Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sinhala Only Police Summons: An Open Appeal To The Governor, Northern Province


Dr. Laksiri Fernando
Hon Reginald Cooray
Northern Province
17 July 2017
Dear Governor,
Summons Issued in Sinhala Only and the Full Implementation of the Official Language Policy
Although belatedly, let me extend my sincere appreciation of your appointment as the Governor of the Northern Province, as I have known you for a long period, since your undergraduate days. It is also because of my confidence in you, that I make this appeal for your intervention on this matter.
As the Colombo Telegraph has revealed yesterday (16 July 2017), police summons has been issued to a Tamil Journalist based in Jaffna in Sinhala on the 12th July by the Achchuveli police. As reliably reported, this journalist has no knowledge of Sinhala language. Even otherwise, this summons appears a breach of the official language policy, the publicly announced reconciliation policy of the President and the government and even common sense of issuing such summons to a person.
I wish to bring to your notice the whole format of the summons. The Seal of the Achchuveli OIC is in Sinhala only. The Message Form used for the summons is in Sinhala and English, and no Tamil. I consider this is only a tip of an iceberg, where the official language rights of the Tamil speaking people particularly in the Northern Province are being breached. There are also reported incidents of parking tickets being issued only in Sinhala, among other matters. Prof. S. R. H. Hoole has brought this matter to the notice of the LLRC before.
I have some experience in visiting Jaffna during 2004 (or even before) as the Director of the Peace Building Project under the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs. I have noticed many instances of public notices and notice boards not being available properly in Tamil language. I had discussions with different ranking police officers on the initiatives of the Jaffna office of the National Human Rights Commission. One of the police grievances or claims was the lack of competent staff and facilities to properly implement the official language policy. I believe these should have been sorted out by now, or if not, I wish to draw your attention to that matter as well.
On particularly the summons issued to that journalist in Sinhala, I believe that there should be a police apology. Equally important is to make sure that such breaches of the official language policy would not be made in the future.
The most important is the full implementation of the official language policy in respect of the Tamil language in the Northern Province. While this principle is equally applied to the Eastern Province as well as some other provinces, I trust that you are better placed to take the leadership on this matter.
I also trust that your possible actions on this matter would be taken in full consultation with the Chief Minister of the Northern Province as a measure of cooperative devolution.
The full and sensible implementation of the official language policy in respect of the Tamil language is a primary necessity for national reconciliation.
Yours sincerely,
Laksiri Fernando

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