65th Independence Day Celebrations: No bilingual rendering of National Anthem at Trincomalee
Congratulation Sri Lanka – The country will be celebrating tomorrow 4th February, the 65th Independence Day at Trincomalee, the Eastern port city, but the issue of course is about the rendition of the National Anthem – whether the traditional one or bilingual format.
The Independence Day celebrations will commence at 8.30 AM tomorrow with 100 female students from schools in Trincomalee singing the National Anthem.
It was reported on 23 January, that Minister for National Languages and Social Integration, Vasudeva Nanayakkara have proposed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to rewrite the ‘National Anthem’ with Sinhala and Tamil verses to be sung particularly at national events.
The National Languages and Social Integration ministry also has proposed that the new national anthem be sung at the forthcoming Independence Day celebrations in Trincomalee.
To clarify Asian Tribune contacted W.D.J. Seniwaratne – Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs and asked whether the National Anthem would be sung in the original form or else in bilingual – i.e. Sinhala and Tamil Languages, in tomorrow’s 65th Independent Day Celebrations in Trincomalee?
The Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne told the Asian Tribune, “The point is this that we are having the National Anthem and it is the National Antherm accepted in the Constitution and that National Anthem will be sung. You can’t meddle with the National Anthem, as easily as certain people think. That is the matter that has to be decided very seriously,” he said.
Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs said, “Now in practice in our country that in certain functions in North and East, National Anthem is sung in Tamil also, giving the same meaning that is given in the Sinhalese version. That has not been objected to.
Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne further said, recently I went to a function in the North to open an AGA’s office and there the National Anthem was sung in both languages – Sinhala and thereafter in Tamil. That is ok, but as far as the official recognition is concerned there is a traditional National Anthem , that has been in practice and that has been sung for the last about 64 years.
Given below the excerpts of the interview Asian Tribune had with W.D.J. Seniwaratne – Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs:
Asian Tribune: What about the recommendation by the National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nananayakkara about the bilingual rendering of the National Anthem?
Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne: Minister Vasudeva Nananayakkara has made a suggestion and the suggestion has not been referred to any committees so far. Only last week he made that suggestion. He said that will promote ethnic harmony.
Asian Tribune: I wish to endorse the views of Minister because majority of the Tamils - more than 90 % has never sung the National Anthem in their life?
Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne: That is very bad.
Asian Tribune: Because they say that they did not have a National Anthem in a known language for them to consider singing it.
Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne: You can’t expect that. In India there are so many linguistic groups, but nevertheless there is only one National Anthem. Everybody sing it.
Asian Tribune: But you are going to have this time the Independence Day celebrations in the Eastern Province - a Tamil area?
Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne: No that is a different thing. Whether we have it in South, East , West or North, we have to sing it in the language the National Anthem, that has been recognized officially? What Minister Vasudeva Nananayakkara has suggested was his personal view. That is not approved.
Asian Tribune: Was Minister Vasudeva Nananayakkara ‘s suggestion put forward either to the Cabinet or to any other committees for consideration?
Minister W.D.J. Seniwaratne: No… no. He hasn’t put forward his proposal to the Cabinet, but he has only made a statement to the press. I wanted to tell you that I think, two National Anthems are not found in any country in the world. When we follow India, it has only one National Anthem.
But National Languages is concerned we have two national Languages – Sinahala and Tamil.
Now that I am the Minister of Public Administration and all the letters that is sent to North and East is sent along with a Tamil version. It is not being sent in Sinhala Language saying that it is the official Language because both languages are official languages – we have recognized legally and constitutionally. So we adhere to that.
According to Sri Lanka : The Untold Story - Chapter 12: Tryst with independence - By K.T.Rajasingham
“ On the recommendation of the Sri Lanka Gandharva Sabha, a competition to select a national anthem was conducted in January 1948. Ananda Samarakoon's "Namo Namo Matha" (salutation to the mother) was chosen as the national anthem.
The main theme of the anthem is designed to instill honor and respect to the motherland and create national progress though unity.
The Sinhala and Tamil version of the National Anthem:
The English translation is:
Mother Lanka - we salute Thee!
Plenteous in prosperity, Thou,
Beauteous in grace and love,
Laden with corn and luscious fruits
And fragrant flowers of radiant hue,
Giver of life and all good things,
Our land of joy and victory,
Receive our grateful praise sublime,
Lanka! We worship Thee.
Thou gave us Knowledge and Truth,
Thou art our strength and inward faith,
Our light divine and sentient being,
Breath of life and liberation.
Grant us, bondage free, inspiration.
Inspire us forever.
In wisdom and strength renewed,
Ill will, hatred, strife all ended,
In love enfolded, a mighty nation,
Marching onward, all as one,
Lead us, Mother, to the fullest freedom.
During the early 1950s, there was a controversy about the anthem. A defect was found in the lyrics and the opening words were changed to Sri Lanka Matha - "Apa Sri Lanka" (Our Sri Lanka Mother).
The first rendering of the National Anthem was made on Independence Day on February 4, 1948, by a group of 500 students from Musaeus College, Colombo and it was broadcast over Ceylon Radio.
According to Sri Lanka’s Constitution Chapter 1, Clause (7) The National Anthem of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall be “Sri Lanka Matha” the words and music are set out the Third Schedule.
The Sri Lankan national anthem has translated lyrics for each of the country's official languages Sinhala and Tamil. It was actually written in Sinhala, but a Tamil translation is also played on some occasions and mostly played in Tamil Provinces and Tamil schools since 1950.
But in the Seventies singing national anthem was a taboo in the North and East and the Tamils living in these two provinces were compelled to use the LTTE’s Tamil Eelam anthem. The Tamil Tigers waged a battle for 30 long years for the bifurcation of Sri Lanka. But after the end of the ethnic conflict it is observed Tamils in the North and East are gradually beginning to give up Tamil Eelam – the Utopian state and considering living in a united country. There is also marked change in the thinking of the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance which was created by late Tiger leaders as proxy.
The Indian National anthem, composed originally in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, was adopted in its Hindi version by the Constituent Assembly as the National Anthem of India on 24 January 1950. It was first sung 27 December 1911 at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress. The complete song consists of five stanzas. The lyrics were rendered into English by Tagore himself.
In the meantime, South Africa's national anthem is unique and in that five of the country's eleven official languages are used in the same anthem (the first stanza is divided between two languages, with each of the remaining three stanzas in a different language).
Apart from God Save the Queen, the New Zealand national anthem is now traditionally sung with the first verse in Maori (Aotearoa) and the second in English (God Defend New Zealand). The tune is the same but the words are not a direct translation of each other.
Another multilingual country, Spain, has no words in its anthem, La Marcha Real, although in 2007 a national competition to write words was launched.
In the meantime, Tamil political leaders and some Western governments have accused Rajapaksa of moving slowly on reconciliation.
"This might reflect the true picture of the government," M.A Sumanthiran, a Tamil legislator, told Reuters. "This will stop Tamils singing the national anthem for ever if they want."
Among the many reasons given by Tamil for taking up arms was the introduction in 1956 of the Sinhala Only Act, which made the language of the majority Sinhalese, people the only official language in Sri Lanka.
That act was aimed at what Sinhalese leaders felt was the disproportionate representation of Tamils in the civil service. Tamils held about a third of government jobs at the time.
Under the constitution now, Sinhala and Tamil enjoy equal status, but in reality there are many government offices where only Sinhala language is spoken.
- Asian Tribune -