No foreign languages in foreign-funded projects: Goverment

By Buddhika Samaraweera


Funding a construction project in Sri Lanka does not permit the funding country to use its language in connection with the said project, as the national official languages policy permits only the use of Sinhala and Tamil as the official languages and English as the link language, the Government noted.

Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Secretary J.J. Rathnasiri, when queried by The Morning on whether the language of another country could be used in a construction project funded by that country in Sri Lanka, in addition to the Sinhala and Tamil and English languages, said that there was no such possibility.

“Such grants come to the Treasury. Therefore, it is not possible to use the languages of those countries. At the ministry level, instructions have been given to use all three languages – Sinhala, Tamil, and English – for communication purposes,” he said.

Furthermore, Rathnasiri added that all government agencies have been instructed to implement the national official languages policy properly.

He made this explanation in relation to allegations levelled against several institutions, including the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department, that it has acted in a manner that is in violation of the national official languages policy.

A plaque was recently unveiled at the opening of the smart library at the AG’s Department which only contained a script in the Sinhala, English, and Mandarin (Chinese) languages, and not Tamil, which is an official language. The Chinese Government had sponsored the establishment of the said library and the then AG, President’s Counsel (PC) Dappula de Livera, and the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka were also present during the inauguration. The incident caused much controversy and former AG’s Co-ordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne said that the plaque, which had not contained the Tamil script, was inadvertent and that steps had been taken to replace it.

Meanwhile, when queried as to whether the Ministry of Justice had conducted an investigation into the incident at the AG’s Department at the ministry level, Ministry Secretary P.K. Mayadunne said that such an investigation was not carried out, as it was an independent institution. However, he said that all government institutions are bound to abide by the national official languages policy.

Recently, a photograph of a nameboard which did not contain Tamil at the Colombo Port City was shared on social media claiming that the Tamil language has been replaced by Mandarin. Later, the Colombo Port City, in a media release, stated that the said signboard had been removed from the site long before the photograph had started to circulate on social media and that it was an old photo.

Attempts to contact the Official Languages Commission of Sri Lanka and the Department of Official Languages to inquire as to whether they have taken any action with regard to the said incidents proved futile.