In what maybe considered as a ‘baby step’ towards genuine reconciliation, Sri Lanka today witnessed a rare occurrence on it’s 68th Independence Day celebrations, when a symbolic gesture was made in decades with the singing of the national anthem in Tamil at the formal celebrations held at the Galle Face in Colombo.
The singing of the national anthem also stirred emotions in several Tamil legislators including the leader of the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan, who was reportedly seen in tears while the anthem was sung in his native language.
The event brought mixed reactions, with some taking to social media to approve and disapprove the move, where some termed the gesture as an important step towards genuine reconciliation, while others claimed it was another step towards separating the country into two.
Minister of National Dialogue, Mano Ganesan in a Tweet said that the national anthem sung in Tamil after decades is a victory in Sri Lanka’s co-existence journey. “Yes, it’s a very small act, but it’s a step forward.”
The Movement for Equal Rights said that if Sri Lanka is to achieve true independence and reconciliation, politicians harbouring extremists’ views who even go to the extent of protesting against the national anthem being sung in Tamil must first be defeated.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva in a Facebook post said, “A first in my lifetime. After many years, the independence day celebrations came to a close with the national anthem sung in Tamil.”
In response to his post, a follower on his page by the name of Amali de Silva said, “It should always be one country, one national anthem, get an example from our neighbour India, they have only one national anthem although they speak nearly 60 languages.”
In response to her, the deputy foreign minister wrote back saying, “According to her (Amali’s) FB page, she lives in Australia. I have noticed that a lot of Sri Lankans who are critical of our government’s efforts to unite this nation are actually living comfortable lives overseas!”
Meanwhile 600 prisoners, including 13 females, who had committed minor offences, were granted a presidential pardon in view of the 68th independence day.