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Solving the language problem

Sri Lanka is known as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. However, only a minor percentage of the population is proficient in all three languages - Sinhala, Tamil and English. Most others are proficient only in their mother tongue, sometimes with a working knowledge of another.

This has aggravated the vexed North-East issue. If a Tamil speaking person walking into a Government Department cannot correspond in Tamil, that could be described as a denial of a basic human right.

The lack of Tamil speaking personnel has become a great impediment to the quest for ethnic harmony and equality.

On another front, if a majority of Security Forces personnel had a good knowledge of Tamil, there would be a greater rapport between them and the civilians.

It is indeed sad that there are only a few Government servants who can handle both Sinhala and Tamil with equal ease. According to available statistics of the nearly 900,000 strong public service only around nine per cent are proficient in Tamil.

This problem is compounded when there is a need for exact translation or interpretation services. Urgent measures are thus called for to address this grave problem.

The Official Languages Commission has now recommended the recruitment to the public service of a sufficient number of persons competent in Sinhala and Tamil. This is a step in the right direction that will go a long way towards peace and ethnic reconciliation.

Language training programmes for public servants certainly help, but adults cannot grasp languages as easily as children do. As the saying goes, we should ‘catch them young’.

Teaching Tamil to Sinhala children and vice versa from an early age will help solve the ‘language problem’ in the long term. In this context, the plan to make Sinhala and Tamil compulsory subjects in students upto the GCE O/L Examination stage is highly commendable.

The media can also play a more vibrant role in this regard. Television stations and newspapers can present Sinhala and Tamil language lessons, on the lines of the famous ‘Follow Me’ series of English lessons aired on TV around two decades ago. Online media too can join this exercise as most public servants now have access to the Internet.

English should be given its due place as a link langauge that brings all communities together. English opens doors to the wider world and one cannot really forego it in this globalised world.

In fact, public servants and others should strive to learn other international languages as well to widen their horizons.

 

Boost for inventors

All big things begin with a small idea. Many of the things that we take for granted today - vehicles, electricity, television, radio, telephone, computers and aircraft are just a few - were only ‘seeds of an idea’ in someone’s mind. These pioneers had the courage to turn their ideas into reality.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. As economies expanded in the West following the Industrial Revolution, the need arose for better communication and faster travel.

This resulted in the invention of the railway, the motor car, the telegraph and the telephone. But one need not invent something from the ground up - it is also possible to perfect an existing device. Such innovations can also make our lives brighter.

Such an innovation by a young Sri Lankan student has brought global fame to the country. Nayana Sumangala of Ananda College, Colombo has won the best annual New Youth Invention Award from the New Inventions Development Institute of Japan, for his ‘Efficient Funnel’, an advanced version of the humble kitchen aid.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has lauded the creativity of Nayana and Sri Lankan students who brought fame to the country at the International New Inventions Exhibition. This is a firm assurance that the Government is fully backing local inventors.

Such backing is essential for Nayana and the other young inventors to actually market their products on a bigger scale. An invention is useless if it does not reach the masses. This is where the Government and the private sector should come in, to help the young achievers to commercialise products.

This should especially be so if the invention is low-cost and locally sourced, such as the clay water filter which we featured recently.

Herath Nawaratne, a youth from Nikaweratiya, has perfected a clay water filter capable of absorbing fluoride and filtering water leaving aside all impurities and organisms. Powered by gravity, it has a zero maintenance cost. These are just the type of products that developing economies need.

Local inventors - and investors who commercialise their products - must thus be given due recognition for their efforts. It will also be an incentive to many others who have a knack for inventions to present their creations to the world.

Climate change - responding to a global challenge

MORE frequent torrential downpours causing flash floods and landslides threatening lives and property could be attributed to climate change due to Global Warming. A sea level rise, droughts and a multitude of other changes would drastically change the world’s climatic landscape in the future.

Full Story

UP Elections - Mayawati proves wrong all Exit Poll surveys

Defying all Exit Poll surveys and political analysts, Mayawati’s BSP romped home victorious with a majority on her own in UP, the biggest State in India, by winning 206 out of 400 seats. BSP was founded by Kanshi Ram, a dalit leader, to empower low castes and Mayawati was handpicked by him to lead the party.

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Tigers take terror ops to space

While the attention of most remains drawn to the LTTE’s development of an air capability, a piecing together of its recent activities indicate that its new focus is on developing a much more ambitious capability in space, using it to best effect in its communications offensive against Sri Lanka, and to further its aim of being a dominant force in the South Asia region.

Full Story

 

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