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Sri Lanka's national anthem now only in Sinhala; Tamil version out

world Updated: Dec 12, 2010 20:58 IST
Colombo

The Sri Lankan cabinet has mandated the Sinhala version of the national anthem instead of a Tamil version used in some parts of the country, a media report said.

The move will mean that the Tamil version of the anthem will no longer be played at any official or state functions, the Sunday Times reported. The decision was taken on Wednesday.

At present, the Sinhala version of Sri Lanka Matha is used in all parts of the country, except in the North and the East, where there is a large Tamil population.

The decision to do away with the Tamil version came after a discussion at the cabinet meeting.

It was the first cabinet meeting after President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned from Britain, where a scheduled address to the Oxford Union was cancelled allegedly due to security reasons.

Rajapaksa told ministers that no other country uses the national anthem in more than one language.

He cited an instance where one time prime minister, the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike, had walked out of a function in the north when the national anthem was played in Tamil.

He said there could not be two national anthems and that it was a shortcoming that must be rectified. He said: "We must all think of Sri Lanka as one country."

Minister Wimal Weerawansa supported Rajapaksa's proposal and said that even in neighbouring India, where around 300 languages were used, the national anthem was only in Hindi.

However, two other ministers voiced their dissent. National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said the move would not be a suitable one. Minister Rajitha Senaratne endorsed the same view. Later, the Cabinet decided to adhere only to the Sinhala version of the national anthem.

A directive to use only the Sinhala version is to be sent out by the Ministry of Public Administration. All government establishments, including district secretariats, will be called upon to adhere to this decision.

The 1978 Constitution (Article 7) states: "The National Anthem of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall be "Sri Lanka Matha", the words and music of which are set out in the Third Schedule."