicians like Chelvanayagam, Ponnambalam and Amirthalingam opposing the Sinhala majority , sowing seeds of separatism. The Tamil Leadership in Jaffna was more interested in themselves and claimed official recognition of Tamil language with the idea of setting up a separate territory exclusively for the Tamils.

This resulted in the subsequent armed intervention by a group of Tamils from Jaffna trained by the RAW of India to resist the Government of Sri Lanka through armed terrorism. Sri Lanka suffered under terrorism for thirty long years and thanks to the election of Mr;Mahinda Rajapakse as the President of Sri Lanka , terrorism came to an end in 2009.

We now come to the third change of the 1948 Independence. This change into real Independence was after the elimination of terrorism, hand in hand with infrastructural developments, and an economic awakening and the election of Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse as the President of Sri Lanka for the second time.

The people are at last experiencing the real Independence of Sri Lanka, separating itself from the dependence of its former Colonial rulers, and distancing from unfriendly Western Nations who for still unknown reasons are conniving with the expatriate Tamil communities living in their countries to divide Sri Lanka between the Tamils and the Sinhala, probably to maintain their control over a divided Sri Lanka.

In the meantime perhaps to the greater chagrin of the West the World Bank has declared Sri Lanka a Middle Income Country. It is therefore a pride for all- the Sinhala, Tamil, the Muslims and other Communities to be awakened to this reality of being an Independent Middle Income Nation, and re-evaluate ourselves to rise to the occasion as a united Nation of Sri Lankans.

It is in this light we should evaluate the symbols of Independence as a Nation and revitalise our National cultural symbols such as the National Anthem, the National Flag and the National Language to fit into our real Independent Status.

The Tamils should at least now come forward to be recognised not as Tamils, but as citizens of Sri Lanka, and hold hands of friendship with the Sinhala, the Muslim and others as compatriots.

The Tamils have the very rude manner of calling the Sinhala, racists, chauvinists, supremacists and trouble makers, the moment a Sinhala stands up for his rights or make favourable demands in respect of matters of unity, not withstanding the fact that the Tamils as of right speak out loud all the time for Tamil aspirations, Tamil grievances or Tamil rights.

The Tamils should now realise that the Tamil “ aspirations” they emphasise are not for unity with other communities, but for division, to stand apart from other communities. Therefore, at least now the Tamils should accept the National Anthem in Sinhala without rejecting it as a discrimination against the Tamils. The two communities should now try to build a cordial relationship “brick by brick” without the Tamils rejecting anything related to Sinhala as a discrimination against them.

It is said that before we make demands from our parents we should ask ourselves , “ what have we given them ourselves for us to ask for more from them ? “.

The Tamils always keep on asking ever since the end of terrorism (and even before), for more Tamil rights, for Tamil aspirations, for political devolution, for Land rights, for settlement of Tamils in lands occupied by the HSZ, and for settlement of Tamil grievances and so on. The Sinhala and Muslims and yet others also have rights, aspirations , and grievances, but that is not important for the Tamils, because what is important for the Tamils is their rights…...

But what have the Tamils given in return to Sri Lanka, to consider that they have a better right to make demands ? The Tamils are not happy because the Sinhala is the “majority”. And therefore the Tamils think it is the Sinhala who should make sacrifices.

Haven’t the Sinhala already made enough Sacrifices more than the Tamils had ever made and will ever make in the future ? Doesn’t that it self make the Sinhala deserve a little more ? The Sinhala do not ask any thing for themselves, but they ask for unity , they want to work with the Tamils, and Muslims together as a Nation, so that there will be peace, and with peace there will be happiness.

The National Anthem sung in Sinhala by the Sinhala, Tamils and Muslims would be a symbol of unity. It will be an acclamation of unity with all the people living in this little Island which is nobody’s homeland, but every bodies motherland.

If there is again another terrorism it will again be the Sinhala Buddhists who will rise up to fight against the terrorists. Could we depend on the Tamils to join with the Sinhala if there is such a misfortune again ?

This is not political myopia-as DBS Jeyaraj would say.

DBS Jeyaraj says, “ After decades of a separatist conflict the alienated Tamil population is slowly struggling to be re-integrated into the political mainstream of a united nation. Now they were being denied the right to sing the national anthem in their mother tongue and dealt a symbolic blow .”

It is the role of the people like DBS Jeyaraj educated Tamils, to bring all the Tamils in to the mainstream of a United Nation of Sri Lankans.

Another Tamil journalist Shanie, writing to the most virulent anti Sinhala website Sri Lanka Guardian , says , “We trust the government will therefore re-think their short-sighted move and not make any changes in the use of the National Anthem in both languages throughout the country. The members of the Tamil Mandram at Royal College, for instance, should be able to sing the national anthem in Tamil at any official function; similarly at the Royal College Prize Giving, the students should stand to attention and sing the National Anthem each in his own language to the same tune. If any change is to done, we could think, as one writer has suggested of using the South African model in having the National Anthem sung partly in Tamil and partly in Sinhala so that all citizens get used to the idea of a bi-lingual national identity.”

These are the same educated Tamils who want the National Anthem sung in Tamil even in Colombo, but against Sinhala people settling down in Jaffna and the East, and who refer to ethnic chauvinism to insult the compassionate Sinhala people. Why cannot they even now use their poison pens to call for Sinhala-Tamil unity not as Tamils and Sinhala but as Sri Lankans.

Do they not realise that to pontificate in this manner is to provoke Sinhala to react against the Tamils for their intransigence , and they have a right to do so without being called chauvinists ?

The Tamils were not alienated by the Sinhala. The Tamils are alienating by themselves on their own accord. The Sinhala people are beckoning the Tamils to come and join them as citizens of Sri Lanka , as they are not Tamils just living in Sri Lanka.

Let us therefore begin by singing our National Anthem only in its original language

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