Friday 1st of March 2024

English Tamil

Singing the National Anthem in Tamil is it a disgrace to the Sinhala Buddhists..?

2020-01-11 7806

(victor Ivan)

The hopes of the Sinhala Buddhists people on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa still remain high. But the country he has been entrusted to rule is not in good shape. It is in a deep crisis. Although the debt crisis has now become the main factor that determines all other aspects of the common crisis the country is facing, apparently there is no discernible change in the issues of race, religion and caste which constitute the main cause of the national problem.

Since the President had been elected solely by the Sinhala Buddhist votes, obviously he is forced to carry out the affairs of the government without harming the Sinhala Buddhist image of the government. Consequently, he is compelled to maintain the Sinhala Buddhist stance rather than adopting a neutral approach in addressing the crisis of the country. Apparently, the next big dream of the President is to secure a two-thirds majority in the parliament with the support of the Sinhala Buddhist votes at the forthcoming general election and therefore, he seems to issue appropriate signals occasionally, to keep the Sinhala Buddhist enthusiasm from waning.

It appears that the government has made it mandatory that the national anthem should be sung in Sinhala only , presumably to indicate that there is no change in its Sinhala Buddhist stance despite the relaxed policy it adopted in regard to the issue of Heroes' Day celebrations in the North.

The policy of the government that the national anthem should be sung only in Sinhala will not be to the satisfaction of Tamil people. However, it might not hurt them as much as Bandaranaike's Sinhala-only policy had oppressed them. It is unlikely that the government’s policy on national anthem will serve to strengthen the image of the president.

As Professor Silva has noted in the biography of J.R. Jayawardene, the government of D.S. Senanayake, elected in 1948 had to take a quick decision with regard to the national anthem to be sung at the independence day celebration scheduled to be held in February 1949 as the previous national anthem -“God Save the King / Queen” sung during the colonial rule was no longer valid for independent Sri Lanka.J.R. Jayewardene remembered the song "Namo Namo Mata" (Oh Mother Lanka, we salute, salute, salute, Thee!),composed and sung by Ananda Samarakoon with his musical orchestra at the National Conference held in 1934.He submitted a proposal to the Cabinet to select an appropriate national anthem. Accordingly, a Cabinet Sub Committee headed by E.A.P. Wijeratne was appointed.J.R.Jayawardene also served as a member of the committee. G.G.Ponnambalam and C. Chittambalam too served as the members of the committee.

Ananda Samarakoon was summoned before the committee. The committee indicated that they wish to adopt the song “namo namo matha”composed by him as the official national anthem of independent Sri Lanka and suggested that as the original song had been composed during the British rule, the 10the line of it - “Navajeevanya Demine” must be changed to suit the present status of the country.Ananda Samarakoon acquiesced to the request and modified it to read as "Nava jeevana demine nithina apa pubudu karan mata” (Inspire us for ever giving us a new life), The committee also decided that there should be a Tamil version of the national anthem and Pandith M. Nallathambi, a Tamil scholar was entrusted with the task to translate it into Tamil.

On 12the March 1952, the government published the Sinhala and Tamil version of the national anthem, in the form of a prominent advertisement in all the newspapers in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Since then the national anthem was sung in Tamil at all official ceremonies held in the Northern and Eastern provinces. The Radio Ceylon produced a record of Sinhala and Tamil version of the national anthem. Music for both versions was composed by Ananda Samarakoon while the Tamil version was sung by two Tamil singers, Sangari and Veena.

In February 1960, despite Ananda Samarakoon's strong protest, the government of Sirima Bandaranaike replaced the opening line “Namo Namo Maatha” of the national anthem with “Sri Lanka Maatha”alleging that there was an inauspicious error in the syllabic configuration (Ghana) of its first line. It was as a result of this dispute that Ananda Samarakoon, eventually committed suicide, out of frustration, by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets. The Tamil version of the official national anthem was sung in Tamil in the North and East where Tamil people lived until Prabhakaran banned the use of it, in the areas which came under his control.

The question whether it was appropriate to sing the officials national anthem in Tamil came to the fore in 2010 following the ending of the internal civil war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was of the view that the national anthem should be sung only in Sinhala. The Yahapalana regime lifted the ban imposed by the former. It has again been renewed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed office.

One of the most important points that the new government must recognize is that the Sinhala Official Language Act of 1956 is no longer valid and the Articles 18 and 19 of the 1978 Constitution has provided official language status not only for Sinhala language but also for the Tamil language. This provision is applicable to legislation as well as to all the affairs of the State.

Singing the national anthem in Tamil does not cause any harm or disrespect to Sinhala culture or Buddhism. According to Mahatma Gandhi, the way the minorities’ are treated is a good criterion that can be employed in judging the civility of a nation. Such acts indeed harm the dignity of the Sinhalese race.