the Blacklight Arrow

David Blacker’s Blog

Sinhala Only — Sri Lankan Government Abolishes Tamil Version of National Anthem

On Wednesday 8th December, 2010, the Government of Sri Lanka decided to do away with the Tamil language version of the country’s national anthem. The decision was made at the first cabinet meeting to be held since President Mahinda Rajapakse’s return from the Oxford Union fiasco. The unfortunate decision itself, as well as the timing of it, has resulted in much speculation as to whether it is an act of revenge for the British Tamil diaspora’s recent machinations.

The decision clearly isn’t grounded in any factual concerns — those voiced range from the inaccurate (no other national anthem is sung in more than one language — MR) to the absurd (India with 300 languages has a Hindi national anthem — Wimal Weerawanse). It is not surprising that Weerawanse, a man who was once hilariously unaware that The Old Man and the Sea was written by Ernest Hemingway and not Guy de Maupassant would be ignorant of the fact that the Indian national anthem is in Bengali, but I am surprised that President Rajapakse is unaware that nations such as South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand (amongst others) have multi-lingual anthems. What makes Weerawanse’s statement ridiculous, is that while it may not be possible to incorporate 300 languages into one anthem, it’s pretty simple to do so with two.

Excuses aside, there doesn’t seem to be any necessity to make this change. Traditionally, the Sinhalese version of the anthem is sung in Sinhalese-majority areas, and the Tamil one in Tamil-majority areas. There is an English version apparently, which I’ve never ever heard sung and which looks a bit cheesy, to be honest, when written down. Many Christian churches conducting services around Independence Day usually opt for WS Senior’s beautiful Hymn for Ceylon instead, set to music by Deva Suriya Sena. If the GoSL felt a need for some sort of standardization, the sensible (and sensitive) option would have been to have a verse in each of the official languages, with the majority language sung first, depending on the area. Continue reading

December 13, 2010 Posted by | government, Politics | , , , , , | 17 Comments

Lies and a Tiger — How a Diaspora is Killing its Own

Pro-LTTE demonstrations in Sydney (tamilsydneydotcom31/flickr)

Pro-LTTE demonstrations in Sydney (tamilsydneydotcom31/flickr)

As the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam grinds inexorably towards certain defeat for the self-proclaimed representatives of the Tamil nation, there seems to be no great fanfare, no glorious last stands. This revolution dies not with a bang, but with whimpers and cowardice. And lies.

For a year the Tamil diaspora, spread from Tamil Nadu to Toronto, watched open-mouthed with disbelief as the iron fist of the Sri Lankan infantry divisions cut the Tiger formations to pieces, hammering them back into a tiny pocket close to Mullaitivu on the island’s northeastern coast. Now, as the world watches, a mortally wounded Tiger cowers behind the very people it claims to defend, mauling them as it dies.

As the pace of the offensive slows down in the heavily populated Mullaitivu District, the Tamil diaspora has finally found its voice, and a cause worthy of its outrage – the Tamil population of the Wanni, trapped in the fighting and suffering horribly. They lack everything human beings have a right to expect – food, shelter, clothing, security, life itself. If anything in the northeast is worthy of our attention, it is these people, held hostage by their proclaimed protectors, forced to face the guns and tanks of the SL Army in the cynical hope that if enough of them are killed or maimed, the world might step in and save the LTTE.

Tamil family sit by a trench in the LTTE-occupied "No Fire Zone" (Human Rights Watch)

Tamil family sit by a trench in the LTTE-occupied No Fire Zone (Human Rights Watch)

The diaspora, organized and spurred by LTTE front organizations, chants its mantra of concentration camps and Sri Lankan government genocide of the Tamils, ignoring the fact that it is the LTTE, and not the government, that is holding the Wanni Tamils in these inhuman conditions. And like all human catastrophies, this one too, has spawned its celebrity hangers-on. First, Sri Lankan-born British rapper MIA, and now at the eleventh hour, Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy. These two individuals more or less represent the two strongest tones of voice we hear calling for a cessation of the Sri Lankan military offensive against the Tigers. Continue reading

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Security, Uncategorized, War | , , , , , , , , | 69 Comments