Featured image courtesy Sharanya Sekaram
The Official Language Act of 1956 replaced English as the official language of then-Ceylon with Sinhala, failing to give recognition to the Tamil language. It was only three decades later, in the 1987 13th Amendment to Article 18 of the Constitution, that both Sinhala and Tamil were granted recognition as official languages of Sri Lanka. In 2009, a further twenty years later, Gazette 25 laid down the National Language Policy, stating regulations that state offices and government departments had to offer services in both languages.
Though this policy is in place, shortfalls in implementation mean that individuals and communities across the island face various struggles with daily life and basic administration.
On International Mother Language Day, which falls on February 21, it is vital that we recognise how an issue as seemingly small as language inequality can hinder an individual’s daily life, access to services and search for justice.