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Sinhala, Tamil must for new recruits

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Part of efforts to implement the dual language formula, says Sri Lankan Minister

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Government on Thursday decided to make knowledge of Sinhala and Tamil compulsory for new recruits to public service at all levels as part of its efforts to "faithfully" implement the dual language formula.

Minister for Constitutional Affairs and National Integration D.E.W. Gunasekara told The Hindu that the move was aimed at redressing the language-related grievances of various ethnic groups in the island nation. "Actually, we are 50 years behind time and such a measure should have been implemented long ago. I told the Cabinet that faithful implementation of the dual language policy could resolve 50 per cent of the problems facing the nation and create an atmosphere conducive for a dialogue on political issues."

Under the new policy, recruits to higher grades of public service would be required to have O level proficiency. In other words, a Sinhala officer at the entry level should have passed O level test in Tamil language and vice-versa. A working knowledge of Tamil and Sinhala was compulsory for the third tier of recruitments and minimum qualification for the second tier of public service was ability to read and write in the other language.

Attractive incentives

Under the new plan, the public servants would be offered "attractive incentives" to learn the second official language, and their proficiency, tested through periodic exams, would count for promotions. Mr. Gunasekara said though Tamil was officially accorded the same status as Sinhala after the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord, the dual language formula was never "fully implemented" and Tamils had suffered on account of it.

"The benefits of the 13th amendment to the Constitution have not percolated to the Tamil-speaking population in the country which accounts for 25 per cent. Besides, it should be realised that 52 per cent of Tamil-speaking people live outside north and east."

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