Image courtesy Narenthiran

Read Part 1 here

There have been diverse responses to the singing of our National Anthem in both our national languages; some sensible, some stupid; some patriotic, some racist. Among the questions that arise are the following:

  • If the National Anthem depicts the unitary character of the state, do states that are expressly federal, or de facto federal or quasi federal have no right to a National Anthem? Many countries around the globe fall within these categories but all of them have National Anthems.
  • Do those multi lingual countries that have National Anthems that are sung in their National Languages fail to inspire their citizens when their National Anthem is sung in those Languages?
  • If the National Anthem cannot be sung in two National languages what of countries which have more than two National Languages in all of which the National Anthem is sung?
  • Who are war heroes? Do they include those who committed criminal acts in the course of or in the wake of the war? If we do not differentiate our war heroes from the war criminals, we would be defiling the reputation and honour of our armed personnel, most of whom fought bravely and honorably and suffered much in consequence.
  • Why did Tamil separatists oppose the singing of our National Anthem in Tamil? Singing the National Anthem in Tamil would promote National Integration and undermine the cause of the Tamil separatists. The Tamil separatists were intelligent enough to understand this, unlike some of their majoritarian counterparts who oppose the singing of our National Anthem in our National languages thinking that it would lead to secession.
  • In fact the LTTE and its hardline supporters were consistently opposed to federalism, even though they may have appeared to be supportive of federalism in some of their negotiations. They too were aware that successful federalism would undermine the case for secession.
  • puniselva

    It helps to know what the others do about their National Anthems(it also helps to remember that we fail to follow national and international laws in many matters):

    ”Although national anthems are usually in the most common language of the country, whether de facto’ or official, there are notable exceptions-

    States with more than one national language may offer several versions of their anthem: for instance, Switzerland’s anthem has different lyrics for each of the country’s four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh). Canada’s national anthem has different lyrics in each of the country’s official languages (English and French), and on some occasions is sung with a mixture of stanzas taken from its French and English versions. The Irish national anthem was written in English; an Irish translation, although never formally adopted, is now almost always sung.

    South Africa’s national anthem is unique 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 M?ori (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. God Bless Fiji has lyrics in English and Fijian which are not translations of each other.

    Another multilingual country, Spain, has no words in its anthem, La Marcha Real. In 2007 a national competition to write words was held, but no lyrics were chosen.[2] Inno Nazionale della Repubblica, the anthem of San Marino has no official lyrics. Europe, the anthem of the Republic of Kosovo has no lyrics.”

  • puniselva

    Here and elsewhere we can see Tamils are desperate to believe that the singing of the national anthem in Tamil is a good step towards justice, peace and prosperity for all. This author desperately comes back to defray the picture and thus patch up the reality portrayed by the picture.

    But you would be utterly confused if you look at
    i.the President’s speech(”we have to recover from imperialists’ rule that caused the 26-yr war”) he took the country back past 2010 (when conscientious Sinhalese told LLRC that successive governments had been oppressing ethnic minorities politically and economically from the time of independence and created the LTTE and that the constitution must be changed to give equality and justice for all and the submissions were taken off the LLRC website within days) to 1948. the last 10 days alone the non-stop contradictions among the govt politicians(including the PM and the Prez) and the verbal wrangling between the govt and Opposition MR faction,
    it seems that this singing is a ploy to keep the international community and the pro-govt South quiet while the armed forces(, give away only a glimpse) are strengthening themselves in the North

    • puniselva

      I meant Devanesan Nesiah by ”This author”

    • puniselva

      It is very unfortunate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was rebuffed by an army official in Jaffna when he went to launch the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanism two weeks back:
      But actually the President should have launched it in the South as
      a.Tamils had overwhelmingly voted for him on 08.01.2016 without any conditions though the Common Candidate mentioned only Good Governance and avoided mentioning anything at all about political solution: and’s a considerable section of the South that needs to be convinced of the need for a dialogue towards political solution as they support the former President in spite of the fact that he was dragging his feet without offering a genuine dialogue(they had a pretend dialogue for a period to cheat the international community) for a political solution.
      As Tamils have overwhelmingly voted for the TNA, the President may have a dialogue with them when the South is convinced of its need.

      • puniselva

        Pleasant surprise!
        The President has told a foreign visitor ”This is why it is necessary change the mindset of the people in the South. This is why reconciliation should be inculcated in the minds of the people in the South,” !! He must tell this in the cabinet and inthe parliament. He must call call the press and tell them. I deally this should have happened before the process of Reconciliation Task Force started talking with the citizens.

    • puniselva

      Sending Reginald Cooray (who stayed with the Rajapakse faction for weeks after the presidential election) as Governor of Northern Province glaringly spoke that singing of the anthem in Tamil is a screen for the absence of political will for a solution to the ethnic conflict.
      The Governor had discredited himself by saying that reconciliation can be brought about by intermarriages!

  • puniselva

    One would expect the President’s speech on Independence Day to be of great importance and posted on the President’s website and other govt websites urging all citizens to turn the page if there is genuine interest in bringing about Good Governance as promised on 0801.2015 and in bringing about ”unity and reconciliation” as trotted out to the international community. That speech would also automatically and wholeheartedly endorse the singing of the anthem in Tamil.

    Please let me post the weblink to the speech for the benefit of the other citizens:
    Unfortunately there is a liberal sprinkling of gobbledegoog that avoids two critical words: justice and equality. Let us see if there is any change after the workshop(Select Committee Capacity Building) for our parliamentarians run in the last three days by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch in our parliament.

  • Posted on behalf of the author, who sent this in via email:


    Puniselva :
    Any person who has read your response to my 1st entry to groundviews on the singing of the national anthem in our national languages would be deeply appreciative of the extensively researched details that have gone into your response. Your tone is in sharp contrast to the imperious tone adopted by one of our “scholars” whose ill researched and factually incorrect article in “The Island” on 19th February , under the title “National Anthem and language” prescribes that “ The National Anthem should be in Sinhala only”. This “scholar” goes on to wrongly conclude that “The Yahapalanaya government” has opted for Sri Lanka to be a “multi civilisation federal state”.

    While I remain cautiously and moderately optimistic, I agree with you that the outlook for Sri Lanka is patchy. In my view it helps to go forward if , firstly , we get our priorities right and, second, focus on the positives rather than the negatives. My priorities include National reconciliation; Freeing those held without charges; Justice and reparations for the victims of crimes; Rehabilitating war damaged societies; Restoring equal rights, which we lost very soon after independence, and Restoring law and order. To me, changing of the National flag is of low priority, but justice for the education officer murdered in December 2010 for resisting the order to organise the singing of the national anthem Sinhala only in Jaffna as well as for all victims of war crimes is of high priority. Investigating war crimes and prosecuting war criminals will clear the reputation of the large numbers of the war heroes who had fought bravely and honourably. The problem is that there are a few war criminals very high up in the hierarchy and it is they, not war heroes, who will be opposed to investigation of war crimes.

    I agree with you that the progress has been below expectations, with a shaky and internally fractured government confronted by a menacing opposition that seems to be poised to take us back to the situation pre-January 2015. Hopefully, the forthcoming elections and other developments will improve matters.


    Jayalath: Minister Vijayakala Maheshwaran and Chief Minister Justice C.V.Wigneswaran can answer for themselves, and I don’t need to come in. I am happy that you favour the singing of our national anthem in both our national languages. English is not our national language, and there is no English version of our national anthem. Bringing it into the debate seems to be a red herring designed to muddy the waters. Let us sing our national anthem in Sinhala and Tamil and focus on national reconciliation, equality and justice. A great deal needs to be done, and quickly.

    • puniselva

      Thank you very much, Mr Nesiah, for the response and for the articles you post here.

  • puniselva

    The rulers and the ruled need to remind themselves, frequently, of the goals they are striving to reach:

    Positive Peace Report 2015, Institute of Peace and Economics:
    ‘’ Negative Peace is the absence of violence and Positive Peace is the presence of the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Positive Peace provides a framework to understand and then address the multiple and complex challenges the world faces:
    A framework of eight positive peace factors:

    i.Well-functioning government
    ii.Equitable distribution of resources
    iii.Acceptance of the rights of others
    iv.Sound business environment
    v.High levels of human capital
    vi.Low levels of corruption
    vii.Free flow of information
    viii.Good relations with neighbours’’ –

    How many of the eight factors can Sri Lanka tick?

  • puniselva

    Minister of Foreign Affairs made speeches recently in the US to keep the international community happy about the promises of what the fovernment ”hopes to do”.
    There will be justice, peace and reconciliation only if he tells the Sinhala masses and the parliamentarians to reduce their opposition and get their agreement if the government has genuine desire for it.
    Keeping the international community happy will get the government aid and investment that mostly aid the South and will not filter to the North, the East or the upcountry rstate force.