Singing national anthem in Tamil: SC re-fixes petition for 14 Oct.

Friday, 2 September 2016 00:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By S. S. Selvanayagam

The Supreme Court yesterday re-fixed for support on 14 October the granting of leave to proceed with the petition challenging the singing of the national anthem in Tamil.

The bench comprising Justices Priyasath Dep and Anil Gooneratne took note that the bench was not properly constituted and the matter was open to constitutional interpretation and re-fixed for support.

Petitioners V.S. Sudath Perera, Pradeep Asiri Soysa and G.A.D. Premarathna cited President Maithripala Sirisena and the Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioners said that they became aware that the national anthem was sung in Tamil at this year’s Independence Day celebration.They stated that the issue as to whether the national anthem should be sung only in Sinhalese or in the Sinhala words contained in the Third Schedule to the Constitution arose in view of the fact that the national anthem was sung in Tamil.

They claim that singing the anthem in Tamil was a gross violation of Article 7 of the Constitution, arbitrary, a violation of the equality principle and their rights as well as the rights of other citizens.

They lamented that the opening words of the national anthem were ‘Namo Namo Matha’, which was substituted with the words ‘Sri Lanka Matha’.

Meanwhile, two intervening petitions have been filed by Ven. Gonagala Gnanaloka Thero of the Anuradhapura Sri Sugathamaha Viharaya and the Centre for Policy Alternatives challenging the rights petition. They maintain that the Constitution does not stipulate that the national anthem can only be sung in Sinhala and state that Article 18 and 19 of the Constitution clearly and unambiguously provide that Sinhala and Tamil shall be the official and national languages of Sri Lanka. They said that the translation of the text to English could be provided as “the national anthem of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall be ‘Sri Lanka Thaaye’, the words and music of which are set out in the Third Schedule.”

They claimed that the words and music of the national anthem in Tamil were constitutionally recognised by Article 7 read with the Third Schedule of the Tamil version of the Constitution. They contend that the Constitution does not provide for Sinhala to supersede Tamil, in fact the Constitutional provisions recognise the parity of status of the Sinhala and Tamil languages.

They sum up that there is no inconsistency between the Constitution and the decision to sing the national anthem in Tamil.

Manohara de Silva PC appeared for the petitioners. Instructed by Moahan Balendra, Viran Corea appeared for the CPA and Suren Fernando and Pulasthi Hewamanna appeared for Ven. Gonagala Gnanaloka Thero. Deputy Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne appeared for the Attorney General.