Sri Lanka lifts unofficial ban on Tamil national anthem
Sri Lanka's Independence Day celebrations marked the end of the Tamil National Anthem's exclusion from state celebrations, after an unofficial ban lasting several years. The country celebrated its independence day by singing the Tamil version along with the original Sinhalese National Anthem. The symbolic gesture is being hailed as a positive step taken by the government in reconciling with the alienated Tamil minority population.
After Sri Lanka won its independence from the British, the country adopted Ananda Samarakhoon's Sinhalese-language song, 'Sri Lanka Matha' as its National Anthem. Simultaneously, it was translated into Tamil by M. Nallathambi into a Tamil version, 'Sri Lanka Thaaye Naam Sri Lanka'. Although only the Sinhalese version was sanctioned constitutionally, both versions continued to be recognized for decades.
The 30-year civil war against Tamil insurgents came to an end in 2009 under the government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa. After the war ended, political hard liners declared that national anthems could be sanctioned only in one language and demanded a ban on the Tamil version. While a formal ban was never introduced, the military successfully dissuaded all institutions from using the Tamil version.
The Rajapaksa government was voted out and Mathripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015, supported by Sri Lanka's ethnic minorities. Soon after Sirisena's election, a 'Declaration of Peace' was read out paying respects to all ethnic groups killed in the civil war, during the Independence Day celebrations. Under Sirisena's administration, military governments in Tamil areas were abolished and several political prisoners were released.
Mano Ganeshan, the Leader of Democratic People's front and the Cabinet Minister for Co-existence, sought for lifting the ban on the Sri Lankan National Anthem's Tamil version. President Sirisena declared that the Tamil National Anthem would be reinstated in all institutions. Later, a committee met to discuss the constitutionality of introducing the Tamil National Anthem during the upcoming Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka.
"Those who love the country should promote both the versions of the national anthem as it would encourage a shared sense of nationality among all Sri Lankan people." - Democratic People's Front leader Mano Ganesan.