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President responding to people’s wishes through Trilingual SL

The 10 year national plan for a Trilingual Sri Lanka provides the blueprint for the first determined effort by any administration since 1987 to seriously implement the provisions for a Trilingual Sri Lanka already available in the law with the passing of the 13th amendment to the constitution, said Presidential Adviser and coordinator of the Special Presidential Initiative for a Trilingual Sri Lanka, Sunimal Fernando.

The chairman of the Special Presidential Initiative for a Trilingual Sri Lanka is the Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and its vice chairman Sunimal Fernando.

He observed that the vast majority of Sinhala and Tamil speaking people both young and old from all levels of society and occupations want to learn each others’ languages and English. Referring to a sociolinguistic survey of Sri Lanka conducted in August 2010 by an independent research organization, he stated that it indicated very clearly that in steering the country towards Trilingual society the President was responding to the wishes and aspirations of over 90 percent of Sinhala and Tamil speaking people living across the country.

Mr Fernando also noted that no administration had sought to implement the language provisions provided in law with any sense of determination and passion until now. ‘For instance it is noted in the 10 year plan that only about 15,000 public servants (1.5 percent ) of the entire public service are being trained each year in the second national language.

Also according to the school census data shown in it, there were only 1562 teachers teaching Tamil as a second language and 536 teachers teaching Sinhala as a second language in the whole public school system, even though the system would need 23,000 trained teachers to teach Tamil to Sinhala students and Sinhala to Tamil students in the country,” he revealed.

He observed that the biggest component of the task falls on the Education Ministry whose responsibility is to deliver trilingual skills to the youth through the public school system. ‘It is the task of the Higher Education Ministry to develop Sinhala and Tamil as languages in which discourse and discussion, research and debate in all fields of knowledge and technology such as science, medicine, law, engineering etc can be conducted with ease and competence.

“The task of the Public Administration Ministry would be to evolve a Trilingual public service at all levels of administration while it would be the responsibility of National Languages and Social Integration Ministry to provide language learning facilities for public servants, judiciary, the security services and the general public throughout the country. In this daunting task, state of the art teaching skills, curricular, training and translation skills and material resources must be accessed and provided”, he explained.

“The 10 year national plan which was presented by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and accepted by the Cabinet was launched officially on January 21 with former Indian President Dr Abdul Kalam participating at the launch on the President’s invitation as the guest of honour. The President declared the year 2012 as the year for a trilingual Sri Lanka on that same day.

“The broad objective of the 10 year national plan was to spur the country within next 10 years towards a Trilingual society in which all people would be conversant in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Sinhala and Tamil would be the languages of discourse and discussion and English would be a life skill for accessing information and technology from the outside world and for qualifying our people for employment in the global society” Mr Fernando said.

The national plan was developed by an advisory committee of 23 persons, the majority of whom were professors and former professors of Sinhala, Tamil and English. To coordinate the implementation of the 10 year plan the President appointed a special Presidential taskforce for a Trilingual Sri Lanka with Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratuna as the Chairman.

A Task Force office is also being established within the Presidential Secretariat with a retired senior public servant G A J Sylvester as the Director General. Prof Rajesh Sachdewa, a leading expert in trilingual language planning and former Director General of the Central Institute of Indian Language in Mysore will be working for seven days a month for the taskforce as a consultant.

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