Sri Lanka’s National Identity, Official Language – National Anthem and the Sinhalese Majority
– by Shenali D Waduge –
Contrary to what is erroneously being promoted the Sinhela race did not descend from banished King Vijaya of India. The discovery of the Balangoda man depicts a rich civilization going back 38000 years. Undoubtedly what distinguishes the Sinhala people is their Sinhala language – both people and language found nowhere else in the world except in Sri Lanka. Thus, they become a distinct community with a unique language, Sinhale culture and literature evolved and developed within Sri Lanka solidified further by Buddhism. It became the source and secret of unity through history which is why these key areas continue to be target for annihilation by Christian West and their local stooges. There are only 14.8million Sinhalese speaking Sinhale and thus both ethnic group and language must be protected. All other cultures and languages in Sri Lanka originated from other countries. It was the Sinhalese that built Sri Lanka’s civilization.
With close to 7000 languages the world over, Sinhalese is one of the world’s oldest living languages with a history over 2300 years with inscriptions in Brahmi script (linguistically diagnostic in Indo-Aryan Prakrit) dating from 600-500BC found in remnants of pottery in Anuradhapura. The Sinhala script has won international fame in 1909 for being one of the world’s most creative alphabets and is named one of the world’s 16 most current creative alphabets.
Etymology of Sri Lanka with King Ravana naming Lanka as the capital followed by Sinhalana (Pali) meaning ‘land of the lion people’, Ceilao given by Portuguese, Seilan, Helanka ‘Lanka of Helas’ ‘Heladiva’ – Island of Hela’s (natives), Serendip (derived from sihalan-dip – island of sihala’s/Helas), ‘Taproben’ to former Ceylon. Present ‘Sri’ comes from Sanskrit for ‘resplendent’ and Lanka ‘Island’.
Sealing the Sinhale language, culture and people has been the philosophy of Buddhism and its noble tenets. In ancient times the partnership of King-Bhikkus and Buddhist culture prevailed. Threats to Sinhela language came from South Indian Dravida invaders who not only destroyed places of learning and Buddhist establishments but attempted to also destroy the Sinhala writings by burning libraries of ‘ola’ palm-leaf manuscripts by setting fire to them.
The Catholic/Christian Portuguese, Dutch and British took over from the Dravidians again targeting the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Sinhalese language. Had conversions not taken place the Sinhalese would have been all Buddhists no different to how Muslims are identified with Islam (ethnicity and religion one and the same). The foreign invaders however created a new ethno-religious group of Christians/Catholics from both Sinhalese and Tamils.
Once Britain controlled the entire country they inflicted the greatest damage to Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage and Sinhala language. English was introduced to undermine Sinhala language and culture through their infamous divide and rule policy. This meant special privileges (in education and employment) were given to Tamil minorities and the Sinhalese and Tamils who adopted Christian faith. By 1870 the British ensured only 2 Buddhist schools prevailed in Sri Lanka (in Panadura and Dodanduwa) with close to 250 children. Children attending Christian schools numbered close to 80,000. Revenge against rebellions resulted in orders to destroy property belonging to Sinhala people, setting fire to their homes, gardens, killing cattle, and destroying their livelihood, reservoirs and irrigation works – spilled water resulting in thousands of deaths from malaria. The British then took over millions of acres of land leaving the Sinhalese landless/homeless. The idea was obviously to kill the Sinhala population by starving them while those involved in the rebellion were beheaded and David Cameroon thinks he can come to Sri Lanka and demand answers to human rights violations. Britain has yet to account for 60,000 Sinhala deaths massacred by British troops in 1818 (leaders Veera Keppetipola, Veerapuran Appu and Veera Gongalegoda Banda). The Government of Sri Lanka cannot shy from bringing up these murders when Britain is borrowing figures given by Tiger remnants to quote during CHOGM.
Post-independence – Rule under Local English educated converted elite
When Britain gave independence to Sri Lanka in 1948 the power was given not to the Sinhalese or Tamils but to English educated elite from both Sinhalese and Tamils – Majority were ready to continue British way of things sadly not interested to fight for and demand justice for the injustices of colonial rule. Thus Sinhala language received step motherly treatment by both government and urban elite. It was a result of the Catholic Action that formed the Buddhist revival through the Bauddha Jatika Balavagaya (BJB) by Mr. Mettananda exposing the mass media which led to the Buddhist Commission Report in 1956 relevant in the present context. The Press Commission Report of 1964, by Justice K.D. de Silva, referred to the work of Catholic Action in the media and its control of leading newspapers in the country. Catholic Action was behind the failed Catholic Army Officers
Coup in 1962 to overthrow the legitimately elected government of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Catholic Action also meant it influenced the urban elite through attire, western norms, western values, mannerisms and behaviour etc in a slow transformation technique to denationalize the masses and to create religious and communal tension placing one community against the other pointing fingers against Buddhist ‘majoritarianism’. Mass media dominated by non-Buddhists takes over to continue the denigration against the Buddhists. Emphasis on English and Western values while looking down upon own native culture, language has been part of an exercise meant to keep natives feeling inferior and thinking they do not measure upto the West unless they copy everything they say and do. We are yet to shirk ourselves from this mental brainwashing – need is to decolonize our minds. This has always made Sinhalese Buddhists feel small and adapt the wrong western cultures thinking those to be the fad leading to the present wave of loss of values morally abundantly clear in the Columbian elite way of living.
Sinhala Only – National Language
Before critics jump to the conclusion that the attempt is to deny English, which has become a form of defence for the guilty, what is being outlined is the need to preserve, protect and promote Sinhala language alongside English given its distinct value as an indigenous language and national language. When Sinhala language is taken away as is seen craftily taking place a key component of the national identity is removed.
Yet, calls for justice soon became a political ploy leading to declaring Sinhala Only when the demand was to address the injustices suffered by Sinhalese and Buddhists. It resulted in unmerited resentment towards the Buddhists and led to political cunning by Tamil politicians to be prompted by British influence to place their demands. What never gets mentioned is Tamil was never a medium used in administration by British to feel aggrieved and what realistically annoyed Tamil elite politicians all of whom were from high class/caste was in reality the Prevention of Social Disability Act which meant low caste Tamils could also attend school, sit amongst other high castes and obtain education, that had been denied to them. These Tamil politicos went as far as to write to authorities in the UK and make their objections. It was this Act and not the Sinhala Only Act that generated mass protests amongst the Tamil elite and proper investigation of police records will show that riots were also first instigated by Tamils though they have become masters of erroneous propaganda.
Sinhalese MUST be spoken by ALL Natives
In a world of 196 countries with more than 5000 ethnic groups speaking close to 7000 languages. Han Chinese is the largest ethnic group in the world comprising 11% of the total world population. 885million speak Mandarin Chinese while English is spoken by 322million. English is widely used in the international arena on account of the legacy of colonial rule and the manner the colonial powers came to vest control of post-colonial international trade, diplomacy and human rights. Yet, there are nations too proud to give second place to their national religions and diplomacy prevails through translators depicting the pride placed on their native tongue.
- The Scottish comprise 9.6% of the UK population but Scottish Gaelic is not an official language of either the European Union or the United Kingdom.
- In Turkey the Kurds comprise 20% of the population but Kurdish is not an official language in fact there was a time when speaking Kurdish was banned under Turkish law.
- In Thailand the official language is Thai even spoken by ethnic Chinese who comprise 14% of the population.
- In Singapore English is the working language, Mandarin is the mother tongue of the majority ethnic Chinese while national languages are Malay, Chinese, English and Tamil.
- In India, the central official language is Hindi and English. Hindi is spoken by 38% of the population and no other language is spoken by more than 10% of the total population. Each Indian state has its own list of official languages. The 8th Schedule to the Indian constitution lists 22 languages the Indian Government has responsibility to develop. Tamil does not have national language status despite 65million Tamils living in one single state of Tamil Nadu where Tamil is the official language. But India insists on Sri Lanka making Tamil the official language when there are hardly 2million Tamils in Sri Lanka against 14.8million Sinhalese in a population of 20million.
The bogey of reconciliation and the fact that local stooges happy to act as cloned western liberalists, secularists and multiculturalists have come to inject the notion that political correctness translates to mean that to be ‘liked’ by the west, to be in ‘their good books’ is to slowly denationalize the Sinhalese national identity – Sinhala language, place of Sinhalese Buddhist people and the place of Buddhism. Thus, the authorities have been fooled into believing that the entire country should learn Tamil when ideally what should be declared is that the entire country should first learn Sinhalese the language of the majority, the language on which the country was built.
There is no issue in learning Tamil too but Sinhalese must be learnt by ALL first. What also needs to be reiterated is that Tamil language was given official language status through cunning. Tamil was never spoken in times of British rule, how then could Tamil politicians who learnt, studied and spoke in English feel aggrieved about the Sinhala Only declaration in 1956? How naïve was Mr. S.W.R.D Bandaranaike to agree to Chelvanayagam’s proposal following these outbursts for the proposal was all about federalism and nothing to do with Tamil language. So our leaders not only fell for the federal trap but also the language trap as well when in 1987 India forced down the 13th amendment with Tamil being made official language. Now authorities are compelling even the police to learn Tamil and fine them for not doing so when we would like to know why minorities cannot be fined for not learning Sinhalese for that is the majority language spoken by over 74% of the populace. Does England require everyone to know Scottish and Welsh? Does France demand their people to learn any language other than French? If Tamils who seek greener pastures in the West have no issues in learning French, German and other foreign languages because unless they do so they cannot live in those countries, why is it an issue for them to learn Sinhalese? The authorities are doing injustice to the majority race by NOT declaring the need for all citizens to learn Sinhalese first for that would put a halt to all the issues and as an extension of compromise and goodwill certainly people can learn Tamil but Sinhalese must be given pride of place first.
Virtually every country has a unique identity – it is what separates them from the wider world and gives them pride. The National Anthem is arguably one of the most important aspects of a country’s independent status. It is the umbrella under which the country can rally and be proud. It was no different to the ‘Api Wenuwen Api’ song that united the nation when our proud soldiers fought to finish the world’s worst terrorist organization. The words echo still :
…රටක් රාජ්යයක් වටිනා…, මේ මිනිසා…
“අපි වෙනුවෙන් අපි”,
Most national anthems revolve around the theme of war – depicting the struggles of revolution and rebellion. In singing the national anthem the story of the nation is told over and over again to instill patriotism and nationalism in citizens which is why it is sung at all national events. It is a wonderful feeling when a short song can bring the whole country together. The key element of any national anthem is the nation. The nation comprises the people bound by language, culture or common heritage.
Unfortunately, we have many still in our midst who think the British as saviours and our native rebellions as traitors!
During the past few decades there is an attempt to take away national pride from native people to make them feel they do not belong for in doing so it becomes easier for destabalizing agents to carry out their role and facilitate natives to transfer their loyalties elsewhere. This is ample reason why the Government of Sri Lanka should not take a lack lustre attitude towards the key areas that continue to unite the nation and serves to protect them politically. Those throwing western-aligned ideas while sitting in office are out to not only destroy the nation but working towards removing the political leaders themselves and leaders are naïve to think that currency can change the ultimate objective.
As an example of pride let us take the national anthem of America – the Star-Spangled Banner written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. The US plays the anthem at every opportunity. The U.S. Flag Code states:
During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.
The Anthems of France, Great Britain are also worthy of mention. The national anthem of France La Marseillaise is a symbol of triumph and liberty officially adopted in 1795. Great Britain’s national anthem is ‘God save the Queen’ – adding a Christian touch. All 3 national anthems have strict ties to the military. La Marseillaise was a marching song for the army, God Save the Queen was to garner support for the king because of the military defeat at the hands of Bonnie Prince Charlie while the Star-Spangled Banner was written during a battle which America won expelling the British from America.
Whether there is a distinct relationship with national anthem and war what it intends to instill is patriotism but in Sri Lanka when the subject of national anthem, national language is given to people whose ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ is questioned while they cohabitate with those attempting to destabilize and destroy Sri Lanka, is it a surprise we have proposals to change the national anthem, bring in hate speech legislature targeting the Buddhists only and other damaging directives which will emerge only after the damage has been done since the key leaders are choosing to ignore the warnings or careless for what is happening.
What makes Americans, French and the British proud of their national anthems is when they went to war they needed the support of not just troops but people back home – it was a link that brought the nation together. When that same link prevailed during the final months of Sri Lanka’s war the world led by UN called it ‘triumphalism’ yet we did not care for such labelling as we continue to do for if Americans, British and French can rally round their troops under their national anthem why can’t and why shouldnt we in Sri Lanka?
A country’s national anthem does not require PR agents to promote it, no posters to campaign for it, the words themselves have power to attract and each word resonates a sense of pride and duty. Which is why we continue to wonder why Sri Lanka’s post-independence leaders have failed to come up with a program where its natives are proud of their nation and their people. It also questions why authorities have adopted a lethargic stand on not making mandatory for all natives especially children to know and sing the national anthem. Again the argument is if our people can take citizenship in foreign lands and proudly sing the national anthems of these foreign countries with pride why can they not sing Sri Lanka’s national anthem? How many of our politicians claiming to be leaders of the nation actually know the national anthem themselves and can sing it word for word? Inability to sing it denotes nothing other than the fact that they have no love or duty towards the nation and the same is said of any native who does not know or cannot sing the country’s national anthem. It is no different to why these same people refuse to hoist the national flag and pay no homage to the national flag. It is no coincidence that those who hate to sing the national anthem, hate to hoist the national flag are the very people out to destabilize the country and have no love for it.
Multiculturalism is good for created countries not those with civilizational existence
For countries that have been ‘created’ where the nation is built up by ‘immigrants’ the duty to encapsulate their cultures and values can be accepted as a token of appreciation. However, in nations that have a rich civilizational link, a history and examples that show that the civilization was far superior to that which the West is trying to promote the idea of multiculturalism is not only unfair it is ethically wrong. Due place must always go to the indigenous natives and their culture and liberal notions that change to seasons should not play with civilizational cultures or history simply because they have no past of their own to be proud of.
We can take as an example how Canada was created. Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world. It has 10 provinces and 3 territories. Canada became a country in 1867 (just 145 years). But, Canada and the world forgets that there were native Aboriginal people who tried like other colonies to defend their territory and people from the French and British. The European rulers fought for the territory – Britain and France ended 7 years war in 1763 with France surrendering. Britain and America fought for the 13 colonies in 1775 which led to American independence. The land left over by the British became British North America and that became Canada 100 years later. Today, no place is given to the former natives of Canada and Harper preaches human rights!
Similarly, since 1990 there is a trend to break up nations and create new countries – 34 such countries have been created. The dissolution of the USSR and Yugoslavia contributed to these new independent states. From USSR dissolution in 1991 came the nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan (15). Dissolution of Yugoslavia created 5 independent countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992), Croatia (1991), Macedonia (1991), Serbia and Montenegro (1992) and Slovenia (1991).
Other countries created of late have been Namibia (independent from South Africa in 1990), Yemen (North and South Yemen merging in 1990), German (East and West merging in 1990), Marshall Islands 1991, Micronesia (previously Caroline Islands 1991 independent from USA), Czech Republic and Slovakia (1993), Eritrea (part of Ethiopia in 1993), Palau (administered by US 1994), East Timor (Timor-Leste – independence from Portugal in 1975 and independent from Indonesia only in 2002), Montenegro (part of Serbia and Montenegro 2006), Serbia (2006), Kosovo (2008), South Sudan (2011).
What needs to be reiterated is that the Sri Lankan State cannot sit like humpty thinking it can do a balancing act. Do we go back to valuing our cultural heritage or do we remain copy cats of western values for in doing so we belong neither here nor there which is why we cannot take pride in our national identity. When we have a rich national heritage why would we want to go behind values that are not ours and cosmetically use our past simply to fool all and sundry?
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