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Towards a better Public Service

The decision taken by the Government to make bilingualism compulsory for job confirmation in the public sector could be termed as revolutionary step and a watershed in the history of the Public service.

The move would certainly help end stratification based on ethnicity that has been tacitly practised in the public sector over the years and also eliminate xenophobic undercurrents among Sinhala and Tamil public servants.

It would also go a long way towards eliminating mutual suspicion and cliquism based on ethnic lines. It would help foster ethnic amity promoting brotherhood and togetherness between members of the two communities.

This would in turn result in increased productivity and overall improvement in the public sector. After all, the best results could be achieved only through a collective effort.

Our weekend paper the Sunday Observer quoted Constitutional Affairs and National Integration Minister Dew Gunasekera as saying that all new recruits to the public service must pass the second language efficiency test within five years for job confirmation.

He said under the public service policy adopted last year a public servant must have a working knowledge of both Sinhala and Tamil.

According to him 5,000 Sinhalese public servants sat for the Tamil efficiency tests and 1,775 Tamil Government servants in the North and Eastern Provinces sat for the Sinhala efficiency tests in March last year.

The results are due to be out next month. He said a series of language training programmes including residential programmes for language trainers, translators and interpreters are to be conducted in the soon to be set up Institute of Language Training.

We hope members of the Police and Security Forces too would be drawn into these programmes which would no doubt help with their PR that is crucial in the present context.

The Government which is striving to build bridges between the two communities should be applauded for mooting such a scheme which certainly would promote cohesion between Sinhala and Tamil public servants.

Time was when ethnicities were blurred in the public service where the common denominator was English. True, many English educated public servants including the Sinhala anglophiles became alienated with the insistence on the compulsory learning of the Swabasha following the social revolution in 1956.

But these changes should be viewed in the context that prevailed at the time when there was a clamour for such change which was not only confined to this country but was the trend in many Asian countries too who had just shed their colonial yoke, including India.

Much water has flown down the bridge since those heady days of nationalism and succussive Governments since then have been forced adopt to the winds of change.

The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has launched a vigourous drive to promote the learning of English among a wider segment of the population considering its utility value in the present milieu.

It would be ideal if young public servants too make use of this programme to hone their English language skills.

While appreciating the worth of public servants being inducted into bilingualism it would be appropriate that they are also exposed to the English language to fit into to new innovative methods in their specific fields.

There is a need to break the intimidatory hold English seems to have on most Sri Lankans (the Kaduwa syndrome). This can be only be achieved by making them interact more in the langauge in their natural environment.

Today a majority of public servants seems to be incapable of responding to queries by the public made in English and most replies from the Government offices arrive in the vernacular.

This method should change if the public are to be better served.

This is so even with correspondence in Tamil where the reply would be in Sinhala. This has been a perennial issue raised by the Tamil community over the years. This practice too should change if the bilingual scheme is to have full effect.

Afghanistan:

The Forgotten War

The forgotten war is back on the screen. Its rising death toll has rudely awakened the world. On Tuesday a blast killed NATO soldier on patrol in southern Afghanistan. An official statement said that it occurred in Nahri Sarraj, a district of Helmand province.

Full Story

Bio-fuel: Fading Optimism

Not very long away biofuel was hailed as the best and the cheapest alternative to fossil fuel, which has been not only depleting fast but also reaching staggering price levels.

Full Story

An icon for all time

JUNE 14, 2008, the 80th birth anniversary of the revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was celebrated in many cities of the world. In New Delhi, a photo exhibition highlighting his visit to India in 1959 was held at the India International Centre

Full Story

 

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