Colombo: Lifting an unofficial ban, Sri Lanka’s national anthem was on Thursday sung in Tamil at a ceremony in Colombo to mark the country’s Independence Day, in an effort to achieve reconciliation with the ethnic minority community.
School children rendered the Sinhala and Tamil versions of the national anthem at a colourful celebration at the Galle Face Green park to mark the 68th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain.
The move, despite opposition from some quarters, is being seen as an effort by the government to reach out to the Tamil minority after the nearly 26-year war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in 2009.
About 100,000 people were killed during the civil war. “A new journey begins by reinstating the singing of the national anthem in Tamil,” said Deputy Minister for Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne.
Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva in a Facebook post said: “A first in my lifetime. After many years the Independence Day celebrations came to a close with the national anthem sung in Tamil.”
President Maithripala Sirisena since becoming President in 2015 by defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa, under whose leadership the Sri Lankan forces defeated the LTTE, has begun several actions to win back the Tamils in the reconciliation process.
Mr Rajapaksa had imposed an unofficial ban on the Tamil version of the national anthem. At last year’s Independence Day celebrations a ‘Declaration of Peace’ was read out paying respects to all ethnic groups killed in the civil war with a pledge not to allow violence to recur.
The Peace statement was delivered in all three languages by school children.