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