By N. Paulis –
“ No lessons seem to have been learnt yet,” – Human Rights activist and Attorney-at-Law SG Punchihewa, commented at a Workshop on the Promotion of Language Rights in Sri Lanka held at the SLFI last Tuesday saying that as far as Language Rights were concerned no lessons seemed to have been learnt, as obvious from the previous days Independence Day celebrations which ignored the basic recommendation of the LLRC on singing the National Anthem in both the official languages.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) organized a workshop for Journalists on on Language Policy and the Promotion of Language Rights in Sri Lanka, held 5th February in Colombo. Among the resource persons were Mr. S.G. Punchihewa, Attorney-at-Law and Human Rights activist, Mr S Adhirathan Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Colombo, Mr Abeykoon, Administration Officer, Official Language Commission of Sri Lanka(OLC) and Ms T Kajitha, Project Manager of Journey for Healthy Life Organization Jaffna ,
Senior journalists Mr. C. Dodawatta and Mr. Thibiriyagama Bandara also presented a section on the role of the Journalist in promoting Language Rights . Mr S Sivagurunathan, veteran translator and human rights activist facilitated the subsequent discussion with participant journalists on language issues, the current human rights situation and challenges faced by journalists in their work to highlight issues of social relevance.
Themes at the workshop included “Tamil Language Rights in Sri Lanka” by Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, former GA of Jaffna, ” Language Rights and the Law” by Mr SG Punchihewa, and “The Role and responsibility of the Official Languages Commission” by Mr Abeykoon, of the OLC.
The workshop was part of a project by CPA promoting language equality in 7 bilingual districts, which facilitated setting up of more than 200 regional Language Societies, the filing of a number of complaints on Language Rights violations and advocacy for the inclusion of SInhala and Tamil information in pharmaceuticals and medical and cosmetic products, among other initiatives.