THE STATUS OF THE TAMIL LANGUAGE

Address of Thanks to the Throne Speech in the Senate on  May 8, 1956

There are many matters which are not mentioned in the Throne Speech and I should like to enumerate at least some of them. There has been a very important Commission which has published its report, namely, the Buddhist Commission  Report.  The  recommendations  cover a very wide field of subjects and I find no reference to them in the Throne Speech.

 
There is  another  important  subject  on  which there is already a Commission sitting, namely, the prohibition of liquor and gambling. I see no reference to that either.
 
Then there is the question of eduction. In the Throne Speech it is being conceived to be one of several items of social services, whereas education may be considered to be an ally of the Government in its policy of industrial and agricultural development. It may even be considered to be an ally of the Government in the matter of the solution of its employment or unemployment problems.
 
There is also, reference made to the creation of a new department of Cultural Affairs. We would have liked some statement to have been made about the scope and function of this new department; for example, whether it was going to deal with only one culture, the predominant culture or with all the cultures that prevail in Ceylon.
 
I would have liked very much to see some reference made to the Wakfs Ordinance  which  had a chequered history due, partly, to the fault of the Government that was then in power and partly also to the fault of Muslim public opinion. I hope early attention will be paid to the introduction of the Wakfs Bill.
 
The Government claims that it has had a very short period in which to prepare its Throne Speech. I do not know why it could not have incorporated in the Throne  Speech  some of the promises that were made in the MEP manifesto. After all, I assume quite a lot of thinking must have been done when the manifesto was prepared.
 
However, there are two passages in the Throne Speech which give us a measure of satisfaction, I might even say a measure of relief. The first one reads as follows :
 
"My Government intends, in pursuance of its declared policy, to effect many changes with expedition and efficiency but in a manner that will neither result in injustice nor cause confusion and dislocation."
 
I do not see the word or rather the phrase "democratic socialism" used in the Throne Speech, but I presume it is the intention of the Government to follow the  policy of  democratic  socialism  and  not  any revolutionary socialism; and I take  it  this  paragraph  does  give a guarantee that this Government is hoping to follow a policy of pure democratic socialism even though some of the Government's distinguished responsive co-operators are making subtle efforts to goad the Government to take rash action so as to bring  about  chaos  and  confusion  leading  to the Revolution that is so passionately desired by some of those responsive co-operators.
 
But more important than that passage is another that I am going to read to you now. It is as follows :
 
"My  Government  wishes  to assure minorities, religious, racial or otherwise, that they need have no fear of injustice or discrimination in the carrying out of its policies and programmes. My Government will ensure to all citizens the rights, privileges and freedoms to which they are entitled in a democratic State."
 
If that passage is the first indication of the present Prime Minister's policy I would have had some misgivings, but some Hon. Senators may not remember an article that was contributed to the Ceylon Daily News of 11th July, 1955, by the present Prime Minister in which he defines "democracy to mean "the rule of the people." It is very refreshing to note that he does not say that democracy, as some of his Party Members are tempted to say is the rule of the majority. He deliberately uses the words that democracy means the rule of the people.
But there is a still more important passage in that article where he says:
 
"I wish to point out that the chief fault really lies at the door of the governing party; for a greater responsibility rests on them than on anyone else to set an  example of democratic practice and establish sound democratic traditions and precedents."
 
And further down, he goes on to say –
 
"It will  thus  be seen that the government far from discharging the serious responsibility that lies on it for the fostering of the spirit of democracy and the establishing of sound traditions and precedents has been acting in a way to discredit the very idea of democracy in the minds of the people."
 
Whatever that may be, he is emphatic that it is the chief responsibility of the governing party to foster democracy.
 
I do not want to read too many passages from that article, but all the same, he makes it a point to stress that in Ceylon, which is not so used to parliamentary democracy  as England, it should be the special task of the governing party, the party in power, not only to foster democracy, not only to follow democracy in the letter but also in the spirit, and also to set an example of democratic precedents. I would request the Hon. Prime Minister to give due performance of that promise.
 
I should also like to refer to his broadcast message of 12th April :-
 
"We  shall  extend fairplay to all and observe the best traditions of democracy in the letter as well as the spirit."
 
That is very comforting indeed – both in the letter and in the spirit. But the difficulty arises when you try to reconcile that assurance with a statement contained in another paragraph of the Throne Speech, which says :
 
"It will also take necessary steps for the adoption of Sinhalese as the one Official Language of the State."
There is no reference whatsoever to the status of the Tamil language. My view differs – and as I go along you will appreciate it – from the views expressed by Senator Kanaganayagam.
 
But there is absolutely no reference to the status of the Tamil language and naturally there have been misgivings felt and expressed. Up to now, we do not know  what  the  status of the Tamil language is going to be. But certainly  we  know  that  it is the intention of this Government to make Sinhalese the only State language; and in making  Sinhalese the only State language; the position of the Tamil language is left vague and uncertain. That naturally causes a certain amount of anxiety on the part of the Tamil-speaking peoples.
 
It is true that the minorities have been promised that there need be no fear of injustice or discrimination. But who is to decide at a precise point what is unjust or what is just, or what is fair and what is unfair ? I hope the Government Party and, particularly, the Prime Minister himself would not interpret it to mean that the task of defining what is fair and unfair is entirely his or his party's. In such a case I would point out that the judge and the accused  will  be  one  and  the same person. That is why it is very necessary to canvas minority opinion to find out what exactly in the opinion of the minorities is considered fair and unfair.
 
That there is communal tension today, I need not labour at length, but unfortunately that communal tension has been aggravated by the behaviour of some Ministers of the Government who purposely become dumb in order to make others deaf. They deliberately become dumb in order to make other people deaf when they who have been spellbinders in the English language refuse to  answer questions in the English language to people who do not understand the Sinhalese language. This tension is also aggravated by visions conjured up of partitioning Ceylon, again aggravated by the talk of blood baths during Buddha Jayanthi year, aggravated further by the slogans that we read of in the papers of one race, one language, one religion, and aggravated still further by many other circumstances, by the adhoc news paragraphs that appear  from  day to day with regard to the Tamil-medium schools being discontinued and the teaching of Sinhalese made compulsory in them.
 
It is clearly the paramount duty of the Hon. Prime Minister, in the light of the various statements he has made about democratic policy and procedure and the rights of minorities, to see that this communal tension is eased, that the fears of the  minorities  are  allayed,  and that the place of the Tamil language is considered in all its aspects instead of having a rushed Bill. How can this be done ? Is it by enlarging the Government Parliamentary Party by the nomination of a member here and a member there and a member there and a member here ? I would submit that that is not the solution. Some writer has said that all men  are  slaves of  their  experiences.  I  have  nothing to say about the  inherent  goodness or  badness  of  members  of  the  Government  Parliamentary Party; they are undoubtedly the slaves of their experiences as much as we are. Therefore, to have  this  matter  debated  and  discussed by a Government Parliamentary Party or by a group which is predominated by the Government Parliamentary party would not be doing justice, because to do justice the Hon. Prime Minister should acquaint himself with the views of the peoples who are deeply affected by and are deeply concerned in the matter. And the people who are concerned in the matter – at least their representatives – must be heard, and heard before the Bill is drafted, because once the Bill is drafted, any amendments to it becomes a matter of prestige. The Hon. Prime Minister himself has been referring to the baneful influence of this matter of prestige in his own speech in the other place. Therefore I would submit that the time for discussion is not after the Bill is drafted; the time for discussion on a matter of national importance like the status of the Tamil language which has hitherto, over a period of centuries, been occupying parity of status with the Sinhalese language.
 
There  may be many ways of solving this problem of obtaining the opinion of  the peoples concerned. I am not saying that there is only one solution. I am thinking of a commission or a committee where members of the public, representatives of local authorities, representative of organizations, could have the opportunity of giving their views.
 
Reading from the papers, one gains the impression that all that the present Bill is  concerned  with  is to declare Sinhalese as the only State language and to tell the  people  when  and  how  departments will start corresponding and  having their files in the Sinhalese language. It should include something more because of the status of the Tamil language. We still want to  know  what is  going to be its status in the matter of education, or what is going  to  be  the  official  language  of  purely or predominantly Tamil-speaking areas.? What I do say is that the MEP's commitment to the electorates that Sinhalese should be the only State language of Ceylon does not preclude them from recognizing many of the demands and giving that status to the Tamil language which it deserves, by virtues of its history and importance.
 
The  views  of the Muslims may not be quite pleasant either to the Sinhalese or the Tamils, but I am sure they will appreciate that by virtue of our history, by virtue of our geographical distribution, by virtue of the basis on which our community is built, and by virtue of the fact that we have been a minority community from the very beginning and we have been a minority community for the last 450 or 500 years not only from the point of view of numbers but also from the point of view of influence – we are bound to take a slightly  different  view  from the other minorities, or the larger minority community. Therefore, I hope that neither the Sinhalese members nor the Tamil members would expect that we should have view exactly the same as that of either of them. We have a distinctive view.
 
In the  first  place,  before I say what our view is on the Language Question, I would like to say what our view is on Federation. If it is found to be the only constitutional device available, when all efforts have failed and all remedies have been denied, to prevent the sure emasculation and the final extinction in Ceylon of the Tamil language, I can, in those circumstances, appreciate the federal principle and even subscribe to it. I feel that we shall have a satisfactory solution if only the Hon. Prime Minister would keep to the promises he has already made in various utterances  that he would set an example of democracy not only in the letter but also in spirit. We are now being called upon by the federalists to solve the problem by accepting the new and novel theory of the existence of a so-called Tamil-speaking nation in Ceylon-quite a different conception from the Tamil-speaking peoples of Ceylon. This theory of the Tamil-speaking nation is historically inaccurate and politically mischievous.
 
It is historically inaccurate because there are at least two distinct Ceylonese communities whose language is Tamil, and they are the Tamils and the Muslims. While language and citizenship unite these two communities, both of them minorities, religion and culture separate them. And let me point out that  religion  and  culture,  culture associated with religion plays an important  part, a  much  more  important  part in the life of the Muslim community  than  it  does  in  the  life of the Tamil community. In those circumstances, there is no such nation as a Tamil-speaking nation in Ceylon. This theory, as far as the Muslims are concerned, cannot fail to revive the memories of  the  controversy  that  agitated the Muslim community and exercised their minds in the eighties and nineties of the last century when Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, who was then representating in the  Legislative Council the Tamil-speaking inhabitants of the Island, read a paper before the Royal Asiatic Society and thereby sought to share the fruits of his researches, however incomplete  they might have been, with his fellow Members, his researches on the subject of the Ethnology of the Moors of Ceylon. Whether his theories were correct or not, I need not go into them at this stage; but what is relevant is that the Muslims then felt, rightly or wrongly, but sincerely and genuinely, that there was an insidious attempt made to deprive the Muslim community of the special representation for the community in the Legislative Council that was then being considered by the Government.
 
In this background, you can understand the kind of uneasiness that this new theory creates in the minds of the Muslims who love their language much but love their religion more. Why I say that this theory of the Tamil-speaking nation is politically mischievous, I shall proceed to show. No one, as far as I am aware has found a very satisfactory definition of nation and nationhood. Probably the best definition of a nation is that it is a group of people either determined to continue as a nation or a group of people who will to be a nation. And the circumstances obtaining in Ceylon are such that if the concept of the Tamil-speaking nation is pursued to its logical conclusion, there should be at some time or  other, in the near or distant future, a separate State for this nation – a Tamil Arasu in its true etymological meaning and  not in its special meaning popularized by the Federal Party of Ceylon. The partition of Ceylon that is thereby envisaged is something abhorrent to the Muslims of Ceylon, whether they belong to the east of Ceylon, or the west of Ceylon. Partition of Ceylon is abhorrent to the Muslims. I say to the federalists and the blood mongers -let me add that the federalists are not the blood-mongers at present- "please do not blame the Muslims of the Eastern Province and do not say that they have let you down when they repudiate the two-nation theory and refuse to adopt some of the methods the federalists may ask them to adopt in the near future in pursuance of their cherished ideals, measures that are bound to have consequences beyond their intentions and will inevitably have the effect of unleashing communal passion of the kind witnessed in the year 1947 on the subcontinent of India, however much you may sincerely desire communal peace and harmony." Let the Muslims not be blamed at that time that they have let down their colleagues because Muslims have never accepted, as far as I am aware, this two-nation theory and they have not even showed any indication of their acceptance of this theory. If you think they have, you have read the election results and the voting figures all wrong, the election results of the seven constituencies of the Eastern Province, and particularly of Pottuvil and Kalkudah.
 
I tell them, "Don't make a wrong assumption and formulate theories inconsistent with those results and without any real appreciation  the feelings and sentiments of the Muslims of the Eastern Province." It would be as true to say that there are three nations as there are two nations. As a matter of fact there is only one nation at present and it is my prayer and hope that there shall be only one nation, although it may be a multi-lingual and multi-religious nation-State. We were at one time hoping that Ceylon would have two official languages, Tamil and Sinhalese, throughout the Island but unfortunately for us and of the Tamil language, the Sinhalese people, it is not merely the power seeking politicians as one would say, but the Sinhalese people by and large – it is my feeling and it is the considered view of many Muslims – have convinced themselves that parity of status cannot obtain without parity of strength. They think, may be groundlessly, may be their fears are exaggerated, but I think they sincerely are of the belief that the Sinhalese language cannot survive if parity of status is granted to Tamil. I am not saying that this is the correct view, but I am saying it seems to me to be the sincerely held view.
 
The L.S.S.P. has another theory. They think there was no mandate given to the MEP on the language issue; instead, they say it was the hartal that was alive from 1953 to 1956 and that the MEP victory has something to do with the hartal of 1953. I do not share that view and I am sure the present party in power does not share that view either. So that, if the L.S.S.P. and its leader can convince the Sinhalese people, I personally would be the happiest person, but I feel that the Sinhalese people, rightly or wrongly, sincerely feel that so long as Sinhalese is a language which is not found anywhere else in the world, it cannot develop satisfactorily with parity of status. The Canada example has been cited, but I  find  that  there  is a vital difference. Canada  has two languages, namely French and English; but both those languages look to their mother countries, namely France and England, for vitalizing influences and for their sources of development. Such a situation does not obtain in Ceylon in respect of Sinhalese, and therefore our view is that the Sinhalese attitude must be respected, however  much  we may feel that attitude is not quite correct, for it is held sincerely. They point out that the Tamil language has 40,000,000 people to help towards its development. It is already a very rich language; it has textbooks for university education; it has an encyclopaedia; it has a dictionary  comparable  with  the  Oxford  dictionary; whereas the Sinhalese language is deficient in all these respects. And so they think that there is no room for the development of the Sinhalese language once parity of status is granted.
 
So far, I have no quarrel with the Sinhalese. Once you have established Sinhalese as the official State language, why do you want to attempt to kill the Tamil language ? The Hon. Leader of the House seems to give an answer in the negative. I shall be very happy if that position is maintained in the Hon. Prime Minister's Bill. Senator Kanaganayagam said that the Bill was handed in secret to Members and then taken back and that this was put in cupboard later, but I have no access to sources of information which he apparently has access to. I humbly submit that is not the way to settle a problem of this nature, of vital consequence to a very large section of the Ceylonese people. Whatever fears might have been expressed, whatever rash utterances might have been made during election time by both sections, surely it is possible, with a due exercise of statesmanship, to find a solution. I personally know  of no other solution than to have a commission or a committee set up with wide powers to canvass public opinion, to obtain the views of all concerned. After all, the people who are most concerned are the Tamil-speaking peoples because an attempt is being made to define the status of their own language. How can  there be  satisfaction,  how  can  the  democratic procedure be complied with, if they are shut out ? That is the question I would like to ask the Government of the day and particularly the Hon. Prime Minister.
 
They still have ample time. I believe they wanted to make Sinhalese the official language in 24 hours. Many 24 hours have passed; they are now prepared to wait for a month. Cannot they wait for three or six months? With definite directions as regards time to a committee or commission? Views can be obtained; the committee or commission will be able to canvas the views. They can stipulate a  time-limit for them to complete the inquiry. Before I come to the next point, I would like to refer to the decision of the Muslim community – the resolution that has been accepted by the All-Ceylon Muslim League and the All-Ceylon Moor's Association. There are no other political organizations as far as our community is concerned. These two organizations might have had their little differences, but on this matter they deliberated and came to a unanimous  conclusion. I  would  add  that, in this conclusion, Muslims of the Eastern Province have definitely been included. This is the resolution  that  was  passed  unanimously  on December 18, 1955. "The Conference was of the view, subject to acceptance by the two associations" (this was later ratified by both associations) "that Sinhalese be accepted as the only State language with due official recognition being given to Tamil and English and provided that fundamental rights of the minorities in respect of religion, culture, language, etc., are incorporated in the Constitution." I would say this expresses the general will of the community.
 
What do we mean by "due official recognition? I am not saying I am going to exhaust all the aspects of this question, but in Tamil-speaking areas and in the matter of the medium of instruction for Tamil-speaking peoples there should be no compulsion of Sinhalese. It does not end here. There should be provision to see that a boy who pursues his education through Tamil as medium of instruction is not unduly handicapped when it comes to appearing for public examinations. I would like to remind the Hon. Leader of the House of a portion in  the  manifesto  of  the  MEP  where,  under the chapter "Employment" it is said there will be no discrimination on language grounds. I  do  not  know the full implications of that statement, but it does seem refreshing to me to read that there will be no discrimination on language grounds. If there is going to be no discrimination and if Sinhalese is going to be the only State language, there is a certain difficulty arising. A boy who has been educated  through  the Tamil  medium may be required to know the Sinhalese language. It may be necessary for him to know Sinhalese, but it is not necessary to handicap him by setting  all  the  question papers in the Sinhalese language. I am not trying to enter into details because they would be irrelevant at this stage but this is a vital problem, Merely to say that you are going to protect the Tamil medium of instruction does not solve the problem because, there is the problem of employment. I admit that this is in the nature of a difficulty. If Sinhalese is to be the only State language, it should not preclude the  Tamil-speaking  peoples  from  having  their  fair  share of employment. I think in India, which has Hindi as the State language, there are many regional languages. Their problem is a complicated one, though similar to ours, and I believe they are solving it satisfactorily. If the policies of the Government are similar in certain respect to those adopted by India, in whose steps we are said to be following, I am legitimate in requesting the Hon. Prime Minister that India's policies be imitated in other equally important respects.
 
Tamil has to be recognized as a medium of instruction throughout the Island because there are Tamil-speaking Muslims living scattered throughout the country.  The  federal solution is no solution to the Muslims who are Tamil-speaking and who inhabit South, Central and West Ceylon in addition to the North and the East. As a matter of fact, all the previous Governments for many years have been establishing Tamil schools for the Muslim children in those areas and there must be some provision made for them.
 
I now come  to the  question  of the use of Tamil as a language of administration. I am sure there is no intention on the part of Government to thrust Sinhalese  as  the only  language  of  administration  on purely Tamil-speaking areas.  Some  kind of solution has to be found. The Hon. Prime Minister has referred in his speech on the Debate on the Address to regional councils, regionalization, decentralization, de-controll and so on. There should be scope given – there  is  no question- for the development of the Tamil language. It is a legitimate desire on the part of Tamil speaking peoples to have  homes  of  their own. I am not thinking in terms of defining exact territories, boundaries and so on, but I do say that if there is going to be scope, if there is going to be room, for the development of the Tamil language, it is inevitable that there should also be a home for it.
 
When we adjourned, I was at the stage of speaking about the right of a Tamil-speaking citizen to communicate with any Government department in Tamil and receive a reply in Tamil. It is to me a very small matter but I know that it has been agitating the minds of very many distinguished persons. After all, I can lay claim to some experience in the sphere of administration. and I do not envisage any greater difficulty than the employment of just one clerk or more in  every  department  to conform to this rightful demand of the Tamil-speaking peoples  but I  am  also envisaging  a situation when the Tamil-speaking persons themselves  may  not take advantage of this right because they will in  course  of time find that this translation, unless the Government machinery changes beyond recognition, will take a day or two and they will be surer of expeditious reply by sending it in the language that is current in the department. So that it does not derogate from the position of Sinhalese as the only State language if the right, the legitimate right, of a Tamil-speaking person in the light of the history, in the light of the position it has occupied for over so many centuries, if that right is recognized. It should not create an insuperable problem. But when we read the papers from day to day, when we see the utterances of some of the Ministers we do not know where we are. No one, no Minister has yet made a pronouncement about the kind of status that should be given to the Tamil language. They are, more or less, silent on it.
 
Then a similar right like that for the use of the Tamil language in the  Parliament as it happens now, for the use of the Tamil language in the local authorities,  should  be  recognized. And here, again, we will see that the Tamil-speaking member himself will, after a period of years, prefer to speak in the language that is understood by the large majority who compose that assembly or those assemblies and I am sure no Tamil-speaking member will adopt the attitude that has been adopted by one of the Ministers of the present Government who deliberately made himself dumb in order to make others deaf.
 
I do not think I have exhausted the enumeration of all the problems that are connected, with the  legitimate  and  the  rightful status of the Tamil language. I have indicated some of them and I am sure there are many more of them because,  as I  have  stated  before,  this  question  affects not one department but all the departments, not one Ministry but all the Ministries. As I have pointed out before, I do differ form the speaker who preceded me in that I am prepared to accept Sinhalese as the only state language but that alone would not satisfy me or the Muslims because we want Tamil given such a position that there should be no fear of the sure emasculatin of that language and its final extinction. It is no use saying that language is found in another part of the world. The Tamil-speaking peoples of this country would like to preserve that language in this country as well. After all, the Tamil-speaking peoples of this country have made their own contributions to the growth and development of the Tamil language.
 
The  resolution of the All-Ceylon Muslim League and the All-Ceylon Moors Association I referred to earlier also ideals with the question of due  official recognition given to English. I need not labour that point because some recent happenings have convinced me beyond all doubt that the status of the English language is quite safe because in the personality of the present Hon. Prime Minister we see that the acquisition of English under the best of surroundings does not in any way retard one's progress in Sinhalese, and we also find that their is absolutely no incongruity in the eating of Kribath with the help of fork and spoon nor with the additional embellishment of a dark bow. If there is no such incongruity, surely there cannot be any incongruity in the simultaneous development of the Sinhalese and English languages in this country. It was only last Sunday we were delighted to read in the papers the rhyming verses of two busy Ministers. They had time in spite of the pressure of their work, in spite of their preparing the Budget, having to reverse the Budget that was prepared by another Government.
 
In the midst of all this work, they did find time and they did relish composing some  rhyming  verses. Not  only  did  they give due official recognition to the  English  language.  They  also  immortalized  in their imperishable verses some of the distinguished members of the Ceylon Civil Service which is famous for its anonymity. Our resolution also refers to the fundamental rights of minorities. With regard to the fundamental rights, there was a time when we were under the wrong impression that Section 29 of the Constitution Order in Council gave us all the rights that we are entitled to. Now we are disillusioned. We even thought that the Sinhalese language as the only State language of  this  country  could not be introduced without an amendment to that Section 29 which many of us thought gave us all our rights. Now we are disillusioned I repeat and I am rather surprised to find – of course I am no lawyer – I am surprised because it is now stated that you can introduce the Bill as a simple Bill and if you get two-third majority it is considered incorporated in the Constitution. I do not know the legality or otherwise of it but it would not be very satisfactory to introduce the Bill as an ordinary Bill and when it is passed  by a  certain  number to  regard  it as part of the Constitution. Further it is also stated that a drastic amendment of the whole Constitution is contemplated and all these matters may be taken up then. Why cannot this Language Bill be  embodied  as an ad hoc amendment to the Constitution? In this matter, I  am  glad to find myself supported by the very influential orgnaization of the Eksath Bhiksu Peramuna, I believe according to the newspapers they, too, are not quite satisfied with a simple Bill. As we are dealing with an important question, namely, the question of the rights of minorities,  it  is  best that such matters are dealt with in the form of an Amendment to the Constitution.
 
Section 29 of the Order in Council is no longer the Magna Carta of the minorities;  and  our leaders were wrong. Our leaders were also wrong in thinking that  obtaining  a place in the  Cabinet – was the surest form of safeguarding minority interests. I now say deliberately that is no safeguard. That does not mean that we Muslims are not grateful to the present Hon. Prime  Minister for  having given the  Speakership  to a  member of our community and having given a Portfolio also to a member of our community. However, once some of the cultural questions are solved – and I am sure they will be solved quickly – the economic questions will come on top; and I feel that every Muslim could not necessarily think alike on economic questions. After all, there are lawyers, there are poor men, there are schoolmasters and all sorts of people in every community. Therefore, when economic questions come to occupy the foremost place in the deliberations of the Cabinet, things may change. Whatever our positions may be – while we appreciate the fact that there are Muslims holding  high  positions  like  that of Speaker and Minister – we want whatever right we have incorporated in the Constitution because the present Constitution has proved inadequate.
 
Fortunately for us, two big countries, our neighboring countries, have addressed their minds to this question. They have produced two Constitutions where fundamental  rights are enshrined. We can have the benefit of their experience. I am not suggesting that we should incorporate them line by line from their Constitutions. But there should be one chapter of Fundamental Rights. We have also a basis to go upon in the series of resolutions, or rather one  resolution  of several  parts,  notice  of which was given in the last Parliament by Mr. Natesan, the former member of Parliament for Kankesanturai. He has about 11 clauses in that resolution. I do not propose to read them all, but I should like to quote one of them as it is fairly important :-
 
"No restriction shall be imposed on the free use by any Ceylon national of any language in private intercourse, in commerce, in religion, in the Press or in publications of any kind or at public meetings.
 
Adequate facilities shall be given to all Ceylon nationals to use their own language orally or in writing before the Courts or in transacting their business with public departments or administrative bodies whether local or central or in performing their functions as members of local bodies or of the Houses of Parliament.
 
But I  would go   further   and say that this is not a matter of just recognition. It should be incorporated in the Constitution so that the same matter may not worry us  over and over again. I should like to assure the Members of the present Government, who are very keen on establishing in Ceylon a democratic form of society not only in its political aspect but also in its economic aspect, that we are equally keen about it, and that is why we request them to solve this  problem  quickly, so  that  the march towards democratic  socialism  may not be  halted; otherwise, the  march will be definitely halted by  the  kind of  frustration caused, by the kind of fears engendered. And this question of giving due recognition to Tamil is not only a matter of purely  cultural  and  religious  interest  but  also a matter of economic interest for the reason that I have stated, namely, if you solve this question the chances of establishing democratic socialism in this country are much brighter; otherwise, those efforts are bound to be retarded.
 
So that, in the matter of fundamental rights this resolution, which I spoke of, refers  not  only  to  language, but also to religion and culture; because, just as this language controversy has arisen all of a sudden, there are fears expressed in certain quarters that a similar controversy may arise in respect of religion. Therefore it is best that all these problems which are very important – important not only to the minority communities but also to the majority community – are solved expeditiously. 
 
I now come to the question of education. I notice a certain paragraph in the MEP manifesto which I should like to read : "We shall reorganize the system of education to cater to the interests of the spiritual, cultural, social and economic needs of the  country."
 
Now,  spiritual  and  cultural  needs are very closely related to the language question; and in this reorganization, I hope that the Hon. Minister of Education will reorganize in such a way as not to suppress the Tamil language or as to create and place special obstacles in the way of its development.
 
I appeal to the Hon. Prime Minister, through the Hon. Leader of the House, to pay special attention to minority rights in relation to languages. The Hon. Prime Minister may solve satisfactorily, in view of his friendship with Shri Nehru, the Indian question; with Shri Nehru's help our Prime Minister may also be able to solve all international questions, even those baffling the United States of America and the United Kingdom, but the most important problem that should engage the attention of our Government, particularly of our Prime Minister, I would respectfully submit, is the need to allay the fears of the minorities in this country. The Hon. Prime Minister, in the newspaper article I referred to, assumed to himself  the task of setting an example to the country in the democratic way of life and in democratic procedure. I request him to devote his entire attention to this problem of allaying the fears of the minorities.
 
The Indian question has been with us for many years; it can wait a little longer. As for international questions, why need we bother about them when our very existence as a nation is at stake, threatened, when disruptive forces are gaining ground? In all humility, with all the earnestness I can command, I would request the Hon. Leader of the House to impress upon the Hon. Prime Minister the urgent need to solve the problem of recognizing the legitimate status of the Tamil language. The Government should not be satisfied with the appointment of  an  ad  hoc  committee consisting of members of the Government Parliamentary Party, Members who have just returned from the hustings – passionate, argumentative, and emotional. Would it not be better to appoint a special committee, composed of men – and perhaps women – who can view the problem with a certain degree of detachment and calmness, people who can give careful thought to the subject ?
 
A mere promise to the minorities that the Government would be fair and just will not do. Who is to decide what is just and fair to the minorities? What the Hon. Prime Minister may think is just and fair to the minorities may not be so regarded by the minorities themselves. I do not say that there should be a Government by the minorities. The Hon. Prime Minister cannot claim that he has solved the problem satisfactorily if he has not taken all measures to consult minority opinion on the subject, the opinion of people who know their own problems and difficulties. There is a common saying that it is the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches. If you want to solve the minority problem,   minority   opinion   should   be  obtained.  I  am   not  saying  that the minorities should be  allowed  to  dictate  to the  Government,  but  the composition of the group that has been appointed to discuss this Bill is most unsatisfactory, to say the least of it. Once the Bill has been drafted and legal expression  given  to  the  proposal, the question of prestige can play an unfortunate part. Members of the Government party may not be willing to accept amendments because they would feel that they had already committed themselves.
 
But if a committee were to decide the general features of the Bill, the Government Parliamentary Party will not lose its right to criticize or re-shape the Bill. Here is a problem for the exercise of statesmanship. The Hon. Prime Minister has made many promises, and given us hopes that he would exercise his powers in  a statesmanlike manner. Let him solve this problem to the satisfaction  not only of the majority community but also of the minority communities.
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