Sinhala and Tamil proficiency will be compulsory for new recruits to the public sector as a means of promoting bilingualism and ethnic harmony, Constitutional Affairs Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera announced yesterday.
The Minister addressing the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit 2006 in Colombo said a Cabinet paper for this purpose would be presented next week. He said the new regulations however would not insist on English being made compulsory for public sector employees, but instead they would be given incentives for learning English.
Mr. Gunasekara said he would also introduce a Bill seeking to establish a National Institute of language training.
He said it was a must for all top public officials to be trilingual, adding that the highest salaries would be offered to translators and interpreters. He said this move was aimed at countering the practical problems still faced by the Tamil speaking people in this country.
?Today we see big gaps between Sinhalese and Tamils, Tamils and Muslims and Sinhalese and Muslims. So long as these gaps remain the practical problems of the people will continue. Therefore it is important to create the necessary conditions to counter this situation?, he said.
Mr. Gunasekera warned that legal action would be taken against officers who did not reply letters written in Tamil.
He said the Language Commission Act was passed in 1991 and that if it was not properly implemented the whole staff would be changed.
The Minister said in June this year the country would be completing 50 years since the language question emerged, adding that the 58 years of independence had been a history of missed opportunities in the context of nation building.
He said in his opinion the Indian model of federalism was a shining example.
?For societies like ours divided on ethnicity, language, religion or regionalist feelings, devolution and power sharing at the centre offer a magnificent compromise of ensuring unity in diversity?, he said.
The Minister said the Citizens Act and the Sinhala only Act made it obvious that the interests of the Tamil community were not being given due place, prompting moves towards regional autonomy by the Tamils.